ALTA - Ryan Meyer, the instrumental music instructor at Alta-Aurelia High School, appeared before the joint Board of Directors of the shared districts at their regular monthly meeting here on Monday to request a significant upgrade of the band instruments and other equipment in the high school instrumental music department.
Meyer, who has directed the Aurelia Jazz Band to significant success in both area and state competition the last two years, said he had grown accustomed to some excellent equipment both at Aurelia and at his previous school, and admitted that he was disappointed in the condition in which he found several of the school-owned instruments and other equipment when he came to the Alta building. Though he felt that perhaps he might be able to borrow some instruments from the inventory at Aurelia, he also stated that he really didn't think that would be fair to the band students in the Alta-Aurelia Middle School or to their instructor.
Meyer asked Ray Guntren, the owner of Mid-Bell Music in Sioux City, to help him do an inventory of the equipment in Alta and assess the instruments and other items that would need to be added to bring the High School instrumental music department up to competitive standards for the Alta-Aurelia band students. About a dozen band students were also in attendance at Monday's meeting and they echoed Meyer's feelings about the equipment, and members of the Alta Board admitted that the instrumental music department there has gone through several personnel changes and a general downgrade over the past few years.
Prior to that time, Alta, like Aurelia, had had a long history of outstanding instrumental music, and they were in agreement that the Department needs to be upgraded. Meyer also indicated that he has set up a program which will allow him to keep much better track of an instrument's history - which student played that instrument each year, and so forth.
Meyer said that Mid-Bell gave him an estimate of $49,000 for the cost of the items he feels he needs, and would take $3,000 off of that figure in exchange for a couple of old horns which, he said, don't play very well, but are of interest to Mid-Bell from an historical perspective.
The joint Boards approved Meyer's request for purchase of the instruments and miscellaneous other equipment, and a suggestion was made to approach the School Foundation to see if they would be interested in helping fund this project.
In the Alta- Aurelia Spotlight segment of the meeting, Middle School student Priscilla Salazar showed Board members examples of the work she and other students had done recently when they studied 'Bugs and Insects.' Seventh graders were assigned to collect 25 animal specimens and mount them, while 8th graders had been assigned to collect 30 specimens, and Principal Ann Sandine said that elementary students had also unexpectedly gotten involved in the project, as they had been curious watching the Middle Schoolers do their collecting and joined in. So a few extra students increased their knowledge of the bug and insect world, and Sandine said that she. too, had learned more than she previously knew about the subject.
In other business, The Alta Board approved a bid of $24,345 by Next Generation Technology for improving the wireless network access at the new High School addition. Funding wlll come from the PPEL and Building Funds.
Both boards also approved approaching the City of Alta to share the costs of a digital two-way radio system and repeater, which would bring the school into compliance with new federal regulations. The purchase itself was not yet approved, pending the response from the City of Alta. The purchase would involve 15 bus radios, 15 hand-held radios and a repeater, and if the city of Alta approves, the plan would be to split the cost (an estimated $10,000-$12,000) three ways among the city, the Alta School District, and the Aurelia School District.
The city of Aurelia would not be involved because they already have the required equipment they need.
The Aurelia Board granted Superintendent Lynn Evans permission to seek bids on the purchase of a new 59- passenger school bus to replace another bus.
The Alta Board approved the expenditure of $2,970 to replace and install an expansion tank at the school, and also approved a bid of $4,250 by Nepple Electric to install nine lights along the sidewalk in front of the High School and Elementary building in Alta to provide better lighting; no action was taken by the Aurelia Board on the agenda item concerning construction estimates from Invision Architects and Estes Construction, as the estimates had not come in yet. Superintendent Evans spoke with the architect and they expect to have those submitted this week.
The Boards also discussed sending a delegate to the IASB delegate meeting prior to the IASB Convention in November. No decision was made, but if anyone decides they would like to attend the delegates' meeting, they need to let Superintendent Evans know prior to the deadline date.
Elementary Principal Stacey Cole reported that several groups of teachers had looked over curriculum data and students interventions in both districts and "compared notes." She also said a professor from Drake University had reviewed the teachers' plan and endorsed it enthusiastically. Sandine said that the Middle School has 164 students (56 in 6th, 50 in 7th and 58 in 8th grade), and they have adapted quickly to their new surroundings and teachers. She also said several MS teachers are looking into developing their teacher web sites to make them more easily accessible to the community; and that 100 of the 164 students signed up for Student Council when the opportunity was offered to them. They divided into nine groups, and their current project is working on Homecoming Week, which is coming soon.
The High School cheerleaders are planning on coming to the Middle School on the Friday of Homecoming Week to do a little "mini Pep Rally" for the MS students, and the Middle School Band students are practicing to march in the Homecoming Parade.
High School Principal Tom Ryherd said that they have initiated a Mandatory Reading Program where students are required to do some accepted pleasure reading each day following the Morning Announcement time, and that participation had gone from 40 percent of students on the first day to between 95-10 percent of students recently. He said that the students who had complained about the program, he mentioned to them that if they were out for athletics, they would need to practice to get better and if they were out for band, they would have to practice to get better, and he saw "practicing" reading as essential for their future.
Ryherd also said that there has been a change in the Homecoming Royalty policy of the High School from what Alta has been doing in recent years. Due to increasing enrollment in the High School, beginning this fall, instead of each High School class having a representative in the Homecoming Royal Party, the Royal Party will now consist only of members chosen from the Senior Class. He also said that High School students will have one day to construct their floats for the Homecoming Parade. Each class will go out to the Buena Vista County Fairgrounds on Tuesday of Homecoming Week and construct their float that day. Ryherd said that Alta had used this policy i recent years and it seemed to work well, as students wouldn't be all over town on the weeknights preceding the Homecoming Game and possibly getting into trouble. Ryherd also said it has been "nice to see High School staff members (from both towns) working together and bouncing ideas off each other" this fall.
In regards to the new High School building, Ryherd and Board member Ila Galvin both said that construction is going very well," and that moving to the building for the second semester as planned should not be a problem. Though no "moving day" has yet been scheduled officially, Ryherd said that teachers have been packing up books which they won't need until the second semester in advance of the move.
Evans said that when a date for moving is decided upon, it will be announced and there will be Open Houses at both the new and the old High School buildings. The old High School building will still be utilized for some things and not simply closed up. There will be a need for help with the moving, so anyone who has a truck or other equipment which may be helpful in the move my certainly contact the Superintendent's Office to sign up.
In Personnel issues, the Aurelia Board approved the resignation of Kim Gaes as Middle School Special Education Associate and approved extending a contract to Anna Salazar as Middle School Special Education Associate; approved extending contracts for two new positions as Elementary Special Education Associates; and approved extending contracts to Tim Galvin and Grant Peckenschneider as Middle School basketball coaches.
The Alta Board approved extending a contract offer to Kacee Jensen for the positions of High School Special Education Associate and High School Assistant Girls Basketball Coach.
The Alta and Aurelia Boards approved extending a contract to Beth Lietz for a Shared Position as Talented and Gifted instructor and to Denise Nicodemus as Assistant High School Musical Director.
In final business, Evans reminded Board members that Les Douma from L & D Consultants will be meeting with them in the Alta Board Room on the evening of September 26 for a Goal Setting workshop, as the next step in their contract for the Superintendent search. He also said that the combined elementary/High School/Community Library needs more space, and ways of remedying that are being explored; and that the running track at the High School definitely need some repair work in about 12 areas before winter weather sets in because if moisture seeps into these spots it will freeze. He feels he can purchase a "patch kit" to make the repairs, and that the school staff should be able to do the repair work.