GrCo school board transitions to smaller board

Okays change order for new school, creation of an advertising jingle, and FCA

The Greene County Schools board shrank by two members at the Nov. 18 meeting as the “old” seven-member board was retired and the “new” five-member board organized.

The Jefferson-Scranton and East Greene boards had five members each before the districts reorganized to the Greene County district in 2013. The board grew to seven members then, with two members of the East Greene board joining the J-S board to form the Greene County board. Sunset for the larger board was set for 2019.

School superintendent Tim Christensen commended outgoing board members Sam Harding and Mark Peters for their service. Harding served on the board for 26 years.

“I can honestly say I’ve had a good time on this board,” Peters said. “It’s been fun to learn how the school works. I know the school is headed in the right direction with all the projects that are going on. I know this board is a good board. We’ve gone from being a competent board to being an effective board… I’m proud that I’ve gotten to be on the board.”

Harding said his focus has always been to “get the kids what they need. Everything’s about the kids. Everything we do, every bit of money we spend, every effort we make, should be to help the kids get what they need. I think we’ve done that. It hasn’t always been pretty. There have been bumps in the road, but I wouldn’t trade it,” he said.

He added that he attended commencement every one of the 26 years he was on the board, and suggested all board member do the same. “I went every year because that’s what it’s about, watching the kids walk across the stage. It always reminded me why I was doing it,” he said.

The larger board handled reports and old business before adjourning. Board treasurer Sid Jones presented the 2018-19 treasurer’s report. He and board secretary Brenda Muir were reappointed to their respective positions.

The board approved the second reading of a revision to graduation requirements. The revision deals only with special education students and is in line with new expectations of the state Department of Education. The board also approved the second reading of an employee conflict of interest policy.

The board heard a lengthy report from Harding on construction of the career academy and new high school. The career academy is “taking shape really, really well, ahead of schedule,” he said.

The project as a whole is about a month behind. “They’re trying to make it up, but the weather isn’t helping,” Harding explained.

The board approved a change order totaling $120,046. Harding explained some of the changes are needed to save money later on. There are things that have been found during construction that can be done differently now, for a bit more money, rather than being redone later for 10 times the cost, he said.

The total cost of the project is still within the original budgeted amount. The original contract sum was $31,223,000. A previous change order decreased the total to $30,763,046. With this change order, the contract sum is $30,883,093. Money not spent on the new construction will be used on repurposing the current high school as a middle school.

The change order also adds seven days to the contract time. Substantial completion of the career academy, classroom area and commons areas is now set for Aug. 1. The gymnasium will be completed by Aug. 15 and the auditorium will be completed by Oct. 1.

After adjourning the old board and calling the new board to order, board members John McConnell and Steve Fisher were sworn in. Both won re-election to the board in the Nov. 5 school election.

The board elected Steve Fisher as president and Steve Karber as vice president. Regular meetings will remain the third Wednesday of each month except in March (due to spring break) and November (due to the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) annual meeting). Work sessions will be held prior to the regular meeting except in June, July and August.

Board committee assignments were made as follows: County assessor’s conference board, Fisher; Jefferson park and recreation board, Catherine Wilson; negotiations, Mike Dennhardt and Karber; classified/administrative salaries, Dennhardt and Fisher; School Improvement Advisory Committee, McConnell and Wilson; school Foundation, Fisher; facilities, McConnell and Karber; insurance, Fisher; scholarships, McConnell and Wilson; and wellness, Karber and Wilson. Karber will serve as the IASB convention delegate.

In new business, the board approved a contract with Creative Radio of St Cloud, MN, to develop a school “slogan” and create and record an advertising jingle at a cost of $1,657.

Along with that, the board committed to buy one ad per day for 52 weeks on Raccoon Valley Radio at a cost of $3,223 for the year.

The cost will come from the same general fund line item as public notices and help wanted advertising, board secretary Muir said.

Raccoon Valley Radio ad representative Doug Rieder and Sam Anderson of Creative Radio had met with superintendent Christensen in late October. Christensen justified the advertising as a way to attract students to the career academy and the school district in general.

The board discussed advertising to boost the school’s image and increase enrollment in March 2017. All area media were invited to make presentations and cost proposals to the full board. After hearing the proposals, the board decided not to spend general fund money on advertising but to approach the school foundation about paying for advertising. The foundation did not take up advertising.

New president Steve Fisher suggested the board should look at “other options” for advertising as well. He also said he wants local input on the slogan and jingle.

The board approved adding a position of assistant cheerleader sponsor due to the number of cheerleaders and the supervision required, particularly during the winter sports season.

The assistant will be paid $1,157.76 for the remainder of this year and twice that for 2020-21. That expense will come from the general fund.

The board approved the purchase of a new 77-passenger bus from Hoglund Bus at a cost of $91,000; a 2019 Dodge Caravan from Stew Hansen at a cost of $22,785; and a V-plow with a blade stop kit for the Kubota from Truck Equipment at a cost of $3,016. The board also approved the purchase of two more 77-passenger buses at a cost of $190,000 after July 1. Payment will not be from the district’s general fund.

The buses will replace buses that were leased. The lease option “wasn’t the best decision,” according to Christensen, “but it took us out of an immediate bind,” transportation director Shawn DeMoss added.

The board also approved a request from teacher Patty Fisher to form a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). “Anything that helps the leadership of our kids that are out in the public eye, especially in game situations, and helps them grow closer with their faith and their character, and all the things that go with that… that’s our goal,” she said.

Athletic director Todd Gordon and middle school principal Shawn Zanders both have experience with FCA. Zanders described it as “TAG (talented and gifted) for your student athletes.”

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