Dec. 7, 2020 Board Meeting

8 Dec
Nate McCulley, left, discusses the donation of hand tools to the MHS construction program taught by Raul Arevalo, right.

Local company donates tools to MHS construction program
Marshalltown High School industrial arts teacher Raul Arevalo accepted a generous donation of hand tools from Marshalltown Co. at Monday’s meeting. Company Director of Product Sales Nate McCulley said the MHS construction program prepares Bobcat students interested in the construction industry for local career opportunities. 

“We ’re just grateful for these types of programs in our community and we’re glad we can help be a part of this,” McCulley said. 

Arevalo said the tools will play a crucial role in the construction program curriculum. 

“We can have the students learn skills that will really take them a long way in finding a career,” he said. 

Return to Learn update and second semester plans presented
The Marshalltown School Board heard an update on the District’s Return to Learn instruction at Monday’s meeting; parent and guardian learning model preference data for the second semester was also shared.

So far, Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson said most District parents and guardians – about 75 percent – have shared which learning model they prefer for their children.

Stevenson said school staff members have been communicating with families regarding the second semester learning model options, including discussions about which model may best fit each student. The learning model data shared Monday will continue to change as more parents and guardians share their preferences with the District. 

In addition to the second semester preferences data, Miller Middle School co-principals Dave Glenn and Kristyn Kell described the measures being taken to keep fully virtual students engaged in learning, with one example being the new Saturday school beginning Dec. 12.

The middle school administrators said they hope the Saturday school program will be able to expand to include more students who could benefit from increased academic support. 

Marshalltown High School Principal Jacque Wyant said virtual students in need of more academic support have Saturday school as an option this week; support is also offered through the school’s Pier program and Academic Support Center. 

The board will receive another Return to Learn update at the Dec. 21 regular meeting. 

Preliminary designs and cost estimates for MHS, Anson renovation projects approved
Another important step in the upcoming renovation projects at Marshalltown High School and Anson Elementary school was taken Monday. The board approved preliminary designs and cost estimates for the work, which will include the installation of air conditioning at MHS and a new HVAC system at Anson, among other improvements. 

With Monday’s action, construction documents will be reviewed ahead of an expected public hearing for adoption of plans, specifications, and form of contract for the project in January of 2021. 

State Rep.-Elect Sue Cahill, left, and State Sen. Jeff Edler, right, discuss legislative priorities with the Marshalltown School Board.

State lawmakers discuss upcoming legislative session
State Sen. Jeff Edler and state Rep.-Elect Sue Cahill sat down with the school board to discuss goals for the upcoming legislative session.

Edler, who will begin his second term in the Iowa Senate in January, said he has worked to address several key items for K-12 public schools in the last four years, including improving student mental health services, the introduction of the Seal of Biliteracy award, and more. 

Cahill, a veteran educator at Marshalltown Schools, will bring her decades of experience in public education with her to the Iowa House. She said she looks forward to supporting students’ needs as a lawmaker. 

Edler said it is too early to predict what potential per-pupil state funding increase there could be for the 2021-22 school year; he said he will work to ensure the amount of state supplemental aid to schools is decided as early as possible to help school districts plan their budgets for the next fiscal year. 

Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte pointed to several key items the legislature could address in the coming session, including continued support for mental health services, increased access to high-quality broadband internet, and incentives to boost interest in the teaching profession. 

Dr. Schutte also said one-time funding to support students who have fallen behind academically during the pandemic would be a big help for schools. 

The 2021 state legislative session will begin Monday, Jan. 11, 2021.

All-State music honorees (from left) Elijah Thiessen, Taylor Hoffman, and Rebekah Stone discussed their great accomplishment at Monday’s board meeting.

All-State music honorees recognized
The Bobcats are well represented in this year’s All-State music ensembles, with six talented MHS students earning the distinction. The All-State honorees were recognized at Monday’s board meeting.

Only 1.7% of all high school musicians in Iowa earn an All-State music accolade each school year. This year’s winners – Olivia Adams-Zmolek, Veronica Herrera, Taylor Hoffman, Aaron Seberger, Elijah Thiessen, and Rebekah Stone – join a large group of Bobcat All-State music honorees. 

Board book study discussion features author Jamie Vollmer
The board and District administration team read the final chapters of Jamie Vollmer’s book “Schools Cannot Do It Alone” ahead of Monday’s meeting, and had the opportunity to welcome the author virtually for a book study discussion. 

Vollmer emphasized the importance of building permission and patience within a school district community. He said it is crucial for schools to communicate not only with students, families, staff, and community stakeholders, but also with those who do not have a child in school.

