Archive | September, 2020

Sept. 21, 2020 Board Meeting

22 Sep
The District Technology team was recognized for IT Professionals Day at Monday’s board meeting. Pictured, from left: Mike Britt, Jenn Harrington, Janet Garcia, Alex Bartels, Sebastian Ramirez, Ricardo Garcia, and Andrew Claseman.

District Technology staff recognized for IT Professionals Day
Tuesday, Sept. 22 is National IT Professionals Day, and the District’s exceptional Technology Department staff was recognized at Monday’s Marshalltown School Board meeting. 

“I inherited a wonderful team, and right away I knew they were great and highly-qualified,” said District Director of Technology Amy Harmsen, who has been leading the department since February. “I could not be more proud of this team.” 

Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte said the District Technology team provides great service under usual circumstances, and have stepped up to the challenges brought by the coronavirus pandemic since the spring. 

The District Technology Department consists of Harmsen, Network and Security Specialist Mike Britt, Student Technology Device Coordinator Jennifer Harrington, Server Specialist Andrew Claseman, Chromebook Repair Technician Ricardo Garcia, and Technology Support Specialists Alex Bartels, Janet Garcia, and Sebastian Ramirez. For more on the incredible District Tech team, read our IT Professionals Day feature on the department.

Lenihan Instructional Coach and Bobcat U fourth- and fifth grade coordinator Tonya Gaffney presents an overview of this year’s summer learning programming.

Bobcat University overview from summer 2020 presented
Like so many regular school programs and activities this year, the Bobcat University summer learning program had to adapt to special circumstances in 2020. An overview of this summer’s unique Bobcat U programming was presented at Monday’s board meeting. 

“The purpose of Bobcat U has always stayed the same – it’s to provide academic opportunities during the summer months to at-risk students,” said Hoglan Elementary fourth grade teacher Clare Wing, who acted as a lead elementary teacher during Bobcat U this summer. “While it was a very unique summer, we did have a lot of fun and we did see success.”

Lenihan Intermediate School Instructional Coach Tonya Gaffney coordinated fourth- and fifth grade Bobcat U programming. She said care was taken to ensure as smooth a transition as possible from the closure of schools in the spring to the beginning of Bobcat U in the summer. 

“A total of 18 teachers created lessons that were uploaded to the same Learn from Home website that we used during school closure at the end of last school year,” Gaffney said. “These lessons were available for all students in the District, and students were encouraged to access these lessons each Sunday via Infinite Campus messenger.” 

The program was tailored to students’ grade level, and students accessed high-quality math, literacy, and science learning in a virtual setting. The program’s 18 dedicated teachers were resourceful, using a wide range of new programs to deliver curriculum and monitor progress. 

“[Teachers] were willing to take on the added challenges of supporting students in a virtual environment during a pandemic with little training,” Gaffney said. “Bobcat U was truly a team effort.” 

FY20 financial report shows growth
Despite a challenging second half to Fiscal Year 2020 (which ended on June 30), District Finance Director Paulette Newbold said there was plenty of good news to discuss in the FY20 financial report

“Financially, fiscally, we ended the year in a good position,” she said. 

Specifically, the District’s general fund showed a year-end fund balance of about $6.5 million, an amount which Newbold said is a year ahead of what had been projected. The higher year-end balance was likely due to several factors related to the school closure in the spring, including the lack of need to hire substitute staff members, a drop in professional development and employee travel costs, decreased Title programming, and a decrease in other, normal expenditures.

Newbold said the District’s solvency ratio is up to about 7.7 percent, nearing the goal of 8 percent or higher. How the current fiscal year plays out will have a large impact on the overall financial picture, she said. 

In addition to hearing the year-end financial report, the board also approved the District’s annual depository resolution, which remains unchanged from last year’s resolution. 

Lane changes approved for dozens of MCSD staff pursuing higher education
The board approved lane changes for a list of 65 MCSD employees who are engaging in higher education and becoming even more knowledgeable educators. The lane changes signify an increase in pay for these employees in recognition of their dedication to earning advanced degrees in their field. Their ever-growing expertise ensures continued high-quality learning for Bobcat students.

