GrCo school board asked to cut number of classes for FT students

Board okays early retirement requests for Richards, Sawhill and Roeder

The Greene County Schools board of education is again being asked to step back and give students and their parents more control over their schedules. During the fall, high school principal Brian Phillips and superintendent Tim Christensen began a discussion of reducing the number of credits needed for graduation. That discussion was referred to a committee appointed to determine the skills and proficiencies expected of Greene County graduates.

At a work session Jan. 15 prior to the regular school board meeting, the board was asked to consider decreasing the number of classes a student must be enrolled in to be considered a fulltime student and eligible for extra-curricular participation. The policy now requires five classes plus phys. ed. Phillips would like to see the requirement at four, the state minimum.

Phillips said the five-course requirement forces some students to take classes they don’t want to take. Phillips said many students would still take full class schedules, but reducing the requirement would give students more flexibility. “With the (career) academy and moving forward… let’s start a conversation about moving forward with four. That would be my recommendation,” he said.

The four classes would not include phys. ed., and students would need to be passing all four to be eligible. According to Phillips, West Marshall, which will soon be the Heart of Iowa Activities Conference, and North Polk have moved to four classes. They’re both on semester schedules, not trimesters.

He said there are students whose attitude is that they and their parents ought to be in charge of what they take. “It just causes a lot of issues,” he said.

Student Sean Wilkerson explained it’s difficult to take five classes, participate in a sport, work at a job, and keep up with homework. He’s on track to graduate early, but he still needs to take five classes to wrestle. “If I’ve already got all my stuff done, why do I have to stay for the extra period?” he asked.

He said only needing to take four classes would let him practice time management skills he’ll need in college.

Guidance counselor Emily Gannon explained there are students who are on the “edge of being engaged or not being engaged” in school. She said there is a target group of students who are at risk of dropping out all together because of having to take a class only to fill in a schedule requirement. “We could have them take four classes and have them do well, or we can force them to take five….To push them to do that might be the make-or-break in their choice to be involved or not. Sometimes it’s being involved that keeps them engaged academically. Mid-year we’re losing kids that are borderline at-risk.”

Special education teacher and coach Chad Morton sees reducing the number of classes needed as a way to keep students participating and keep them in school.
The topic was for discussion only. In the end, Christensen said it would be another part of the decision whether to reduce the number or credits for graduation.

Also during the work session, Lego League team members Lucy Vander Linden, Gavin Vander Linden, Nehemiah Hoyt and Aden Bardole gave the presentation they planned for the state Lego League competition Saturday.

Their project is a plan to repurpose the current middle school gymnasium as a public safety center and the school building as space for public safety personnel and public meeting rooms.

The Lego League is not school-sponsored, although teams are in some districts. The team is coached by talented and gifted teacher Wendy Vander Linden and Jason Smith.
They’ve met twice a week since September preparing for competition. Along with their design project, they’ve also programmed robots to perform certain tasks.

The board received an update from owner’s rep Sam Harding on construction of the regional career academy and new high school. Visit GCNO’s Good News tab for photos.

At the regular board meeting, resignations for the purpose of early retirement were approved for elementary/middle school art teacher Kevin Richards and elementary teacher Mark Sawhill, both of whom have 31 years of service to the district, and custodian Marcia Roeder, who has 26 years of service.

Total cost of the early retirement incentives is $105,561. The board in December approved up to $200,000 for the incentive.

The board tabled approval to let project bids for the repurposing of the current high school as a middle school because planning and phasing for the project isn’t finished.

The board approved resolutions needed to proceed with paying off early School Infrastructure Sale, Service and Use Tax revenue bonds sold in 2016, and rolling them into a $10 million bond issue, to be paid from the same School Infrastructure Sale, Service and Use Tax revenue. The proceeds from the bond issue will fund the high school repurposing project.

The board approved increasing the budget for advertising/publications from $13,000 to $25,000 for the current school year, primarily to promote enrollment in the regional career academy.

Included in the total is $3,132 already approved with Raccoon Valley Radio and another $3,643 for an “Ask the Expert” campaign that will feature five-minute interviews with various staff and administrators involved with the career academy.

Also in the budget is $1,810 for advertising on GreeneCountyNewsOnline, $1,102 for advertising in the Jefferson Herald, and $1,672 for advertising in the Scranton Journal/Bayard News Gazette.

The district spent $12,000 for advertising and publications during the 2018-19 school year.

The board approved updating the business office’s software at a total cost of $18,134. Technology director Brent Gerzema explained the current software has been in place since the 1990s, and that the operating system on which financial records are stored is 17 years old. Support is no longer available.

The new system will be Cloud-based and will allow office staff to work remotely, should the need arise. The total cost includes the software implementation and training, along with hosting and support.

The board approved contracts for soccer coaches as follows: Carl Behne, varsity boys, $3,473; Chad Black, ass’t boys, $2,316; Marilyn Tasler, varsity girls, $3,473; and Maribelle Hernandez, asst girls, $2,316.

Baseball and softball coaching contracts were also approved, as follows: Matthew Paulsen, head varsity baseball, $6,947; Kevin Paulsen, asst varsity baseball, $4,631; Tom Kennedy, head varsity softball, $6,947; Tiffany Hupp, asst varsity softball, $4,631; Marissa Promes, MS/9th grade softball, $3,763; and Jacque Schirmbeck, MS softball, $3,474. There are four coaching positions yet to fill.

Joshua Carlson was hired as girls golf coach as part of the consent agenda. His salary was not listed.

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