Vollmer said he has enjoyed working with Dr. Schutte as District leadership read and discussed “Schools Cannot Do It Alone” throughout the fall. 

Student School Board representatives Klaudia Hernandez, left, and Itzary Avalos, right, share an update from MHS

Student School Board Representative update
Student School Board representatives Itzary Avalos and Klaudia Hernandez shared an update from Marshalltown High School, including the upcoming gingerbread house making contest on Dec. 14 and information about winter sports

Steps taken on student Chromebook replacements, teacher workstations
The District Technology Department will begin working toward replacing teachers’ current PC desktop computer workstations with portable laptop workstations after board action Monday. Director of Technology Amy Harmsen said the laptops will offer teachers more mobility while continuing to provide the necessary power to complete important work tasks. 

Additionally, the board approved the purchase of second-, fifth- and 10th grade student Chromebooks to replace older models, in accordance with the District’s regular Chromebook replacement cycle. Harmsen said the request to seek bids for the new devices had been scheduled to take place in the spring, but the item was brought to the board early to ensure the Chromebooks could be received in a timely fashion. 

2021-22 At-Risk programming and budget discussed
The District’s proposed At-Risk budget for next school year was an important discussion item at the Dec. 7 meeting. At-Risk programming is designed to serve students in need of academic support and to prevent dropping students from dropping out of school. 

Dr. Stevenson said this year’s At-Risk budget will not include any programming increases, meaning the funding will remain consistent with the current year’s budget. She said the recommendation to not increase program funding is to reduce the budget’s property tax impact; however, she said the At-Risk program has shown great growth in the past several years and will continue to provide necessary services to students throughout the District. 

There was no action taken on the 2020-21 At-Risk budget Monday evening.

Update shared on District contributions to COVID-19 dashboards
Marshalltown Schools has contributed data to two important COVID-19 dashboards, one at the national level and the other at the state level. 

Dr. Schutte said the District began sharing COVID-19 data with a national dashboard through a partnership with the School Superintendents Association (AASA) and Brown University earlier this year. In November, the District began voluntarily contributing data toward the Iowa Department of Education’s dashboard.

In looking at the numbers presented by each dashboard, Dr. Schutte said students show a low rate of infection, while the rate is higher among staff members. He said he remains confident that spread is taking place primarily outside of the schools.

Updates on the dashboard data are planned to be shared as numbers continue to be updated. In addition to the state and national dashboards discussed Monday, the District shares weekly COVID-19 positivity numbers on the MCSD website. 

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 Monday, click here.

Policies
First Reading – 

  • 300 – Statement of Guiding Principles for Administration (amended, second reading waived)
  • 301.1 (new 302.1) – Superintendent of Schools – Qualifications and Recruitment (amended, second reading waived)
  • 501.3-E1 – Attendance Requirements (amended, second reading waived)
  • 501.3-E2 – Attendance Regulations (amended, second reading waived)
  • 501.5 – Attendance Center Assignment (amended, second reading waived)
  • 705.2-R1 – Suspension and Debarment of Vendors and Contractors Procedure (adopted, second reading waived)
  • 705.1-R2 – Using Federal Funds in Procurement Contracts (adopted, second reading waived)

Initial Review – 

  • 204.1 – Regular Meetings (will come back for a first reading)
  • 204.2 – Special Meetings (marked as reviewed)
  • 102 – Equal Educational Opportunity (will come back for a first reading)
  • 603.2 – Summer School Instruction (will come back for a first reading)
  • 603.3 – Special Education (will come back for a first reading)
  • 102.E4 – Complaint Form (marked as reviewed)
  • 501.7 – Transfers Out or Withdrawals (marked as reviewed)
  • 504.2 – Student Organizations (marked as reviewed)
  • 505.6 – Early Graduation (marked as reviewed)
  • 603.10 – Global Education (marked as reviewed)
  • 603.11 – Citizenship (marked as reviewed)

From Board President Bea Niblock
“The board and Central Office administrators finished their book study last night. They have been reading and discussing “Schools Cannot Do It Alone,” written by Jamie Vollmer. Animated and thought-provoking discussions have taken place at each meeting.

Directors and administrators have shared impressions and asked each other questions as we have moved through the content of the book. We have all learned ways to engage the full community in discussions that could change the course of our work in increasing student achievement. 

A video conference with Jamie Vollmer last night culminated our book study.  He spoke directly to our needs as a community and school district. He helped us bring our thoughts full circle and gave us momentum and enthusiasm to do the work we need to do.” – Bea Niblock

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. The meeting will be available to watch via YouTube live stream. 

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