Saturday, January 26, 2019

Coffee with Friends and Iowa Legislators

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting with several of Shenandoah's community leaders at a legislative coffee held downtown. I sincerely appreciate Senator Costello and Representative Dolecheck joining us this morning to spend time talking about the work they are doing on behalf of Southwest Iowa and openly answering questions from the audience. It is always interesting to attend these coffees because you hear different voices from the community advocating for want is important from their perspective. It is good to consider their thinking and recognize that there are many needs represented in the room.

Extending Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) is a considerable concern for me; I have written about this before in a blog I wrote this summer about legislative priorities.  I appreciate there is momentum to see that SAVE is extended until 2051. If this HSB 18 passes and also passes the Senate, it will help schools across Iowa continue to ensure facilities are cared for and well maintained.  SAVE generates approximately $980,000 in revenue for Shenandoah CSD.  These funds are foundational for the district. The funds are used to pay the debt on the existing elementary and middle school building, take care of more substantial infrastructure needs related to facilities and technology, replace equipment, and will be necessary to support the repairs that are planned for the high school.  These are critical funds for Iowa schools as they are used to ensure that facilities are cared for and well maintained.

I appreciate Senator Costello and Representative Dolecheck's support of the SAVE extension.  I do have some concerns about some of the additional language in the bill that I was able to ask about today.  There are some new restrictions related to athletic facilities, school safety and career academies that are important and likely right to consider.  I question the need for them in this particular bill. I would advocate that SAVE needs to be extended on its good general merit and school safety and career academies should be separate legislation.  I do believe extending SAVE to 2051 is the right decision with or without the additional language in the bill.

There were other topics discussed this morning including local option sales tax on internet sales, the impact of finding workers when there are low unemployment rates, the support for home rule for Iowa schools, concerns expressed about sustaining rural hospitals and a few others.  These were good discussions for our community to have with our area legislators. I am looking forward to meeting again next month.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Board News...

The first meeting of the year for the Shenandoah CSD school board was Monday, January 14th.  We listened to a terrific board presentation by Mrs. Skillern and her students who participate in her robotics class at the High School.  This presentation was a great way to start the year with the board as it all about great teaching and learning.  It also ties directly to one of our board goals and priorities which is to expand STEM literacy for all students.

STEM learning is becoming a strong part of the district's curriculum. We are continually looking for ways to embed STEM learning across all
aspects of the curriculum and to provide more extended learning opportunities with a STEM focus for students that will provide deeper levels of understanding in these areas. You may want to look for STEM opportunities when you sign up your student up for afterschool camps and summer programs provided by the district. It is a great way to for students to dig in and participating in hands-on learning, be creative, and strengthen their knowledge and skills in this area.  As a side note, I am very pleased there is a new club starting in the Shenandoah community called Girls Who Code.  Bekkah Lyman, the group leader, lives in Shenandoah and has a strong background in this area. She will be an excellent mentor for girls who are interested in coding and technology-related fields of work.

There was a great audience in attendance at the board meeting.  This was in part due to the student presentation and also due to the action item on the agenda related to the retirement incentive that is being offered this spring. Up to 10 members of our staff will be able to retire and receive a financial incentive from the district to do so.  I was quite pleased the board unanimously approved the retirement incentive recommendation.  It is a nice recognition and reward for some of our staff members who have served the district long term. It will also be beneficial for the district from a financial perspective.

There were several consent agenda items and contracts that were approved at the meeting as well.  The board did approve the district's request for the At-Risk/Dropout Prevention service plan and Modified Supplemental Amount ($261,868). The lights at the football field were on the agenda as a discussion item.  Mr. Roger's shared the projected cost of replacing the lights is $230,000 which I have recommended we pay using our PPEL funds. There will be a board hearing on February 1st, 2019 at 10:00 AM before the board takes action to make the purchase.

Facility planning was the major topic of our work session.  This was a very productive discussion that I believe will help focus our efforts. I shared with the board the three phases or components of the work that is necessary.  The first phase includes major repairs to the high school building using PPEL and SAVE funds that can be completed over 36 months. This includes some items such as the fire alarms systems at the K-8 and High School, replacing the windows and wall panels at the high school and the football field lights.  This work will be completed starting this spring going into the fall.

Additionally, I have talked quite a bit about the need to replace the HVAC system at the High School. The replacement of the HVAC system is tentatively scheduled for next summer along with some of the masonry work. These are very important building improvements need to be completed and cannot be further delayed.

There has been ample discussion about the career technical education & STEM center and gym with community access as part of the facility planning.  This work is considered phase two and phase three of the plan. These two items would add a lot of value to the district, and are considered important and desirable for the district to have.  However, to build these buildings will require an additional levy in the form of a bond issue. We commissioned a study of our facilities, we have visited different schools sites, held work sessions, met with small focus groups, and discussed with our staff about the need for a career technical education & STEM center and gym with community access. We are forming a committee to vet the planning and get additional feedback. We will begin to hold public meetings this spring with the intention of being prepared for a November bond issue.  Using this timeline does not  delay the plan as most of the work that needs to be done in the high school must be done before launching to any new construction.

It was a good meeting with a quality discussion.

Monday, January 7, 2019


It may seem rather cliché to write about goals or resolutions this time of year.  However, for me, it is difficult to start a new year without giving some thought to what is important to accomplish over the next several months. 

In recent weeks, I have been reflecting on my current goals and digging deeper to self-evaluate if I have achieved the desired results. It has been good to have this kind of honest thought process to consider why some of my goals have been met and others were not.  

So how are goals met? Meeting goals requires action. You have to take that first step towards the result and then continue to take one step at a time until you reach the target outcome. You must be prepared, well planned, willing to collaborate, and deeply committed to working through challenges to meet the goals that are set.  The actions that are necessary to take are not always comfortable. You may need to take a reasonable risk to accomplish what you have set out to do.  It will take some courage and self-discipline, but it will be worth the effort.

Some research suggests using SMART goals, or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely is more effective than goals that are too easy or lack measurement. SMART goals are more than a general statement that you will do your best to improve over time. SMART goals include indicators of success.

As you are contemplating your own personal and professional goals for the year, I encourage you to set a SMART goal and work diligently to make it happen. 

Joining Our Team & Some Board News

 JOINING OUR TEAM! Some Board News... The last two board meetings and work sessions representatives from Carl A. Nels...