At the monthly School Board meeting in Aurelia October 9th, Superintendent Tom Vint announced that the Aurelia school's Certified K-12 Enrollment Count, done on Oct. 1, was 299.3 this year. This figure is down eight students from last year's count.
It was also noted during the meeting that the High School, which had a peak enrollment of about 250 in the late 1960s, and was down to about 150 by the mid-1990s, will have less than 80 students in a couple of years. The Board decided that they must continue a proactive response to this situation, continuing to explore any opportunities to share programs and/or staff with other districts.
The Cherokee School Board president sent a letter to Aurelia Board President Dan Winterhof a few days ago, suggesting the two Boards, or representatives, get together with a facilitator to discuss common ground and the possible sharing of resources, as Cherokee's enrollment has been declining as well. The Board decided that Winterhof will respond to Cherokee Board President Laura Dawson's letter, seeking some clarification, and that Vint will also speak to Cherokee Superintendent John Chalstrom.
One of the items on the agenda was to have been a discussion of the "vision and implementation" of a sharing plan, led by English teacher Michelle DeWitt of WLVA, who is a team member of the leadership team which created the East Sac School District. DeWitt was unable to attend the meeting, however, so this item was tabled for now.
Another agenda item which was tabled was the approval of a spec sheet for the proposed wellness center, because Debbie Witt was not able to be at the meeting, either. Board members felt that they did not want to approve anything without having a chance to talk to her in person, to answer any questions they might have.
In other business, Elementary Administrator Ann Sandine discussed Senate File 245, which requires all school districts to meet with each eighth grade student to develop a plan which sets a career goal and path, so that the student will graduate having completed the "core curriculum" of four years of English, three years of science, three years of math, and three years of social studies. This "Eighth Grade Plan" will be approved and signed by the student's parents as well. It was noted that the actual classes which are taught to meet the core curriculum are a local school district decision, and that a student's career path and curriculum could certainly be changed after they have been initiated.
Sandine also said that Oct. 17 will mark the first day students from grades 3 through 5 will be going to the Sunset Knoll Retirement Home. Students will be paired with residents, at the direction of Sunset Knoll Activity Director Jackie Robinson. Their first meeting will be just a "get acquainted" meeting, in which the students and residents will be exchanging biographical information such as where they were born, siblings, and favorite activities. The plan is for students and residents to meet several times throughout the year.
The ITBS (Basic Skills) tests will be administered to grades 2-4 the first week of November. The second grade students will be taking just the reading, math, and science tests, and the entire battery of tests will be administered to Grades 3 and 4.
The elementary teachers will be working on reading strategies for staff development this year, the middle school students are involved in differentiated instruction, and the high school teachers are revising standards and benchmarks.
Next Wednesday, Oct.. 18, is a staff in-service day, and school will be dismissed at noon that day.
High School Principal David Hickman said that attendance in the high school has been 97.95 percent this year. Hickman also spoke about a speaker the High School had heard from at an assembly that day - Matt Hoover, former Iowa wrestler and winner of television's "The Biggest Loser," presented a motivational talk in which he spoke about making good life choices, and that even if one makes some poor choices, he can still turn his life around if he wants to.
Aurelia students Megan Janssen and Amanda Loucks had heard Hoover speak at the Hugh O'Brien Youth Leadership workshop this summer, and encouraged the school to have him come, if possible. Hoover's representatives called the school a few days ago and asked if he could come on the 9th, and the assembly was quickly arranged.
Hickman also noted that Aurelia students Christa Corderman and Priscilla Otto were among 500 girls who tried out for an honor drill team, and both had been selected to be on the team, which will perform at the Girls' State basketball tournament in March.
In the regular monthly meeting Monday night, the Aurelia School Board approved a contract with Sherwood Forest Consultants of Orange City to write and submit a request for one of four grants available. The grant can be used for a variety of activities, including paying teachers for before-school conferences, to attend meetings to learn about effective communication strategies, or make home visits when necessary.
Even if Aurelia is not awarded one of the four grants, Superintendent Tom Vint feels that the experience will allow the grant writers to get to know the Aurelia district better for possible future grant writing possibilities, with higher values.
In other business, the Board approved the 3-year asbestos re-inspection report submitted by Larry Weede, and Board members will sign off on the plan. No removal of asbestos is recommended at this time, as there is no damage or deterioration.
Principal Dave Hickman said that senior student Tanner Winterhof has been invited to be on a panel at a state 4-H meeting in Des Moines later this month, due to his unique position as the president of the School Improvement Advisory Committee. Jolene Hultgren will be taking some female students to Iowa State University for the workshop "Taking the Road Less Traveled," put on by the professional Women in Science and Engineering. Ann Sandine, Principal Hickman, and Tanner Winterhof will be going to an Iowa Youth survey training session later this week.
Superintendent Tom Vint reported that 12 staff members have volunteered for the October 18 a.m. training session on the new defibrillator. The defibrillator itself will be positioned in the lobby area of the High School - a central location close to the gym, as was recommended by the company. The defibrillator was a gift to the school from the Lester Hiemstra family, in his memory.
Aurelia police chief Gene Suhr began the DARE program with the fifth graders last week. This is a ten-week program which meets once a week. Suhr will return in the spring for an eight-week reinforcement program with the eighth graders.
Vint reported that the three main bus routes, which have a combined possible total of 74 stops, typically make just 44, due to students who don't choose to ride the bus. Twenty-five to twenty-eight students typically ride in the 59 passenger buses. Vint felt that the transportation fleet is in excellent condition, with the only exception being the 1983 Ford pickup, which is showing its age. The truck is used for short errands and jobs around the school grounds, so Vint's suggestion would be to possibly look for a used pickup to replace the current one.
The School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) will have its first meeting of the new school year on Oct. 17. The Board discussed the possibility of having this committee become more a part of the ongoing discussions concerning the future course of the school, including possible sharing.
The State School Board Convention will be held in Des Moines in the middle of November, and many Board members, administratorsand spouses will be attending.
The Board approved the second reading, with revisions, of Board Policies numbered 707-711, and approved the first reading of the 800 seies of Board policies ("Building and Sites"). A second reading will take place at the November meeing.
Board member Hultgren and Superintendent Vint attended the IASB District Meeting in Sheldon on Oct. 3. The two main topics were the "65 percent solution," rapidly gaining popularity throughout the country, where schools set a goal to require that at least 65 percent of the money spent by taxpayers actually makes its way into the classroom. Vint and Hultgren support that,but, according to state statistics, the Aurelia District is already using 70.7 percent of the general fund for instruction, so the school is comfortably above the recommended goal.
The other major topic in Sheldon was a state-mandated content standard. Iowa is the only state in the nation which does not have state-mandated courses, steadfastly holding to the idea that local control and locally developed content standads are best for students. However, the success of states such as North Carolina and Massachusetts seems to have sparked a growing interest among some state legislators to mandate course content, and Vint indicated that he wouldn't be totally surprised if the state Department of Education developed content standards within the next few years.