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Charles City school board approves application to North Central Conference

Charles City school board approves application to North Central Conference
FFA students gave a presentation on parliamentary procedure for the Charles City Community School Board on Monday, February 12. Bonnott Hansen, Bryce Walker, Joslyn Bormann, Emma Prichard and Ava Molitor demonstrated to the board how decisions are proposed, discussed and decided. Press photo by Travis Fischer
By Travis Fischer,

The Charles City Community School Board discussed athletic eligibility and made plans to find a new athletic conference, new infrastructure plan, and new superintendent during its regular board meeting on Monday, Feb. 12.

FFA students Bonnott Hansen, Bryce Walker, Joslyn Bormann, Emma Prichard, and Ava Molitor demonstrated their knowledge of parliamentary procedure for the board, going through a detailed mock meeting where they proposed, discussed, and made decisions on topics from gardening projects, buying a 3D printer, and shoveling snow “for the older people.”

In administrator reports, Director of Academic Services Dr. Jenn Schilling updated the board on the district’s strategic plan and academic goals.

Schilling said that the implementation of the new K-5 math curriculum is going well and that the district is seeing improvements in proficiency.

“We’re getting kids out of that struggling range at all grade levels,” said Schilling.

Improvement has also been noted in K-4 literacy, and the school is currently piloting a new literacy curriculum to be implemented next year.

Moving into new business, the board considered a request to have the 90-day athletic ineligibility requirement waved for an outgoing student.

State law prohibits students from playing in varsity sports for 90 school days when transferring from one district to another. The student in question, a current sophomore, intends to transfer schools at the end of the third quarter. Unless waived, this would make him ineligible to participate in varsity games until sometime in October, deep into what would be his potential junior year football season.

While the student could still practice and be part of the team, he would not be allowed to step on the field of a varsity game.

The student’s parents explained the situation to the board and asked that the ineligibility requirement be waived.

Also weighing in, district athletic coaches opposed the waiver to varying extents.

Along with asserting that the 90 days of ineligibility was made law for a reason, head football coach Bryan Bjorklund said the student had been put into a position of leadership on the team and had been planned on being an important part of next year’s roster. Bjorklund also argued that the student’s reasons for leaving the district were to be closer to family, not to participate in athletics in a different school, so the 90-day wait should be a non-issue.

“We’ve been on the opposite side of this before,” said Bjorklund. “It’s not anything personal to any kid.”

Coach Rob Pittman also weighed in on the topic, expressing opposition to the waiver due to the effect it has on extra curricular activities and the district as a whole. While Pittman agreed that taking things on a case-by-case basis makes sense and that past approval of waivers has set a precedent, he recommended that the board default to denial in future requests.

“For next year, make it a policy not to do it,” said Pittman.

Activities Director Dana Sullivan likewise recommended against the waiver as the ineligibility rule incentivises students to stay in the district.

“If we allow people to leave and waive the 90-day ineligibility … we cannot complain about a diminishing program,” said Sullivan.

The board itself was split on the decision.

“I think this is setting a bad precedent,” said Josh Mack. “I think it’s the wrong move for us.”

Mack made a motion to deny the waiver, which died for a lack of second.

“It doesn’t make me feel good either,” said board member Bruce Koebrick. “But I don’t want to deny this kid’s future.”

The board considered a partial waiver that would at least prohibit the student from participating in summer athletics, but interpretation of the law suggested the waiver would have to be all-or-nothing.

Ultimately, Koebrick moved to approve the waiver, seconded by Dara Jaeger. The motion was passed in a 3-2 vote with Koebrick, Jaeger, and Dr. David Schrodt voting in favor and Kathryn Fox and Mack voting against.

In other athletic business, Activities Director Sullivan asked the board to approve the district’s application to the North Central Conference.

With both confirmation and rumors of schools in the North East Iowa Conference leaving for other conferences, Sullivan recommended that the district take the initiative on finding a new conference to compete in for next year’s athletics.

“I feel it is important that we move forward on where we want to go,” she said.

Several conferences were considered for the district, but many were either too far away or did not include large enough schools to offer real competition. The North Central Conference sits in the middle of the spectrum, offering the shortest travel times while still featuring schools of comparable size to Charles City.

Other members of that conference are Algona, Clarion-Goldfield, Clear Lake, Hampton-Dumont, Humboldt, Iowa Falls-Alden, Fort Dodge, St. Edmond and Webster City.

In one last bit of athletic business, the board approved a contract with Arbiter Sports for the payment of referees and other non-employee workers.

In other business, the board discussed the potential sale of 20 acres of property owned by the district. The property, north of Washington Elementary, had originally been purchased with expansion plans in mind and is currently used by the FFA for educational farming, which has netted the district a small profit.

The original owner of the property has made an offer to buy back the land, but the board felt whatever would be gained from selling the land wouldn’t be worth the time and expense of putting it out for bid and losing its use as an educational benefit.

The board also approved a motion to seek out bids for a new assessment on the high school’s HVAC and plumbing needs. Board President Schrodt has long advocated for a second opinion on the infrastructure needs of the building to identify what improvements need to be made without expanding the project into a full blown renovation.

Finally, the board reviewed bids for firms to recruit a new superintendent ahead of Superintendent Dr. Anne Lundquist’s impending departure at the end of the school year. The board decided on McPherson & Jacobson to serve as the firm to help the district find and vet new candidates for the position.

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