Cherokee School Board approves health care dividend payout

Friday, December 23, 2011

Iowa education reform proposals eye more school days

The Cherokee Community School District Board of Education Monday night approved the distribution of a one-time health care dividend to District employees in the amount of $300 per employee.

District Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom advised the Board that the dividend from the Self-Insurance Fund is a one-time payout and results from the program's success and serves as a "healthy lifestyle reward" for the employees adopting healthy lifestyles that have reduced the amount of claims in the past.

The money is all District dollars generated by the Self-Insurance Fund involved in the health care insurance program.

In other business, the Board accepted the resignation of Neil Phipps as assistant high school girls track and field coach, and approved extending a contract for that position to Travis Schipper.

The Board also approved a contract for Jessica Knipple as Cherokee Washington High varsity softball coach. The former Jessica Hunecke is a WHS grad who excelled in basketball and softball for Cherokee.

The Board also approved a request by Beth Ebert for out-of-country travel for the Spanish Club to travel to Costa Rica in July, 2012.

Ebert said the District is not encumbered for any costs, and explained that students will pay their own way, with future fund-raisers also factored in.

In his report, Chalstrom outlined the highlights of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad's education reform proposals, including longer school days, or possibly adding 10 school days onto the current 180-day calendar.

Chalstrom said most educators prefer the "day system and not the hour system."

Chalstrom was among an advisory group of superintendents told by Jason Glass, Director of the Iowa Department of Education (IDE), that Branstad is expected to create a task force to consider such an extension. The task force would consider adding days to the school year, lengthening school days, and requiring struggling students to attend school on Saturdays, or take summer classes.

State law mandates that each school day total 5.5 hours of classroom time, but most Iowa students are in class 6.5 hours a day. Glass said the need for more class time has been brought up by both parents and teachers during past town hall meetings.

The Education Department estimates is would cost $10 million to $15 million statewide for each extra day of school. The cost of adding an hour to the school day in unknown, according to Glass.

Chalstrom also told the Board that the IDE is also considering creation of an on-line hiring data base hosted by the IDE, which would allow school districts to screen and access possible hires posted on the site, instead of having to advertise open positions in newspapers and other periodicals.

Chalstrom said Glass thought such an on-line site would cost about $250,000 per year, save advertising budget dollars, and would be a recruiting resource for schools with vacancies.

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