At its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, March 13, the Northeast Hamilton School Board unanimously approved a motion of intent to enter into negotiations with Webster City CSD for whole grade sharing for grades 7-12 to begin in the 2015-2016 school year.
The vote follows a time line proposed by Supt. Larry Frakes at the February board meeting which aligns with state statues. A community meeting will be held at a later date and will be conducted by Dr. Roark Horn, Chief Administrator of AEA 267 Administrative Services Center and Jeff Herzberg, Chief Administrator for Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency.
In other business, the Board accepted the resignation of Supt. Larry Frakes. Frakes came to NEH in July 2013 to serve as elementary school principal and district superintendent.
Also on the agenda was the topic of athletic sharing.
Over the past year, the Board has been studying the viability of NEH's sports programs and whether the school should enter into a sports sharing agreement with Webster City CSD.
Regarding athletic sharing, Supt. Frakes reported the district's cost for the entire sports program is approximately $75,000 annually. He also cited the declining numbers of participating athletes in several sports activities with only football, volleyball and girls and boys basketball being able to field viable teams.
It was reported that girls softball currently lacks the numbers to field a team and junior high sports do not have enough players to fill any squads.
At Thursday night's meeting, the Board opened the floor for public comment and several district patrons voiced their opinions on the topic.
Sports are about learning - win or lose, said one parent.
"Kids who want to play need the opportunity to be able to play," she explained.
Board directors Marlin Pruismann and Eric Patterson expressed a desire to retain all sports at NEH for as long as it is feasible.
Supt. Frakes asked board members to consider the effect of suiting up athletes who are not of the same calibre as other varsity conference teams or fielding teams that lack bench depth. He also cited the effect cancellations or postponements have on conference competitors.
Athletic Director Jeff Meyers noted that most of the other NEH conference schools are in the same predicament. He asked for a delay of action until after a March 27 meeting he has planned with potential summer softball players.
Supt. Frakes conceded that Webster City would probably allow extra time for NEH to determine the viability of the girls softball team, but he noted that while the district wants to be able to let students play sports, it is also a financial concern.
Charged by the Board to reduce costs, Supt. Frakes noted that reducing athletic programs, dismissing another teacher and salary reduction through attrition would total $200,000 in savings. But those savings may not be enough to keep the district viable. The district's only other option is to start firing supplemental personnel.
"The rest are people," he noted, with potential firings of office personnel and custodians. "All that is left is people".
Board President Anderson asked the public to remember that the district's responsibility is to educate students.
"We don't send our students to school to play basketball. We send them for an education," she said. "We have cut so many programs. What are our priorities?"
Board Director Mike Rapp questioned the cost of transporting students to Webster City for athletics and the cost to participate there.
Supt. Frakes noted that while bussing would be a cost, Webster City has not charged NEH with a participation fee for students previously involved in soccer, cross country or wrestling.
Board Director Bruce Mark noted that while sports may not be available at NEH, students would have the opportunity to participate at Webster City.
Mark also expressed concern that the continued effort to keep high school programs at NEH have affected the financial stability of the elementary school.
When Rapp and Meyer stated that student participation would decline if NEH athletics merged with Webster City, Mark said that assumption is unknown. He guessed that it is just as possible that student participation may increase.
"But you can't go into a season without reserves," said Board President Roxanne Anderson, returning to the subject of current participation figures.
With the possibility of whole grade sharing to begin in the 2015-2016 school year, A.D. Meyer asked the Board to let the NEH students participate at home for the last year of their high school career.
The Board agreed to revisit the issue at the April meeting.
Supt. Frakes reported on the State of Iowa graduation rates released on Thursday.
The State of Iowa analyzes data for four-year and five-year graduation periods.
The statewide four-year graduation period for seniors is 89.7 percent compared with the Northeast Hamilton rate of 93.33 percent. For the five-year period, the statewide average is 92.1 percent while the NEH rate is 100 percent, reported Frakes.
"This is a very good report from that standpoint," he said.
In other business, the Board set April 10 at 7 p.m. for a public hearing for the tax levy resolution. Supt. Frakes reported that the tax levy will increase slightly from 11.5680 percent to 11.13990 percent or by .4289 percent. To illustrate, he noted that the tax increase for a $100,000 home
would be $21.25 annually.
The Board also approved a resolution authorizing the redemption of General Obligation School Bonds on the elementary school. The action will pay the bonds off early and save the district $330,000 over the term which would end in 2026. In connection with the action, the Board approved the transfer agent agreement.
The Board scheduled a public hearing at the April 10 meeting at 7 p.m. for the proposed school calendar for 2014-2015.
Supt. Frakes reported that the calendar coincides with the calendars of Iowa Central Community College and Webster City schools with Aug. 19 being the first day of school and May 27 the last day. Christmas vacation would be Dec. 23 - Jan. 5.
The Board unanimously approved the motion to change the measurement of the academic calendar year from instructional days to hours. The move will benefit the district because partial days do not always meet the state criteria for a full day of instruction, said Supt. Frakes.
The Board approved nine Open Enrollment requests for the 2014-2015 school year with students transferring to South Hamilton and Webster City schools.
Upon the recommendation of Supt. Frakes, the Board increased the cost of Driver's Education fees from $275 to $300. The increased rate is still below the fee charged by other districts, said Frakes.
Junior Class officers Nick Jeffers, Hunter Dilley and Lillian Chamness delivered their report on Prom 2014. The event will be held on April 12 at the Williams Community Center. The theme will be "Enchanted Evening" with dinner catered by Hickory Park of Ames. The Prom Walk will be held from 7:45 p.m. - 9 p.m. with the dance to follow until midnight.
Donations are still being accepted by the Junior class.
For legal purposes, the new high school trade school being developed in Eagle Grove will be called the Career Academy, reported Supt. Frakes.
In announcements, NEH senior Logan Seiser will be honored with the All-State Academic Award during halftime at the Boys 2A Basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday, March 14.