Nelson seeks re-election to Alta School Board

Friday, September 1, 2017

Gigi Nelson has lived in Alta since 1989. Her children and step children attended and graduated from the Alta Community School District. They all went on to successfully complete secondary education studies. She is employed by Merrill Manufacturing Company in sales since the fall of 1990. Nelson has a BA from Iowa State University in Art Education. 

Nelson is an incumbent, running for her third term on the Alta Community School Board of Education. After eight years on the board and serving four years as Board President, she feels a dedication to seeing through the Alta district reorganization with the Aurelia district into one district. Much is involved with the reorganization process that she feels responsible to support in order for it to be successfully completed.

Gigi Nelson came on the Alta Board of Education at the start of the whole grade sharing process with Aurelia. “What a way to get your feet wet!” Nelson said. The process involved many crucial decisions, board discussions with Aurelia, proposals, contracts, financial understanding of sharing, research and action to move ahead. 

As a result of the last seven years of sharing, Alta and Aurelia have managed a focus and a plan of togetherness for what is best for students and families which is good for the communities. So, a five year agreement turned into a ten year agreement for the stability of the whole grade sharing arrangement. Now, moving into reorganization seems natural for both districts to become one.

Past educational needs have been brought up to “current” with purchasing of upgraded computer technology along with new curriculum for math, language arts, science and social studies. These improvements are effective for student learning and test scores are proving, showing the board that the efforts are meaningful.

Other improvements have been for the Middle School and High School Music and Band with upgraded instruments. Also both districts now have the opportunity for more advanced learning in agriculture, which went from one quarter time to a full time position. 

Other past needs that have been met are that now both districts have new track facilities; Aurelia’s for middle school and Alta’s for high school. Both school facilities have made improvements in class rooms, with more to come. Alta’s board authorized a complete analysis of the facilities done by the IASB engineering and architectural team. The assessment gives the board a blue print of what to look at in the future of necessary improvements. 

“There are many examples of growth in our Alta district and the opportunities keep coming,” stated Nelson. “If you were to go down to the Alta Elementary building, you will see new construction going on for a Tornado Safe Facility paid for partially by a FEMA grant. Incorporated into this safety facility are three classrooms. In 2018, preschool classes will be in the same place as the other elementary grades Pre-K through 4th. This has been a goal for the district to be under one secured roof. This is happening today,” said Nelson.

“Issues we are facing today are declining enrollment and low state funding are both huge concerns for rural school district administrators and boards. The school funding formula is a mystery to most citizens as various funds are designated for only certain uses. The general fund pays for salaries, which can be 80% of the use of general fund money. The battle of balanced economics to provide for quality and equal education in every district across Iowa is a harder to attain.  When school districts have declining enrollment, that money is no longer available from the state to the district. When legislators fail to increase the funding to schools, (which has been recently below the cost of living increases), school boards and administrators have difficult decisions to make,” Nelson said.

For Alta and Aurelia, moving toward reorganizing into one, a unified district receives funding incentives for another six years of benefits. She believes the school has Lynn Evans to thank for this guidance and direction in bringing the two unbalanced districts into similar alignment to be able to make this reorganization almost transparent. The communities will benefit greatly by this change. Property taxes will go down for the first three years.

“ I bring experience to the Board. I have completed two terms (eight years). I bring leadership qualities and dedication toward being a positive and progressive board team as we work with Aurelia. We partner together well,” explains Nelson.