Alta, Aurelia school foundations to join

Friday, January 17, 2020
New school board member Angelique Anderson took the oath of office at the start of the January 12 board meeting. /Photo by Dana Larsen

Representatives of the Alta School Foundation came to the Alta-Aurelia School Board this week, proposing a merger with a similar group in Aurelia, to better reflect the now-consolidated district.

The foundations are citizen volunteer groups that help support the needs of the schools and teachers. Currently the Alta group is helping to purchase Chromebook computers for the classrooms.

The Aurelia group has not been active recently, but has funds in the bank that would be added to that of the Alta group as they officially become the Alta-Aurelia Education Foundation.

The representatives said they want to be a part of the districtwide effort and “stand behind both schools like everyone else.”

The Alta group hasn’t done much promotion lately, but plans to become much more active after the name change, working on fundraiser events, producing a brochure, and linking to the district’s online page. They are hoping to get a group of students from Tim Galvin’s classroom to work on marketing techniques with them. It was also suggested to get alumni involved.

The Alta representatives also want to find some Aurelia representatives to join the foundation board.

Superintendent William Walters called the foundation “an outstanding group” that is helpful whenever needs are brought to it.

The foundations date to the time the new school was being built, working heavily to raise money for the project, but went into “hibernation” later. Many in the communities probably don’t realize they exist, the representatives said.

The school board approved the change.

In other school board action:

• The board heard a report on a new gym cameras system to broadcast local games online. The first varsity game in the program’s first week saw 90 viewers. The schools receive $5 from each subscription, with the bulk of the revenue going to the provider. It is hoped that camera can be moved outside for football, track, baseball and softball for their coming seasons, and may possibly be used for concerts in the gym as well. School officials don’t believe the broadcasts will cut down attendance at the games, but mainly serve those who can’t come to events, the homebound, and graduates and relatives who live elsewhere.

• Vicki Kolpin was reappointed as school board secretary/treasurer.

• The board discussed setting goals for Superintendent Walters, who is relatively new to the district. Board president Brad Rohwer said the goals should have been put in place months ago to help guide the new superintendent’s efforts. The goals will include fiscal health, visibility, marketing, facilities and communication.

The district’s outgoing open enrollment was a big issue when Walters was hired, and he is being encouraged to work to cut the losses. Currently 108 students open enroll out to attend school elsewhere. The board assumed most do so because their parents work in Storm Lake, but want to study all reasons. Walters said he has set a goal for himself to reduce the outward numbers by 10 percent. The district has 60 students open enrolling in from other districts.

The board wants Walters to meet regularly with staff so they feel comfortable giving their input.

They talked about goals for improving academics, but balked at setting specific goals for standardized test score, noting that the district has seen good success in scores, but also realizes there is more to education than testing.

The board also wants Walters to pursue a goal of improving culture - “how things feel in the buildings.”

While the consolidation has gone well, there is still a small amount of separation in the cultures in the Alta and Aurelia buildings, and they want the two to be seen as one.

• The elementary principal reported that a Pennies for Patients drive will soon begin, to benefit Buena Vista Regional Medical Center. The class raising the most coins will get a pizza party and hospital tour.

• Refinancing of outstanding debt to take advantage of lower interest rates was discussed. The district has been told that $300,000 could be saved over the life of the bonds.

• An Aurelia All-School Reunion will be held July 17-19, organizer Nancy Webb reported. Over 1,000 letters to past graduates will be sent, with 500-700 expected to attend. A group photo on the football field is planned, if a drone is available. The oldest graduate found is Eleanor Anderson, age 101. Shirts and cups are being sold for the event, with the proceeds to be used for school equipment, with a goal of $4,000. The board approved access to the school building for tours.

• A NASA trip was approved for two high school students. They will bus from Sioux City to Houston, along with other northwest Iowa students, for a three-day experience.

• An increase in staff and professional development was considered, for two days a month instead of one. The superintendent felt the extra training is necessary for the teachers to be able to do everything that is being asked of them. The staff will be polled about the potential change before a decision is made.

•The board agreed to e-rate training for a staff member. With the training, the district will be able to seek government funding that is available for technology improvements.

• After learning that high school door hardware is failing, sometimes leaving them failing to lock and creating security issues, the board agreed to $5,200 in replacement parts.

• A new treadmill purchase was approved for the fitness center in Aurelia. Alta rates will be adopted for the fitness facilities in both towns, $100 per person or $150 per family, Aurelia had been at $75 and $100. Members will be able to use either center.

• The middle school has been hit hard by seasonal illnesses, with 40 students out on the day of the meeting.

• The middle school will combine Extremefest, solo night and parent conferences to increase attendance, in March.

• “Reindeer Games” at the high school proved popular. The surprise event was held on the last day before holiday break, with competitions, physical activity, and team building. The event was made possible because semester finals were moved to after break for the first time.

• Alta will host the state jazz competition in February, utilizing both the high school and the Roxy Theater. Alta will also host conference speech competition.

• The Aurelia school roof will be repaired after some problems with surface peeling. Cost will be covered by insurance.

• The superintendent will investigate cost of insurance for equipment failure in all of the buildings. With the age of the old high school that is still being retained, coverage could be valuable. Currently 150 schools in Iowa have such insurance. Replacing of a dishwasher alone cost the district $12,000.