District Director of Finance Paulette Newbold said Marshalltown Schools are full of highly-trained, highly-educated professionals, with 55 percent of employees holding an advanced degree (e.g. a master’s degree, educational specialist degree, and/or doctoral degree).

Student School Board representatives Hayley Reed, left, and Itzary Avalos, right, introduce themselves to the school board Monday.

Student School Board representatives share first update of the 2020-21 school year
Monday’s board meeting brought the in-person introduction to Student School Board representatives for this year. MHS senior Itzary Avalos and junior Hayley Reed introduced themselves to the board, discussing classes, school activities, and more. 

“I am doing virtual learning this year as a senior, so it’s a little bit different than I expected my senior year to go,” Avalos said, adding virtual classes – including her dual-credit college course – are similar to in-person classes, except that they require more time management skills. 

Avalos is a member of National Honor Society and the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) freshman mentoring program. She participates in track and field and works part-time. 

Reed said she is a hybrid student at MHS, and is also taking a mix of high school and dual-credit college classes this semester. She said one major change she has noticed in school this year is the smaller in-person class sizes. 

Reed works two part-time jobs and is involved in band, basketball, and track and field activities, and is entering her first year as an MVP freshman mentor. 

Fellow Student School Board representative Klaudia Hernandez will introduce herself to the board at a future meeting.

First book study discussion held on Vollmer’s “Schools Cannot Do It Alone”
Board members and administrators discussed Part I of Jamie Vollmer’s book “Schools Cannot Do It Alone” at Monday’s meeting. 

Part I describes Vollmer’s criticism of public schools earlier in his life, as well as the beginning of his journey toward being a supporter and advocate for public schools. The discussion was accompanied by a video from Vollmer on the same subject matter. The Monday, Oct. 5 board meeting will include a discussion on Part II of “Schools Cannot Do It Alone.”

School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) approved for 2020-21
The 2020-21 School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) received board approval Monday. 

The committee is made up of 19 District teachers and teacher leaders, administrators, board members and parents. Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson said additional representation from Bobcat students is also expected to be included on the committee this year. 

SIAC members will hold three meetings this school year, each from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., including: Monday, Nov. 23, 2020; Monday, Jan. 11, 2021; and Monday, March 29, 2021.

Communications Director Adam Sodders reviewed the good news from the district by sharing newspaper articles as well as school communications articles. That list can be seen here.

Personnel items
For a list of personnel items approved Wednesday, click here.

There were no board policies up for a first reading Monday.
Initial Review
– 200.2 Powers of the Board of Directors (will come back for a first reading)
– 204.9-R1 Board Calendar (will come back for a first reading)
– 209.1 Development of Policy (will come back for a first reading)
– 209.2 Adoption of Policy (will come back for a first reading)
– 209.3 Dissemination of Policy (will come back for a first reading)
– 209.4 Suspension of Policy (will come back for a first reading)
– 202.7 Individual Board Members (deleted)
– 203.1 (new 209.6) Formulation, Review and Revision of Policy (marked as reviewed)

From Board President Bea Niblock
“Last night’s meeting was the first meeting for our new student board representatives. Itzary Avalos, Klaudia Hernandez and Hayley Reed will join us during this school year.

We had the opportunity to get to know Itzary and Hayley at the meeting and will get to meet Klaudia soon. Both Itzary and Hayley introduced themselves, shared background information and gave us first-hand knowledge about both online and in person learning. We have come to count on our student reps to share things happening at the high school and give us their opinions from a student perspective. It will be a pleasure to, once again, get to know and hear from our student board representatives.” – Bea Niblock

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. The meeting will be held in-person with social distancing and other safety measures in place. The meeting will be available to watch via YouTube live stream.

Sept. 8, 2020 Board Meeting

9 Sep
Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) leadership members presented an Outstanding Partner award to MCSD Tuesday. Pictured, from left: iJAG President and CEO Laurie Phelan, Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte, iJAG Director of Strategic Advancement Carly Voltz, MHS iJAG specialists Mary McCann Fuchsen and Chad Weir, and iJAG Director of Program Advancement Bob Reid.

