Tuesday, January 27, 2009

January 2009 Board Meeting

On January 21, 2009, the Earlham Community School Board met for their monthly meeting at 6:00 PM in the high school library. During the meeting, the Board was presented information from the Middle School and High School Science teachers and the Middle School/High School Dean of Students and High School At-Risk Coordinator.

The presentation from the science teachers included information relative to curriculum taught to students in grades 7-12 in the area of science. Curriculum units included biomes, genetics, virus, bacteria, mass, density, populations, communities, ecosystems and many others. In addition, Mrs. Anne Mendoza presented information on how she is now better able to use the Chemistry classroom for hands-on student experiments due to the remodeling project completed last summer. Students and teachers can now safely perform a wide variety of experiments that were not available in recent years.

The other presentation focused on informing the Board relative to a trend being tracked by the Dean of Students and At-Risk Coordinator showing an increase in the percentage of students who are not completing their education or receiving their diploma at alternative sites. The district allows students to utilize the Youth-At-Risk Credit Recovery program through DMACC, the Winterset Alternative High School program known as “Bridges”, and General Education Diploma or GED through DMACC if the student is struggling to accumulate the required credits toward a traditional diploma. During the presentation, the Board was presented with new requirements related to the “No Child Left Behind” federal legislation. This requirement forces districts to count students who receive their diploma through these alternative ways be counted as drop outs for the local district. The Board asked the Dean of Students and the At-Risk Coordinator to bring a proposal to them in February on how the district can address this issue.

In other business, the Board approved:
An agreement with Prairie Meadows relative to the $5,000 grant awarded the district to offset costs related to the remodeling of the high school science rooms.
Board Policies in the first 1/3 of the 400 Section of the Policy Manual. The entire 400 Section will be reviewed and revised where necessary during the 2008-09 school year.

The next regular Earlham Community School Board meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 18th at 6:00 p.m. at the school library. The School Board is also planning a special meeting/work session for February 2nd at 6:00 PM in the school library.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January 2009!

By the time you are reading this, the second half of the 2008-09 school year will be in full swing. Hopefully, the weather has been cooperating and the students have been able to attend each day. At the time I am writing this, we have missed two days of school due to weather conditions that will be made up on April 14th and 15th. Any days beyond these will have to be added on to the end of the year.

Each January, a new legislative session begins in Des Moines, and many decisions are made that eventually affect the district. Some of these decisions affect all districts in Iowa in terms of funding for future programming. Arguably the most important decision made by the legislature and governor each year is what is referred to as allowable growth. You will probably hear or read about X% allowable growth for public schools and wonder what that means.

Basically, allowable growth refers to the per pupil amount increase to provide funding for schools. During the current school year, each district receives property tax revenues and state aid that equates to $5,546 per pupil. If the legislature and governor approve a 4% allowable growth, each district would receive an additional $221 per pupil or $5,767 per pupil for the next school year. The legislature and governor have set allowable growth at 4% for the 2009-10 school year during the last legislative session. With the current financial challenges facing the state of Iowa, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this number reviewed during the current session and at this point, it is impossibly to predict what percentage of allowable growth the legislature and governor might consider for the 2010-2011 school year.

For school districts that have stable or growing enrollment, this type of increase would allow additional funds for operations (salaries, benefits, utilities, books, supplies, etc.). For school districts that are declining in enrollment, even with the increase in the amount per pupil, many will see either the same or slightly less total funding for operations. Earlham Community School District has been fortunate to be a district with steady increasing enrollment, until this year. In comparison to the previous year, the district has experienced a decrease of 16 students. As I had stated in previous articles, I am hopeful that this is just a one year anomaly and not the beginning of a trend.

I’m sure that most of you have either heard or read about the Governor’s 1.5% across the board reduction in state aid. In addition to the basic State Foundation Aid, there are several categorical funds that each district receives for specific purposes from the state. The total reduction for the district equates to $48,032. The following is a breakdown of the reductions from the state:

1. State Foundation Aid = $41,546
2. ISL = $0 – The District currently does not have an Instructional Support Levy
3. Teacher Comp. Basic Allocation = $4,303
4. Teacher Quality – Professional Development = $356
5. Teacher Quality – Professional Development specifically for Iowa Core = $151
6. Phase I - $871
7. Phase II - $805
8. Early Intervention - $0 – All Iowa districts have already received these funds

In anticipation of this reduction in funding, the district has been on a spending “freeze” since the beginning of November. The district continues to purchase items that are needed for operation, but are very cautious with spending and are not looking to any new initiatives. My concern is that it appears as though another reduction in state aid may be possible in March after the next revenue estimating conference from the State. The district’s current financial position is solid, but another reduction in state aid would bring about some unique challenges.

Finally, thank you for your continued support of the Earlham Community School District. The academic and extracurricular programs provided by the district would not be possible without the continued positive support of the Earlham community.