The Cherokee School District Board of Education Monday night approved a 3.5-percent total package wages and benefits increase for Administrative contracts for the 2012-2013 school year.
The new agreement calls for a 3.55-percent total package increase identical to the same wage and benefits increases previously negotiated and approved by the Board for the Cherokee Education Association (teachers), and District Support Staff.
The Board also officially approved a contract for Neil Phipps as the interim Washington High School Principal to fill the vacancy created after current WHS Principal Larry Hunecke resigned after the school year in May.
Cherokee Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom recommended Phipps and the Cherokee Board of Education approved the recommendation in a special meeting Monday night after a closed session at WHS.
According to Chalstrom, after advertising for the position upon Hunecke's announced retirement, the District received applicants that Chalstrom termed "limited" numbers due to the timing involved.
"There were cases where experienced applicants were under contract in their current District for next year and there was reluctance by other school boards to release them from their obligations," explained Chalstrom.
"There also were inquiries from applicants who ultimately withdrew potential candidacy because of the perceived late timing of the vacancy."
This led he and the Board to "explore other options," said Chalstrom.
A Cherokee native and certified administrator, Phipps has undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Northern Iowa. He has served as a teacher and coach in Holstein, Terril, Aurelia, and the Price Lab School at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, returning to Cherokee in 2002 to serve as Athletic Director/PE Teacher/Coach at WHS.
"Neil is highly respected by students and staff," said Chalstrom. "He is known as a motivational leader whoe strengths include a positive attitude and enthusiasm. This will be beneficial during a time of transition at Washington High School."
The search for a WHS Principal will be "potentially reopened" next year, according to Chalstrom to enable the District to cast a "wider net" to get the best possible person for the job.
Hunecke served as WHS Prinicpal for 10 years.
In other action, the Board heard a report from Phipps that some parents and at least one student have asked the District to start a competitive bowling team that would compete against other Iowa schools also fielding bowling teams.
Phipps said he has spoken with Cherokee Bowl proprietor Tim Gaydo and Gaydo said he would be willing to work something out with the District for the students to practice and bowl in meets at Cherokee Bowl at no cost. Phipps even speculated that Gaydo, an accomplished bowler, would be willing to become certified to coach the team.
Phipps reported that some area schools already have bowling teams, including Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn, Le Mars, Denison-Schleswig, and Sergeant Bluff-Luton, to name a few. He said he has contacted Le Mars and they advised that about 90-percent of their high school bowlers do not participate in any other extracurricular activities. "Maybe there's a niche there that we need to explore," surmized Phipps.
The co-ed bowling season would rival the basketball and wrestling seasons, according to Phipps, who said the normal schedule consists of 12 meets, usually held on Saturday mornings. A student/athlete could not wrestle and also bowl because most wrestling tournaments are on Saturdays. Le Mars averages between 20-30 bowlers each season, said Phipps.
Phipps and Chalstrom also pointed out the additional costs involved in such a program, including uniforms, transportation, bus drivers, and coaching.
Chalstrom also advised the Board that the District annually faces the need to transfer monies from the General Fund into the Activities Fund because of the costs to operate the non-revenue producing sports like golf, tennis, etc. Adding bowling and other non-revenue programs would only add to that deficit, said Chalstrom.
Phipps said he will continue exploring the options and report back to the Board.
There also has been a move lately to start a soccer team at WHS, which is also being explored at this time. An informal Cherokee Soccer Club played a few matches this spring with other programs just beginning.
The Board also heard a report from Chalstrom about the eroding conditions of the Cherokee tennis court complex off East Indian Street in the Sam Doupe Complex.
Chalstrom and Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Dave Moore said the courts have slid about two inches east and sunk about two inches since their construction due to underground erosion undermining the base.
The result is widening cracks and fissures on the six-court complex that repesents a danger to players.
The courts are a 50-50 proposition between the City and School District and the two bodies are aware of and have been discussing the problems. "We're looking at considerable expense to fix them, resurface them, and resolve the problem," said Chalstrom, who added that both the District and City are faced with tight budgets and no extra funds to pay the high costs that would be involved.
The District and City will summon the contractor who built the courts, and an engineer, to come to Cherokee to study the matter, according to Chalstrom.
The District is also wrestling with completely renovating the WHS football field because of a poor blend of grasses that have steadily overtaken the turf, making it uneven, bumpy, unsightly, and difficult to groom.
Phipps explained that whenever that task is undertaken, plans are to widen the upper south gates and sidewalk leading into George Hicks Field to allow transportation of concessions and alleviate the crowd congestion at the gates, to build new stairs to the press box replacing the poorly designed existing stairs, and relocate the long jump lanes and pits from the east side of the field to west of the new utility building at the northwest end of the track and football field.
In other action, the Board approved contracts for Natasha Timmerman as an elementary teacher at Roosevelt Elementary, Heather DeBey as science teacher at WHS, Heather French as special education associate at Cherokee Middle School, Molly Gingery as special education associate at WHS, Matt Hoskinson as head cross country coach for the 2012-13 school year, and Charity Anderson as 7th grade girls basketball coach.
The Board also formally accepted the resignation of Larry Hunecke as WHS Principal, with appreciation of years of service, approved Hunecke as volunteer softball coach for the rest of this season, and approved a one-year leave of absence for Phipps as half-time PE teacher at WHS.