MCSD named Outstanding Partner by Iowa Jobs For America’s Graduates (iJAG)
Representatives from Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) presented Marshalltown Schools with an Outstanding Partner award at Tuesday’s meeting. 

The partnership between MCSD and iJAG began three years ago at the 11th- and 12th grade levels. Now, the program has been implemented at all grade levels, with the exception of the elementary level. 

“We wanted to recognize Dr. Schutte and you all for what we call True North Leadership – that is, you’re laser-focused on young people, and that all young people, not just some, can be successful,” said Laurie Phelan of iJAG.

Since iJAG came to Marshalltown Schools, Phelan reported that 100 percent of students who participated in the program graduated. 

“I think the most critical piece of the puzzle is having the right people running these programs in the classroom,” Dr. Schutte said. “I’m excited to hear that we have 100 percent graduation. I’m really looking forward to hearing what happens with those young people post-high school.” 

Board approves agreement with Mechdyne Corp. for Bobcat Helpline
The start of a new school year is an exciting – as well as potentially stressful – time for many students and families. Combined with the coronavirus pandemic and the recent derecho that interrupted life in the Marshalltown Community, MCSD families have many questions about the 2020-21 school year.

Bobcat Helpline postcardTo ensure families have quick, easy access to answers during this time, the Marshalltown School Board approved a three-month agreement with the local technology company Mechdyne Corporation to facilitate the Bobcat Helpline – (641) 754-1001.

“As we put together a full picture, we saw that we really had a need for a centralized help desk,” said District Director of Technology Amy Harmsen. “We’ve already realized so much of the benefit of [Mechdyne] being a community company. They know our school district, they know who to route to, they know some of the resources that we’re already working on.”

Harmsen said the helpline proved useful on day one, with 257 out of 300 calls directly resolved. The remaining calls were routed to the District for confidentiality and security purposes.

MCSD Employees (front row, from left) Dr. Lisa Stevenson, Jennifer Harrington, Stacey Tool-Crawford, and Jennifer Gray earned a special recognition for going above and beyond in their work duties since the coronavirus pandemic began in the spring. Also pictured in the back row, from left, are Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte, Director of Technology Amy Harmsen, MHS Principal Jacque Wyant, and Buildings and Grounds Director Todd Goulding.

District staff recognized for going above and beyond
Tuesday’s Marshalltown School Board meeting featured four outstanding Marshalltown Schools employees who were recognized for the incredible efforts they have put forth since the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic last spring.

Buildings and Grounds administrative assistant Jennifer Gray, Student Technology Device Coordinator Jennifer Harrington, District Lead Nurse Stacey Tool-Crawford, and District Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson earned the special recognition through hard work and dedication during the challenging time since March.

“We try to every quarter recognize employees who go up and beyond the call of duty in their respective roles,” said District Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte. “I wanted to turn that recognition into a special recognition for people who have really gone, in my opinion, way up and above the call of duty as it relates both to our COVID-related closure from the spring to the summer planning to the new school year.”
Read more about the great efforts of each of Tuesday’s award winners here.

Marshalltown Legends American Grill restaurant Manager Brady Ridout presents a $1,000 check to MHS Activities/Athletics Director Ryan Isgrig. Each Legends Bobcat Burger sold added $1 to the donation.

Legends American Grill “Bobcat Burger” donation goes to MHS Activities
Bobcat Pride was on full display Tuesday as local Legends American Grill restaurant manager Brady Ridout presented a check for $1,000 toward the Marshalltown High School Activity Fund to MHS Director of Activities/Athletics Ryan Isgrig. 

“We wanted to give back to the community somehow,” Ridout said before presenting the generous donation at Tuesday’s meeting. The funds came from the sale of the Legends “Bobcat Burger,” with $1 of each purchase going toward the activity fund; Ridout said Legends sold 1,000 Bobcat Burgers in less than a year. 

Newly-appointed building administrators introduced themselves to the Marshalltown School Board Tuesday. Pictured, from left: Miller Middle School co-principals Kristyn Kell and Dave Glenn, and MHS associate principals Michael Bale and William Terry.

