Nov. 16, 2020 Board Meeting

17 Nov
Marshalltown Education Partnership (MEP) Coordinator Ryan Flack discusses the collaboration among MCSD, MCC, and local businesses and organizations to provide post-secondary support to first-generation students.

Marshalltown Education Partnership program highlighted
The Monday, Nov. 16 Marshalltown School Board meeting featured a presentation on the Marshalltown Education Partnership (MEP) program, a collaborative effort with Marshalltown Community College which serves several Bobcat students and graduates. 

“We are a college access program for first-generation students,” said MEP Coordinator Ryan Flack. 

The program begins engaging students in eighth grade. At the high school level, MEP supports students with career and college exploration, advising, academics monitoring, college financial aid process assistance, and by offering the MEP Scholarship. 

“When they get to college, they can utilize the MEP Scholarship here at MCC,” Flack said, adding students who earn the scholarship are supported with academic and career advising, four-year transfer advising, college visits, and more; students who choose to attend a four-year college after high school can also find support within the program.

Students may take multiple post-secondary paths with the MEP Scholarship. More than half graduate from MCC with a transfer degree and go on to a four-year college; many students opt to earn a diploma or certification, and still others choose to enter the workforce after graduating with their associate’s degree.

The MEP program is supported by outstanding community partners, including Emerson, JBS Marshalltown, Lennox, and the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation. For more information on the Marshalltown Education Partnership, click here

Board approves purchase of additional internet hotspots
The board approved the purchase of 70 internet hotspots for the next six months at Monday’s meeting, boosting the District’s overall hotspot inventory. The devices are being used to support virtual learning for Bobcat students without reliable home internet access. 

District Director of Technology Amy Harmsen said the temporary transition to required remote continuous learning has increased the need for District-provided hotspots. 

“We consider it very important that our students have internet access as we’re asking them to do remote work,” she said. 

The Technology Department has worked diligently to provide as much home internet access as possible to Bobcat students who require such support.

MHS Tennis athletes hit a volley on the new Marshalltown Court Complex, which will soon receive an additional tennis backboard thanks to generous donations.

Generous donations go toward additional tennis backboard at Marshalltown Court Complex
Generous donations from local families and businesses were accepted and recognized at Monday’s board meeting. The donations, totaling $3,600, will be put toward the purchase of an additional tennis backboard at the incredible new Marshalltown Court Complex

The donations were received from the Lankelma Family, the Lents Family, Shomo/Madsen Insurance, and Strand’s Flooring and Paint. Thank you all!

Authority to temporarily reduce working hours for some hourly employees approved
The board voted to authorize the superintendent to reduce working hours as necessary for hourly District staff members due to the transition to required remote continuous learning through Tuesday, Nov. 24.

“Arriving at these recommendations has not been easy,” said District Director of Business Operations Paulette Newbold. “This is just a temporary work shortage, basically, for which benefits are still offered and maintained.”

The temporary transition to virtual learning came in response to rising coronavirus cases in Marshall County, concerns related to health care resource capacity, and an inability to effectively staff District classrooms and buildings due to employee absenteeism; the transition has meant a significant change in District staffing needs while students are away from school buildings. 

“I believe our District has a responsibility to be fiscally responsible while also being empathetic to our employees’ needs,” said Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte. 

All general fund hourly employees are being paid for their normal assigned hours on Thursday, Nov. 12 and Friday, Nov. 13. The District transitioned to remote learning on Nov. 12 for grades PK-6; grades 7-12 moved to remote learning on Nov. 16. 

Currently, the District expects to resume in-person and hybrid classes on Tuesday, Dec. 1. The temporary transition to remote learning will be followed by Thanksgiving Break (Nov. 25-27) and there will be no school on Monday, Nov. 30 due to staff professional development.

District voluntary early retirement incentive not to be offered this school year
The MCSD voluntary early retirement incentive program will not be offered this school year after a board decision Monday. Newbold explained why it was recommended not to offer the incentive this year. 

“This is a very unique year, and although we came into the year, in terms of year-end, in a pretty good fiscal position, we have a lot of concerns … relative to what the future holds, particularly as it relates to our tax rate,” she said. 

