BLAIRSBURG - While the Northeast Hamilton school board approved teacher contracts, a music cooperative agreement with Webster City High School and discussed a timeline for whole grade sharing, the majority of the meeting was spent in a history lesson on partial day sharing.
The NEH school board approved the NEH Education Association contract increase request of 2.49 percent for a total additional salary cost of $24,050 for the certified staff.
"I feel that the teachers are being very reasonable," said NEH Superintendent Larry Frakes in presenting the proposed contract to the board.
Frakes noted that the salary increase request from the teaching
staff was lower than anticipated.
"It is very reasonable," he emphasized.
Frakes asked the board to consider a fifty cent wage increase for non-certified staff in upcoming negotiations.
The board approved the Iowa High School Music Association cooperative sponsorship for NEH high school students with Webster City High School. The agreement will allow the NEH vocal music and instrumental music students to take part in conference activities with the Webster City school.
Whole grade sharing
Under the "Old Business" agenda item, at-large board member Marlin Pruismann asked to address the board on his personal views concerning whole grade sharing.
Pruismann distributed two packets of information to the board and audience members. One was the proposed tuition agreement with South Hamilton CSD which was rescinded by the NEH in March 2012 and the other included the current status of the NEH district and a collection of email exchanges between NEH and Webster City CSD administrators, teachers and staff.
After studying the district's current situation, Pruismann feels that it is impossible for the district to maintain a K-12 school, he said. In moving forward, he believes a decision needs to be made on whole grade sharing. In any event, the district needs to maintain a strong elementary
school, he added.
While noting that some parents will choose to open enroll their children out of the district, he said NEH offers a excellent facility, a great staff and a great learning environment.
"It is up to parents if this will remain a strong elementary," said Pruismann. With every student who open enrolls out, it is "another nail in the coffin" for the district, he said.
"I wish you'd just get the damned thing settled," voiced one patron.
"If you are going to do it, say so. Just get it out in public. It just keeps going on and on and on and on".
Several district patrons voiced confusion about what they felt was an abrupt decision by the NEH school board in March 2012 to rescind the partial day sharing contract with South Hamilton CSD and then immediately enter into a similar contract with Webster City CSD. They cited this board action as the source of suspicion and opposition to whole grade sharing with Webster City.
"Everyone is grumpy about it," said a patron.
"We can all be grumpy about it," said board President Roxanne Anderson, who along with Mike Rapp sat on that presiding board.
Time to clear the air
Board member Mike Rapp felt it was time to clear the air on the subject.
Rapp told the audience that at the March 8, 2012 NEH board meeting, the district was up against a hard deadline. It had negotiated tuition rates and schedules with the South Hamilton School district, but the Jewell school could not meet the criteria requested by NEH.
Rapp explained there were several points of contention in the proposed contract but that the biggest obstacles to the agreement were South Hamilton's proposed tuition rates and the length of the agreement.
The NEH board had set a maximum tuition rate split of 70/30 percent which would allow the Blairsburg school to remain viable, said Rapp. The South Hamilton contract called for a first year split of 65/35 percent, a second year split of 75/25 percent and a third year split of 85/15 percent which would then continue indefinitely.
The NEH board could not agree with these terms because they were too high and would leave the Blairsburg school struggling to meet basic needs such as administrative and transportation costs, said Rapp.
NEH had also asked for a one-year contract with an option to renew it annually while the South Hamilton contract called for a three-year lock-in agreement.
South Hamilton voted on these terms at its school board meeting then presented them to NEH "at the last minute," said Rapp.
"We were forced to make a decision not in months, but in days," he said.
When a patron said all that history didn't matter, Rapp objected.
"It does matter," said Rapp, who noted that some of the community has a perception that the board's action's back then were a mistake.
"And by golly, (they think) we'll do it wrong, again," he said.
Rapp said he had nothing personal against the South Hamilton School District, but his first priority and allegiance was to Northeast Hamilton.
"With what South Hamilton proposed, we wouldn't be here today," said board President Roxanne Anderson.
The partial day sharing terms offered by Webster City better suited NEH's financial situation with a 50/50 funding split for the first year and a 60/40 split for the second year. The contract could be renewed at one year increments following the first two-year duration, explained Anderson.
Many patrons voiced surprise at these revelations, although the terms of the contract had been public record and were reported in the press.
"What we need to do is move forward as a group," said board member Bruce Mark. "This issue has torn our district apart."
"We have something going here and it is going really well," said
Anderson of the current agreement with Webster City.
Later in the meeting, Frakes introduced a timeline for the board
to consider in anticipation of whole grade sharing with Webster City.
The development of a timeline was one aspect of the whole grade sharing process recommended at the January NEH board meeting by Dr. Roark Horn, chief administrator for AEA 267 Administrative Service Center, noted Frakes.
For the March 13 meeting, Frakes asked each board member to be
able to present their individual reasons for support of whole grade sharing and what they felt were NEH's requirements or needs. These individual board plans will be used in developing a whole grade sharing contract, he said.
Then at the regular meeting of the NEH school board on March
13, the board will meet with the intent to begin the 90-day timeline to enter into whole grade sharing, said Frakes.
Thirty days before the signing of a whole grade sharing contract, a public hearing will be conducted, explained Frakes. This public meeting will be hosted by Horn and Jeff Herzberg, chief administrator for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency. The service professionals will report their findings to the NEH board and make their recommendations, said Frakes.
Then, both NEH and Webster City CSD will schedule their own individual public hearings to discuss any proposals, said Frakes.
Frakes continued to map out the timeline, explaining that further developing details would be discussed at the April NEH school board meeting.
In other business, Marlin Pruismann reported on the status of the district's water bill.
As a disclaimer, Pruismann acknowledged that he sits on both the
Blairsburg City Council and the NEH school board. He explained that
recently, the town installed updates to its sewer system which were mandated by the DNR. In accordance to those updates, the town restructured its sewer rates, he explained. Those new rates will negatively impact the school district with the first six-month bill costing more than $3,500 over the previous six-month bill, he said.
Frakes offered to appear at the March 10 city council meeting on
the district's behalf in hopes of negotiating an equitable rate.
In other business, Frakes reported that Cathi Hildebrand, Webster City Community Schools business manager/board secretary and Larry Sigel, president of Iowa School Finance Information Services are assisting the district in developing its budget.
Frakes noted that the budget for 2013-2014 is close to Sigel's
estimate of $455,612, but that future annual estimates are escalating at greater deficits than projected.
Frakes reported that plans for Iowa Central Community College's
new Regional Career Tech Academy in Eagle Grove were progressing and that some classes in biotech, biotech processing and business will be offered for the 2014-2015 school year. The opening target date for the remodeled facility with all class offerings will be for the 2015-2016 school year.
The board approved the Open Enrollment requests by two students to attend South Hamilton and three students to attend Webster City.
The board accepted the resignation of Kacey Pruismann for high school girls track and approved the contract for Glenn Tjaden for girls track.
Board member Marlin Pruismann noted that Kacey Pruismann is one of the founding members of NEH's Fellowship of Christian Athletes and she was featured in the February edition of the organization's magazine.
Board member Bruce Mark introduced the possibility of selling the district's house. The house had been part of a superintendent's financial package, but the sitting superintendent declined the benefit. Currently, the home is rented on an annual basis to a family with three children attending NEH.
Frakes told the board that due to five snow days, the last day of school is tentatively set for June 5. On Tuesday morning, Frakes reported that one make-up day will be on March 7 with students in grades K-12 attending classes.