School board discusses attendance, gaming funds

Also okays bus barn lease

Changes to the attendance policy and the use of Grow Greene County funds were both discussed at the Greene County Schools board of education regular meeting June 15, but decisions weren’t made on either matter.

The board had discussed changes to the attendance policy at the May meeting after it was brought as a concern at a public forum in April. The current policy is one of the toughest in the Heart of Iowa Activities Conference, requiring student athletes to attend a full day of school in order to practice or compete later in the day. Being tardy to class can make a student ineligible.

Board members insisted in May that attendance and timeliness are employment skills that the school should actively teach.

Superintendent Tim Christensen at the June meeting suggested taking tardiness out of the policy and leaving it to coaches to determine any penalties. His proposal calls for classroom teachers to deal with the first four tardies with verbal warnings and possible detentions in the classroom. Tardies five through eight would result in detention after school in the office. (Athletes would be late for practice and be subject to whatever consequences the coach imposed.) A student with nine or more tardies would face in-school suspension.

The current policy treats tardiness and absence the same. Golf coach/teacher Dave Destival asked for a clarification of “tardy.” “If getting to your first hour class with one minute left in the period is a tardy, not an absence, then students have an entire hour to get to school,” he said.

After discussion, the board asked Christensen and activities director Dean Lansman to continue working on a draft that would set a time limit on “tardy” vs “absent,” and would also apply to students not participating in extra-curricular activities.

Grow Greene funds: The board also continued a discussion that began in May about the use of about $68,000 from Grow Greene County, the group that holds the gaming license for Wild Rose Jefferson and distributes charitable funds from the casino.

The board during the winter earmarked the money for construction of a new bus garage. With the possibility that the school will purchase the former armory for that use, the board is finding other uses for the money.

Since the May meeting Christensen, with input from teachers and administrators, compiled a two-page list of possible uses. He presented the list to the board divided into eight areas: athletics (a new softball field and weight lifting equipment); playground; technology (primarily new computers, Chromebooks and SMART boards); advertising/public relations (including digital display boards outside each building); security; curriculum (science materials/equipment, field trips, new social studies books, etc); facilities (new carpet for HS library, update Ram Restaurant, etc); and auditorium/music (renovate Steinway grand piano at the HS, update worn/broken auditorium seats, etc).

The suggestions that drew the most interest from the board were purchasing about 120 new Chromebooks so that all students in grades 3-8 would have access, and buying science equipment. The board asked Christensen to get a firm cost for the Chromebooks, and then to determine what science equipment could be purchased with the remaining funds.

“We’ve said from the start we wanted to spend the money on kids. Those items fit the ticket,” board member Sam Harding said.

The board also decided not to hold a public forum in July or August, but to resume the second Wednesday forums in September. Only two persons were at the June public forum, both of them from the media.

Bus barn: The board also approved a one-year lease with the Greene County Fair Association at a cost of $17,500. The lease includes the large steel building that houses Clover Café during the county fair, the Quonset hut north of that building, the show ring and the north end of the east beef barn.

The lease amount is an increase of $8,500 over previous years. The proposed increase in cost, which the board learned of months ago, prompted the board to consider obtaining its own bus garage. The school is now in negotiations with the Greene County secondary road department for purchase of the former armory on E. Lincoln Way for storage of busses and other equipment.

The lease agreement with the Fair Association is for July 1, 2016 through June 30, 2017. It includes a Dec. 1 date by which the lease must be renewed to extend it past that June 30 date. That will allow the Fair Association time to plan the next step of its ongoing capital improvement project.

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