SL schools add positions, budget calls for slight tax cut

Friday, March 29, 2019

Some additional positions will be added in the Storm Lake schools to respond to student needs.

During the March school board meeting, the board approved adding a K-F Talented and Gifted teacher. Superintendent Stacey Cole said the district has been hearing the need for additional support for upper-end students from both staff and parents. With the addition, the district will have three educators dedicated to Talented and Gifted programs covering the various K-12 grade levels.

Also approved was an Early Childhood Coach/Family Engagement Specialist, a position the district was unable to fill a year ago. As the early childhood center position would have been only part-time, the family engagement position was added to it to allow for a full time hire. District officials said that the need for family engagement comes up often in meetings with parents. The person hired will serve as a liaison between the schools and families, and also train other staff members to better connect with families.

Also added was a Behavior Intervention Specialist. at the high school. The district wants to make the job into a teaching position. Superintendent Cole explained that when a student is failing an academic subject, they receive more teaching in that subject, but with behavioral issues they are often sent home, and may never learn the necessary social and behavioral skills.

Also at the meeting, the proposed 2019-20 school calendar was approved after a public hearing with no objections. School will begin on Friday, August 23, the first day that state policy will allow, although some staff in the higher grades were not thrilled with starting classes on a Friday. The first semester would end Dec. 20 with second semester starting January 6, and the last day of school would be May 22. Extra hours are built into the schedule for the possibility of early-outs due to winter weather, and if snow days are required, they would be made up starting in January instead of adding them to the end of the school year.

In other school board actions:

• Real Estate Specialists was approved as the agent for sale of the latest Building and Trades class-constructed home, with the company donating funds back to the district from its commission percentage of the sale. The company has sold past houses in an average of 15 days from listing, at an average of 99 percent of the asking price. With no more housing lots available for the class, the district will soon be discussing its future.

• A public hearing for the proposed 2019-20 budget, for April 2 at noon at the administration building. The tax levy under the proposed budget would be $15.47 per thousand of taxable property valuation, down from $15.47 for the current year and $15.66 for 2017-18. After hearing public concerns about property tax expense, the district shifted about $113,000 in costs from property tax to income surcharge revenue. Enrollment is expected to continue climbing, to near 2,400 is fiscal 2020 (up from about 2250 five years ago).

• The board approved a temperature control upgrade for the middle school at $36,296, and purchase of a skid loader at $26,641 (after trade).

• The board revised a policy that required students who failed courses to reimburse the district for up to $250 in costs for providing the course. State Code did not allow for such a charge, and the it was removed to match model policies.

• Resignations included Colleen Hecht as high school band director at the end of the school year, elementary art teacher Becky Smith who will retire at the end of the school year, Lisa Hare as language arts instructor, Sandy Mouw from her position as sponsor of the International Club, Samantha Roder as kindergarten instructional assistant, Florinette Morales as special education instructional assistant, Laura Borjas as elementary instructional assistant, Veronica Tyson as elementary special education instructional assistant.

• Hirings included Jill Gallagher to teach sixth grade, Brian Woodford as high school industrial arts teacher, Lindsay DeHaan as sixth grade teacher, Teresa Perez as a middle school instructional assistant