The voluntary early retirement incentive is funded through property taxes, Newbold said. Due to the District’s need to address the special education deficit and participate in the state budget guarantee program next school year – both of which are also funded through property taxes – she said it was necessary not to offer the early retirement incentive.

“As we do every year, we would revisit [the voluntary early retirement incentive program] in the fall of 2021 to determine if we want to offer it for the 2021-22 school year,” Newbold said.

Presentation shared on school transportation communication tool
A useful new communication tool is coming soon to Bobcat families who use District Transportation services. District Director of Transportation Rex Kozak presented an update on the Stopfinder app, which will make it easier for parents and guardians to keep track of their students’ bus route, pick up and drop off times, and bus stop information. 

One major feature of the app is GeoAlert, which will allow parents and guardians to receive a notification when their students’ bus is within a chosen zone. Kozak said parents may choose for the alert to be sent when their child’s bus is a few minutes away. Important District notifications can also be received through the Stopfinder app. 

The app is currently being developed for MCSD. More information is expected to be shared with families who use District Transportation services in the near future.

Niblock, Heitmann to continue in school board leadership roles
Marshalltown School Board President Bea Niblock and Vice President Sean Heitmann will continue to serve in their respective leadership roles after annual board appointments were decided Monday.

In addition, District Director of Business Operations Paulette Newbold will continue to serve as the school board secretary for the 2020-21 school year, while Ahlers & Cooney, P.C. will act in the school attorney role.

Student School Board Representative update
Student School Board representatives Itzary Avalos, Klaudia Hernandez and Haley Reed shared an update from Marshalltown High School with the board. Among the updates was a change in this year’s National Honor Society (NHS) induction ceremony, which was rescheduled to take place next spring. The ceremony had been set to take place late last week. 

Also discussed was the Girls State Swim Meet hosted at the Marshalltown YMCA-YWCA last weekend, where the Bobcats improved on their previous best 200-yard medley relay time this season. Hernandez, one of the four Bobcat competitors at the meet, said it was a unique experience as there were no fans in attendance for safety reasons. 

“It was a little different, but the energy was still there,” she said.

Part IV of “Schools Cannot Do It Alone” discussed
Board members and District administrators discussed Part IV of Jaime Vollmer’s book “Schools Cannot Do It Alone,” Monday. In the reading, Vollmer described “The Great Conversation” Districts must have with the larger community in order to have successful, positive, effective change for the benefit of students.

School Budget Review Committee applications approved
Two applications to the state School Budget Review Committee (SBRC) for supplemental aid received board approval at Monday’s meeting. 

One application requests modified allowable growth regarding open enrollment out of the District which was not part of the fall 2020 enrollment count. The other application is being made to support English language learner (ELL) programming beyond five years.

Communications
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.

Policies
First Reading – 

  • 203.10 Board Self Evaluation (amended, second reading waived)

Initial Review – 

  • 300 Statement of Guiding Principles for Administration (will come back for a first reading)
  • 301.1 (new 302.1)  Superintendent of Schools – Qualifications and Recruitment (will come back for a first reading)
  • 501.3-E1 Attendance Requirements (will come back for a first reading)
  • 501.3-E2 Attendance Regulations (will come back for a first reading)
  • 501.5 Attendance Center Assignment (will come back for a first reading)
  • 701.3 Financial Records (IASB Policy Primer) (marked as reviewed)
  • 705.2-R1 Suspension and Debarment of Vendors and Contractors Procedure (IASB Policy Primer) (will come back for a first reading)
  • 705.1-R2 Using Federal Funds in Procurement Contracts (IASB Policy Primer) (will come back for a first reading)

From Board President Bea Niblock
“Last night’s board meeting saw the board, once again, complete. With Bob Untiedt’s resignation in October, the board was left to appoint someone to fill that position until the next election in November 2021. That election will see four seats up to be filled.

The board appointed Niko Aguirre to fill that position. Last night’s meeting was his first meeting.  Niko had served on the board once before. It was a comfortable feeling having him back with us at Monday’s meeting. Welcome back, Niko!” – Bea Niblock

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. The meeting will be available to watch via YouTube live stream.

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