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.

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