Greene Co school moving forward on elementary addition

Approves policy for administrative staff reduction

Greene County school administrators and the board of education are moving deliberately but at full speed toward being a three school district by next August.

At the Dec. 21 regular board meeting, board members John McConnell and Sam Harding reported attending two meetings with Shive Hattery architects on plans for the addition to the elementary school. Final plans are expected to be complete early next month. The board approved a motion to allow Shive Hattery to solicit bids for the project and set a special meeting for Feb. 22 to approve bids so that construction can begin in March.

The additional space will allow fourth graders to attend school there. Fifth and sixth graders will attend school at the middle school.

Superintendent Tim Christensen has called developing a middle school for grades 5-8 “an opportunity of a lifetime,” as the school is created “basically from scratch.” All grades 5-8 teachers were surveyed about their idea of an “ideal” middle school. High school staff was asked for input, as were parents and community members. Intermediate and middle school students were interviewed last week to learn what excites them about school.

The intermediate school in Grand Junction will be closed as an attendance center at the end of this school year. Budget considerations are the primary reason for the closure, with savings estimated at more than $330,000. Of that, $224,000 is in staff reductions, including eliminating one principal position.

The board at its December meeting approved a policy for administrative reduction in force. (The board previously had no such policy.) Christensen consulted with attorney Rick Engel, who specializes in labor relations and serves districts in Prairie Lakes AEA, before suggesting two possible criteria to the board.

A mixed criteria would take into consideration the each principal’s overall evaluated performance as determined by the superintendent; licensure for remaining positions; and the superintendent’s recommendation for staffing the remaining positions to best serve the district’s interests.

A single criteria would be based solely on seniority.

The board passed a motion unanimously to approve as policy the mixed criteria. The board waived a second reading of the new policy. Christensen will make a recommendation to the board at its Jan. 18 meeting about which building principal will be released.

With the mixed criteria, all four building principals will be considered. Administrative certification in Iowa is for grades PK-8, grades 5-12, or PK-12. Christensen said two of the district’s administrators have PK-12 certification.

In another staffing/budget matter, board members McConnell and Mark Peters along with Christensen met with the Ogden school board president and superintendent about their request to share the services of Christensen.

Peters reported the Ogden district is interested in a 50/50 share. The Greene County district agreed not to share that much of the superintendent’s time, saying that additional staff would be needed to fill in things Christensen was unable to do here, reducing potential savings. “If it were just a business deal, we could probably do it, but with all the educational things we’re trying to do, and all the challenges we have coming up, I just don’t see a 50 percent split,” Peters said.

Along with sharing the cost of salary and benefits, each district would receive a sharing incentive from the state equal to finding for eight students, or about $48,000 next year.

During his report, Christensen said he had taken the district’s budget reduction plan to the Department of Education’s School Budget Review Committee the previous week and the committee granted the requested $208,000 in allowable growth. That is not actual money to the district, but it “erases” a negative unspent balance, or what the state sees as “overspending.” It does not relate to the district’s fund balance.

See a post from Nov. 3 for more explanation.

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