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School board approves plan to engage the community regarding facilities

  • Second-grade tour guides Carly Michael, Evelyn Williams and Carter Cero give school board members Pat Rottinghaus and Janiece Bergland some art lessons on Monday as a part of a student-led tour of Washington Elementary School given to board members. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Second-grade tour guide Evelyn Williams talks to school board members Pat Rottinghaus and Josh Mack and Charles City Superintendent Mike Fisher Monday as a part of a student-led tour of Washington Elementary School given to board members. (Press photo James Grob.)

  • Second-grade tour guide Evelyn Williams leads school board members Pat Rottinghaus and Janiece Bergland down the hallways of Washington Elementary School on Monday as part of a student-led tour given to board members. (Press photo James Grob.)

By James Grob, jgrob@charlescitypress.com

Members of the Charles City Board of Education started their meeting with a tour of Washington Elementary School on Monday.

School board members and others were greeted by a handful of student tour guides, all professionally dressed second-graders, who took them through the hallways and into each classroom, all the while explaining what is taught and learned.

Once the tours were over, the board got down to business.

Charles City Superintendent Mike Fisher presented a proposed engagement plan that will work with the community and stakeholders to gather information and input for facilities strategic planning. The board unanimously approved the engagement plan.

“We are just going to go out and have some town halls, meet some coffee groups, ask and answer questions and kind of see where the community stands,” Fisher said.

Fisher said he foresees offering tours of the high school, with students leading the tours and answering questions.

“We want to have students as part of the dialogue, as well as staff members and community members,” Fisher said. “We foresee some big town halls, where we have 50 or 60 members of the community coming in, and talking through the strengths and weaknesses of our facility.”

A recent communitywide survey requested the input of school district residents to help determine how the district can best address its capacity and facility challenges. The survey showed that public awareness of needed facility improvements has decreased.

“We know people are going to have strong opinions both ways, and we want to hear and honor everyone’s opinion,” Fisher said. “We want to clarify things and answer questions.”

Fisher has said that he believes something needs to be done regarding a bond issue in the next 18 months.

In other business on Monday, Washington Elementary Principal Kara Shannon, who serves on the Signature Programing Team, presented information on the team’s goals and progress toward developing a “magnet” school in Charles City.

Shannon said the idea is to create a school that’s so distinctive that it attracts people to the school. The goal is to increase parent and community engagement and student engagement, which leads to more academic excellence.

The team has recently visited magnet schools in Cedar Rapids, Clarion-Goldfield, Iowa Falls and La Crosse, Wisconsin, in order to narrow down the theme, Shannon said.

Teacher Dana Sullivan, who is also on the programming team, said she liked the fact that one of the schools she visited was very goal-oriented.

“Every single student had a binder in the classroom, and each student made their own goals, very specific to each student,” Sullivan said. “That appealed to me, because as a parent I know how different my own children are, and that they need very different things in order to be successful.”

The idea is to pilot signature programming at Washington Elementary, with guiding principles such as adaptability, integrity, communication and critical thinking.

Examples of ideas the group is exploring include a research academy, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) schools, STEAM schools (STEM schools plus the arts), among other things.

Shannon presented a timeline to the board, and said that the team will have decided on a theme by February, and at that point the team will engage parents and community members for input. She also expects additional site visits.

In other business, information about the recent results of the Iowa Statewide Assessment of School Progress (ISASP) was presented to the board.

Fisher and Lincoln Elementary Principal Marcia DeVore spoke at length to the board and the public regarding the tests.

Fisher and DeVore broke down the data from the tests and analyzed it, and presented the district’s detailed plan of action to address the test scores.

Results of the ISASP tests determined Charles City students, at all grade levels, scored below the state average in every subject.

This was the first year students across Iowa have taken the ISASP, which has replaced the Iowa Assessments as the accountability tests for all students in the state. The tests were taken in the spring of 2019.

Fisher said that test results from all schools statewide will be made public next week.

Also on Monday, Fisher led a training session on Charles City’s vision and mission, and provided an update on strategic goal progress. He discussed the finalizing of a multi-year strategic plan draft for the board to consider.

The school board also approved the 2020-21 at-risk dropout plans and approved the modified supplemental amount on Monday, totaling $457,444. The purpose of the modified amount is to provide additional resources that are necessary to implement at-risk, dropout prevention and returning dropout services for identified students who are included in the plan.

In other business Monday, the school board:
— Approved the resignation of 3rd-grade teacher Alyssa Davis, effective at the end of the school year.
— Approved the resignation of middle school educational secretary Laura Wickham, effective Jan. 17.
— Approved the appointments of middle school para-educator Shantel Rimmer and Washington Elementary para-educators Megan Williams and Marcy Ross, at wages of $14.91 per hour, effective Jan. 13.
— Approved the appointment of Washington Elementary custodian and substitute driver Jeffery Holzer, at the wage of $16.59 per hour, effective Jan. 13.
— Approved the appointment of Corey Schmidt, volunteer wrestling coach, effective Jan. 13.
— Approved the classified employee transfers of Cassandra Michael, Loren Robbins and Dalia Weber, part-time para-educators, to full-time para-educators at Washington Elementary.
— Approved the administrative contract of Washington Elementary principal Kara Shannon, with salary percentage increase and benefits commensurate with amounts negotiated with the administrative team for the 2020-21 school year.
— Approved an agreement with Photography By: Michelle for $540 for images of school campuses for use on the school district’s website.
— Approved the school budget review committee in the amount of $597.28 for special education administrative costs associated with Woodward Academy Consortium program for 2020-21.
— Approved the certified nursing assistant agreement for clinical experience with Chautauqua Guest Homes for the one-year period from January through December of 2020.

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