Speculation centering on future State funding possibilities, declining enrollments, and a proposed new hoist and mat for the Braves' wrestling program highlighted last week's meeting of the Cherokee Community School District Board of Education.
In his Superintendent's report, Dr. John Chalstrom cautioned the Board that the District K-12 student population has been certified at 933, down 39 students from the 2009-2010 school year.
The District had anticipated a loss of 25 students, but Chalstrom said an increasingly mobile society, open enrollment trends, and drop-out rates have combined to impact the District's enrollment this year. It is estimated that 15 of those 39 fewer students are drop-outs who may or may not return.
Washington High School Principal Larry Hunecke said usually students drop out to go to work, relocate, or deal with family and other personal issues.
Chalstrom said because of the enrollment drop, the District would lose an estimated $56,000 in "new" State money over the next two years. He said the only way for a District to financially cope with such a setback is to cut salaries and programming.
"This only stops when enrollment begins to climb," noted Chalstrom, who expressed concern over the possible future education funding impact depending upon who wins the Nov. 2 Iowa Governor's race between incumbent Chet Culver and former Governor Terry Branstad.
Polls show Branstad in the lead, but Culver, a former teacher, is known as a friend to education. He has already proposed 4-percent Allowable Growth (A.G.) funding for Iowa schools.
"Insiders say the State can't afford it and there will be a zero Allowable Growth, with the possibility of a 2-percent A.G.," said Chalstrom.
In other action, the Board heard a report from Cherokee Washington High wrestling coaches Jason Wood and Ted Reis regarding purchasing a new mat and hoist for the Braves wrestling team. The hoist and mat would be suspended above the WHS gym floor and lowered to be used for wrestling meets and tournaments.
According to Wood and Reis the hoist would cost about $10,500 and a new antibacterial mat (45X45 sq. ft.) would cost an estimated $11,000 with logo and proper lettering. The wrestling team has raised about $3,000 for the proposed hoist and mat, and Wood said the Cherokee Athletic Boosters also will participate to help cover the cost of the hoist.
Dave Moore, Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds, questioned Wood if there was enough electricity wired into the gym to handle the hoist requirements, and also questioned if the dead load rating of the roof would support the hoist and mat. Wood said the hoist company representative had toured the gym and saw no problems.
Chalstrom said that he will contact the District's insurance company and consult with an architect to see if the hoist/mat system can be installed. Further funding possibilities also will be explored, according to Chalstrom.
Wood said he hoped to have the new mat and hoist in place for this upcoming season and for the Class 2A District Wrestling Cherokee will again host in February.
Wood and Reis also explained all the hassle now involved with placing, taping, and cleaning the old and worn WHS mats, and of loading and transporting the Cherokee Middle School mat to WHS for meets and tournaments in inclement winter weather.
Also, oftentimes, the WHS basketball practices are just finishing their allotted time slots as the wrestling team begins to place the mats in the gym for a meet, unroll them, clean and sterilize them, and tape them. This causes crowded conditions and delays, said Wood, who lauded the boys basketball team and coaches for helping out in the past.
Wood also applauded Blaine's Culligan of Cherokee for his total participation and help in last year's softener salt sale through Blaine's Culligan that was a major fund-raiser for the team. Proprietor Blaine Burkhardt donated the salt at cost, and used his vehicles to help transport the salt to the buyers, all to benefit the Cherokee wrestling program.
In other action, the Board approved contracts for Carol Walters as a shared custodian for WHS and CMS; Mike Rundall as 7th grade boys and girls basketball coach; Kayla Schuck as Special Education Associate at CMS; and Sarah Nolder as Special Education Associate at Roosevelt Elementary.
The Board also heard an update from School Nurse Julie Paulsen on a District Crisis Plan now being put together and organized by Paulsen and CMS Guidance Counselor and Activities Director Mary Tuttle.
Hunecke also told the Board that the recent WHS Career Day was very successful, with 57 different occupations represented. "The kids thought it was a great opportunity," said Hunecke.
In a Public Hearing for the yet-to-be-proposed 2011-12 school calendar preceding the meeting, the Board approved the annual request for a waiver to begin the 2011-12 school year before Sept. 1. All but three Iowa school districts annually seek the waiver and Chalstrom said that this might be the last year the State will require districts to do this.