Thursday, December 15, 2011

School Messenger System

The District is working on a new service in an effort to better communicate weather related announcements and other reminders with parents, staff and students.  We are trying out a subscription to School Messenger.  It is an online service where announcements can be sent to an email account or a phone as a voice message or text message.  At the time I am writing this, you may have even received some test messages.  I am hopeful that this new system will better serve the needs of the district when communicating important information to the public.  We are still planning to contact the local media about late starts, early dismissals and cancellations as in the past, but this system should get you the message much sooner than when it would be posted on a website or on the television stations.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Winter Weather Reminders

It is that time of year again when we can expect to have snow, cold temperatures and windchill that makes travel difficult and sometimes even dangerous.  As in the past, the district will be monitoring these situations closely and trying to make certain that travel conditions are safe for the students.

In the event that schools needs to start later than normal, or be cancelled, please check the local television and radio stations for the announcements.  We will again attempt to send email messages out through the student information management system, JMC, but we have been experiencing some emails "bouncing back" to us lately.  I would make certain that you get your information from the local television or radio announcements. I try to make a decision so that these announcements can be on the local media outlets prior to 6:00 AM.

My highest priority is the safety of all of the students, but I am not able to check every road in the district prior to making a decision.  Please know that there may be a time when there will be school and you may not feel comfortable sending your child to school that day.  I understand completely and support your decision to keep your child at home that day.  Again, student safety is my highest priority.  If this happens, please call the school office and let us know.  Let's have a safe winter season!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Enrollment Changes for 2011-12

Each year at the beginning of October, every district in the State is required to electronically submit enrollment information to the Department of Education through a process referred to as Project EASIER.  A thorough review by all districts is completed and calculations are finalized to determine the number of resident students in each district.  In addition, each district must share information as to students who are open enrolled into and out of each district as well as students that are involved in shared programming.  An example of shared programming would be the Agriculture/FFA program with ADM and the Madison County Career Academy.  This number is important as it is the first important factor in determining funding for the district for the 2012-13 school year.

Unfortunately, the enrollment for the district used to determine funding is down by 30 students.  Although I knew that the district had more students graduate in May of 2011 than anticipated Kindergarten students this fall, I was not expecting the reduction in students to be this large.  The projections from the Department of Education indicated stable enrollment for the next few years and then limited growth in the future.

The one area in which the district is experiencing an increase in student enrollment is that of students who are open enrolling into the district.  In October of 2010, the district had 60 students from other districts who have chosen to attend school in Earlham.  In October of 2011, this number increased to 71 students.

The decrease in the number of students will have a slight effect on the district's funding in the 2012-13 school year.  For the first time, the district will qualify for the budget guarantee.  The budget guarantee assures that the district will have 101% of the current year funding level for 2012-13.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Physical Plant and Equipment Levy

The voters of the Earlham Community School District will be going to the voting booths on Tuesday, September 13th to cast their ballots for School Board members and for the renewal of the district's Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.  Since I have been asked several times, "What is the PPEL funding going to be used for?", I want to address that in this correspondence.

The Physical Plant and Equipment Levy is a property tax levy that can be used to make improvements to district facilities, purchase or lease/purchase equipment with a value exceeding $500, and other facilities needs of the district.  The following list are examples of actual uses of the PPEL fund:

  • Lease of Copy Machines for the District
  • Purchase of Musical Instruments
  • Replacement of School Pickup
  • Replacement of Heating/Ventilation/Air Conditioning Units
  • Updating of Fire and Tornado Alarm Systems
  • Lease of Technology Equipment/Computers
  • Floor Scrubbing Machine
  • Plumbing Updates
  • Purchase of School Bus

This is not an all inclusive list, but I hope that these examples help to show what type of expenditures are allowed from the PPEL fund.  The current PPEL funding was being used to pay off a Capital Loan Note that was approved by the voters as part of the last building project.  If the School Board would decide that the district needs to provide funding for another building project, the PPEL funds could be used for that purpose again.

The PPEL can not be used to pay salaries, benefits, utilities, textbooks or supplies.  These are examples of expenditures that must be paid from the General Fund.  If the PPEL fund renewal was not approved by the voters, the above listed types of expenditures would probably need to be either delayed or paid for from the General Fund.

For more information from the Iowa Department of Education about PPEL, click this link.

Monday, April 4, 2011

District Facilities Committee Works on Site Plan

The Earlham Community School District Facilities Committee has been working for the past several years on ways to improve the existing facilities to best serve the students of the district as well as prepare for the changing needs of the district.  During meetings of the Facilities Committee this school year, there has been a focus on improving existing facilities, specifically the track.  Originally, the Facilities Committee was attempting to propose a plan for an 8-lane all-weather track so that the district could again host track meets.

After reporting to the School Board in February, the Facilities Committee was charged with creating a site plan for the track/football field area with a vision for what the district will/may need 10 years from now.  The District has enlisted the assistance of SVPA Architects, Midwest Track and Bishop Engineering to provide expertise with various pieces of the overall plan.  The Committee has discussed the potential of implementing the site plan in phases by using funding from the penny sales tax or SAVE (Secure and Advanced Vision for Education) fund.  By using the SAVE fund, the District would not be asking district patrons for additional property taxes for this project. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Instructional Support Levy

At their meeting on February 16, 2011, the Earlham Community School Board approved a resolution to consider participation in an Instructional Support Levy.  The ISL is a way for the district to provide a consistent funding stream for programming.  In this particular situation, the Board approved this funding for "improving the District's technology program, including the purchasing of services, equipment, and/or software, or any general fund purpose approved by the Board".  In addition, the approval of the resolution included the use of property taxes to fund the ISL for a period of 5 years as allowed by law.

As you may recall, the Earlham School Board has been vigilant in keeping the overall property tax rate the same for the past three years.  Their goal with this ISL is to continue that expectation.  Last year, the Board realized the importance of a significant increase in the Cash Reserve Levy to replace those dollars from the across-the-board reduction in State Aid.  At the same time, other funds were adjusted so that the overall rate would remain the same.  The intention of the Board is to institute the Instructional Support Levy for technology without raising the overall levy rate for property taxes.

A Public Hearing on this issue is scheduled for Monday, March 7th at 6:00 PM in the school library.