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Cherokee School Board, CEA begin negotiations

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Group also hears District's Technology update

The Cherokee School Board, having previously received the proposed new 2009-10 labor contract from the Cherokee Education Association, in a special meeting following the regularly-scheduled meeting on Jan. 19th, presented the District's proposal to the CEA.

The District's proposal is a partial one, as it waits for the annual Health Insurance rate increases that are due in two to three weeks, according to Cherokee Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom.

The CEA proposal seeks a 7-percent wage hike and sick leave add-ons, among other requests. The District's proposal indicates an estimated 1.4-percent increase centered around salary schedule advancement. The District is open to further negotiations upon receiving the new Health Insurance rates when that data is received.

In the regular meeting preceding the labor contract meeting, the Board heard at length from Chalstrom about the financial concerns Iowa school districts face in these troubled economic times. Iowa Governor Chet Culver already made an across-the-board 1.5-percent cut in December that cost the Cherokee District about $80,000, according to Chalstrom. The District's cash reserves are solid enough to cover that total, said the Superintendent.

There's also the possibility of further legislative cuts before the end of this school year, cautioned Chalstrom, as the State looks at a possible $400-$700 million revenue shortfall next year.

The District's allowable growth will remain at 4-percent for fiscal year 2010, but the Legislature could cut that to 2-percent in the future, explained Chalstrom. In Cherokee's case, that could mean the anticipated $244,000 funding could be cut back to just $122,000 which would seriously impact the District.

"I predict another across-the-board reduction imposed by the Governor in March or early April, before the end of the school year," said Chalstrom.

In other action, the Board also heard a detailed update from Technology Director Dan Mourlam. Among recent updates in Cherokee have been the acquisition of new business lab computers, projectors mounted, new interactive whiteboards, TV screens in hallways, and new staff computers.

A growing problem, according to Mourlam, is the aging computers. "We have 520 computers in the District," advised Mourlam. "That's too many, and there's been a failure to update them in the past." Mourlam recommends that the District thin that number down to newer models and stay abreast of software innovations. He plans on purchasing 45-60 new computers for next year for the Cherokee Middle School pods and staff. Each computer costs between $950-$1,250, said Mourlam, who's working on a rotational five-year plan for the District that would replace computers every five years.

The District has traditionally been a Mac system, but Mourlam is pushing toward a PC-Mac environment. He also said he is working toward increasing bandwidth that would create speedier computers.

The Board also heard a brief report from Chalstrom after the recent meeting with representatives of the Aurelia School Board regarding future sharing possibilities.

"We shared some common concerns and discussed budgeting and fears that may unfold as we move into the future. It was a positive meeting and we will continue our communication," explained Chalstrom.

The Board approved two requests for early retirement from CMS instructors Alice Anderson and Keith Riley, and approved the resignation of ECLC instructor Susan Julius, "with appreciation for their many years of service."

The Board also heard from concerned citizen Greg Stieneke who complained about the snow removal procedures at Roosevelt School and other school property, where, allegedly, ice and snowpack are allowed to build up and create hazardous footing, particularly on the main sidewalks leading into the buildings.

The Board reassured Steineke that the matter would be looked into, even considering the extreme inclement weather conditions that have tormented Northwest Iowa this winter and led to many areas of hazardous footing.

Relatedly, Chalstrom also pointed out that this severe Iowa winter weather also greatly impacts the budget regarding increased costs for snow removal and utilities.

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I have a question strictly regarding the last three paragraphs of this article. I understand that the school is trying to do a better job with snow and ice removal, but if-as you put it- there is only "allegedly" ice, why did my 7 year old come home this week and proudly show me how he and his classmates have been taught (by school personnel) how to crawl on their hands and knees to get to past the blacktop and onto the playground area?

-- Posted by elstien on Wed, Feb 4, 2009, at 6:45 PM

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