Newly-appointed Miller Middle School and MHS administrators introduced
The 2020-21 school year brings a group of new faces to building administration positions at Miller Middle School and Marshalltown High School, and the board heard from each Tuesday.

“We welcomed kids with music and open arms, and we thought it was a smooth day,” said Miller Co-Principal Kristyn Kell of the first day of classes. “I’m excited to be back. I was in the District for 9 years … it’s great to be back home.”

Fellow Miller Co-Principal Dave Glenn is also familiar with Marshalltown Schools, with several years of experience as associate principal at Miller.
“Empty buildings aren’t right when you think about school, so it was great to see kids back in school,” Glenn said. “They knew that we were ready for them to be there … their teachers were excited to see them.”

Marshalltown High School welcomed associate principals Michael Bale and William Terry this summer.

“It was great to get out in the classrooms,” Bale said. “Our kids have been awesome, they’ve really been the most flexible out of all of this.”

Terry, who wrote and performed a rap song educating students on health and safety measures this school year, said he was also excited to see students during the start of classes.

“The first two months have been absolutely scary and wonderful at the same time,” he said. “The whole District has been very helpful and supportive.”

Marshalltown Performing Arts Center flooring project agreement approved
With new flooring needed in the Marshalltown Performing Arts Center (formerly known as the MHS/Community Auditorium), the Marshalltown School Board approved an agreement with the Marshalltown Performing Arts Center Foundation to pay for the work. 

MCSD Buildings and Grounds Director Todd Goulding said the Foundation will cover the majority of the project costs, with MCSD covering about $4,500 of the work. The District’s cost will be paid using PPEL funds. Strand’s Flooring and Paint has been contracted for the work. 

New board book study to focus on building support for public schools
The beginning of the new school year Tuesday also saw the Marshalltown School Board and District Administrative Cabinet prepare to embark on a new book study. The book in question – Jamie Vollmer’s “Schools Cannot Do It Alone: Building Public Support for America’s Public Schools” – discusses the multi-faceted role public schools play in their local communities, as well as how to build support for public schools to achieve greater student success. 

Miller Middle School heating and cooling system project gets board’s nod
The Miller Middle School heating and cooling system will be upgraded after the school board approved an agreement to convert the current steam system to a new, water-based system at the building. Buildings and Grounds Director Todd Goulding said a water-based temperature control system would be an improvement over the current, aging system. Woodman Controls Company was approved to perform the work.  

Communications Director Adam Sodders reviewed the good news from the district by sharing newspaper articles as well as school communications articles. That list can be seen here.

Personnel items
For a list of personnel items approved Wednesday, click here

First Reading

  • 409.1 Licensed Employee Vacation-Holidays-Personal Leave (amended, second reading waived) 
  • 409.2 Licensed Employee Personal Illness Leave (amended, second reading waived)
  • 415.4 (New 414) Classified Staff Professional Development Leave (amended, second reading waived)
  • 409.2-E1 Emergency Paid Sick Leave Request Form Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (adopted, second reading waived)
  • 409.2-E2 Expanded Family and Medical Leave Request for Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) (adopted, second reading waived)

Initial Review

  • 201.3 Responsibilities of the Board of Directors (will come back for a second reading)
  • 201.5 Membership (Deleted)

From Board President Bea Niblock
“The journey has begun!  First day of school; first in-person board meeting since March.  

The school year started with some students sitting in seats and some students learning online in their homes. And because of the high volume of questions regarding online learning and the use of technology, the district has developed a work agreement with Mechdyne Corporation to field those calls. The very first day had 300 calls!  A win-win situation with our families having their questions answered promptly and freeing up our staff to deal with infrastructure issues and confidential questions.

My quote at the meeting was from Jenny Han, an American author of children’s and young adult books. “I’ve always loved the first day of school better than the last day of school. Firsts are best because they are beginnings.” Hoping that your beginning brings many happy and fulfilling days!” – Bea Niblock

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. The meeting will be held in-person with social distancing and other safety measures in place. The meeting will be available to watch via YouTube live stream.