Monday’s meeting of the Perry Community School District Board of Education stretched well over two hours, as numerous reports, updates, presentations and other agenda items helped fill a lengthy agenda.
Kevin Vidergar, Director of Teaching and Learning, spoke to the board about the ongoing Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) established in the district.
“We started over two years ago with the goal of improving learning for all of our kids,” he said. “Of course, one way to do that is to improve the quality and effectiveness of our teaching.”
Vidergar noted PLCs help create a “professional conversation” among staff members.
“Many times teachers will discuss what they are teaching, but not how they are teaching it,” he said. “This lets peers share ideas and discuss ways to increase effectiveness without being judgmental.”
Currently there are 16 PLCs in the district. Eight are in the secondary schools and are classed by area of instruction (science, math, etc.) and eight others, classified by grade, ESL and special education, are in the elementary school.
A demonstration of how young students learn math problems was held. It was noted students learn, and comprehend, at different rates. How then to best deal with a classroom in which some students completely understand an area, while others are struggling with the same topic and still others have shown little or no comprehension while being fair to the whole group was one area PLCs can help address, the board was told.
Vocal Music instructor Jenn Nelson shared details from the recent “Jukebox” event and informed the board of all the activities being conducted in her department.
The high school has six annual performances and this year held their first musical in nine years. Nelson mentioned the work of the Select Choir, which is an extra-curricular group that must be auditioned for, and noted the creation of a new “Chorale.” This new group meets second period, each day, and is for what she termed “unchanged voices” or those that were challenged.
Nelson noted the middle school has four performances each year. New this year is “Opus” which requires an audition and which, she said, could be thought of as “almost like a middle school all-state” choir.
Although some members were unable to attend, several middle school choir members, accompanied by Nelson on piano, performed a musical number for the board and those assembled, which was well-received.
Building principals Dan Marburger (PHS), Shaun Kruger (PMS) and Trevor Miller (PES) reported to the board on recent student-teacher conferences.
Marburger noted that is typically required several weeks of advisory meetings to prepare for the conferences, which are student-led.
In the past, he said, there was as little as 40 percent of the student body participating, but that this year 447-of-525 (85 percent) were involved.
Kruger reported a 91 percent participation rate at the middle school and Miller a 93 percent rate at the elementary. Miller noted each conference is approximately 15 minutes in length. Six interpreters were used for the conferences.
The board head a report on the 2015-2015 audit from Business Manager Kent Bultman, who was later joined by Superintendent Lynn Ubben in discussing the preliminary certified budget for 2017.
Ubben said “Here we are again” in reference to school district across the state not knowing the level of state funding they will receive.
“That means we will have to certify at the highest levy rate assuming there is no (zero percent) growth in SSA (State Supplemental Aid),” she said. “We can adjust downwards from there, but we have to certify again this year without knowing the level of state aid, which is frustrating.”
Ubben and Director Linda Andorf reported to the board about their attendance at an Iowa Association of School Board Advocacy Workshop last month.
“We have to really work on being more effective in dealing with our legislators,” Andorf said. “We need to ask them to see that education must not be partisan.”
Inviting legislators to visit the schools and with staff members would be beneficial as well, as it would “Put a face on the issues.”
“We need to remember to tell our story, and not just assume everyone understands,” Andorf said. “We should not hesitate to make our story known — what it is we do, what we need, those kind of things.”
The board accepted the 2014-2015 school audit and approved a revised budget guarantee for 2016-2017 after noting 60 students had dropped from the enrollment figures posted Oct. 1.
Also approved was the publishing of the proposed 2016-17 budget, with a public hearing set for April 11 at 6 p.m. in the Brady Library at PHS.
Technology Director Rich Nichols discussed with the board the specifications and bids received for the District Wireless Network. The board then voted to approve a bid of $127,861.05 for the Aruba-Wireless Network.
The 2016-2017 Insurance Plan and Rates for schools (like Perry) participating in the Iowa Schools Employee Benefits Association (ISEBA) saw dramatic increases in their medical renewals. PCSD rates increased 9.9 percent, with Family Health rising $144.91/month, Single $57.96/month and Limited 7.2 percent. Those rates were approved by the board.
In other action, the board read commendations, approved resignations, transfers, hires and staff reduction, approved revisions to board policies and gave permission to establish a new account to handle “pull” fund payments.
The board noted the district had recently been gifted property/farmland from the estate of Darwin O. Carlile. The property is currently rented for cash. Per the Estate, funds received are for the use and benefit of the Madelon Capp Carlile Scholarship Fund. The board will set the rate for March 2016-February 2017 rent.
The next meeting of the PCSD Board of Education will be April 11. The board will meet at 6 p.m. in the Brady Library at PHS.