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The Mount Ayr board of education elected 2023-2024 officers, renewed early retirement policies, and approved free student breakfast in 2024 between January – March during their annual organizational meeting Monday, December 11. Samantha Jo Elliott attended her first meeting in official capacity, taking part in lively discussions during the full meeting.
Board Officers Elected
Patricia (PJ) West was elected for another four-year term as board president, and Russell Schuitema was elected as vice president. The board also appointed members to serve as representatives on the following boards:
Round Table – West and Schuitema,
District Study – Lynch and Elliott,
County Conference Board – Winemiller,
Ringgold County Child Care Board – West,
Iowa Workforce Development – Lynch
Three members from Green Hills AEA presented an overview of the services available to Mount Ayr schools, as well as how they are currently working with district staff.
A representative with Estes Construction also presented the results of the IASB/ICAT facility review, which identified potential improvements that may need to be addressed within the next 5 years.
Elementary principal Chris Elwood reported he has seen increased interest in subbing at the elementary since increasing sub pay. He has also had some good visits with those interested in acquiring their substitute authorizations, now that the district is helping out.
Superintendent Jason Shaffer read the secondary principal report, noting that Mr. Vanderflught is making good progress on planning for the sixth grade move next year.
A letter to 5th and 6th grade parents was reviewed on screen with the board. The board expressed excitement about the transition, including future electives that will be offered to students in sixth grade.
Needs for the sixth grade move have been discussed by principal Vanderflught, superintendent Shaffer, and Mike Gilliland. A plan for lockers and furniture has been prepared so items can be ordered.
Curriculum and special education needs have been discussed along with a schedule that seems to work well, although evaluation is continuing to identify problem areas.
A fifth/sixth grade orientation night is planned for this spring to meet with parents and students, introduce staff, and show people the layout plan.
Two years ago, the board edited early retirement benefits to recognize and reward long-term teachers who stayed within the district for at least 10 consecutive years. The term of the policies had ended, leaving nothing in place going forward.
The benefits the policies provided to both the district and the long-term teachers were discussed at length.
While the district could potentially save $20,000 the first year, and have additional time to recruit new teachers, it is becoming more difficult to find or attract teachers.
Retiring teachers may also be interested in substitute teaching, which could help alleviate the daily pressures of finding people to fill in.
District staff estimate three teachers and five certified staff members would be eligible for early retirement within the next few years. Incentive payments would come out of the management fund.
Ultimately, board members felt renewing the policies would be in the best interest of the district. Craig Winemiller motioned to continue both policies, extending them one year through 2024. The motion was seconded by Zach Lynch, and passed unanimously.
In other business, the board approved:
- Reimbursing two eligible teacher and paraeducator apprenticeship program participants for 2023 FICA taxes, to offset the estimated withholding taxes owed for TPRA education expenses covered by the District that exceeded $5,250 for the 2023 calendar year. The total amount between the two people results in an extra $2000 being covered by the district.
- Paying for student breakfasts out of the “big lunch fund” starting January 1 through mid-March when spring break starts. Providing “free breakfast” to students is expected to cost the district roughly $4,000.
- A request for the full amount of $220,439 in drop out prevention allowable growth funds,
- The district return to learn plan,
- Fundraisers as presented,
- MS/HS Softball coaches Chelsey Daily and Sarah Holmes, Eric Doleckeck as bowling coach, and FFA Volunteers who will all be subject to a background check,
- Two resignations received from Chelsey Clymer, a paraeducator, and social worker Bailey Drake.
Superintendent Shaffer shared an idea being considered to transition the current class composite photos from two physical displays to digital displays using two television monitors. Bedford has already transitioned photos to this type of display, and it allows schools to display additional sports team photos and awards in the future.
The board discussed the possibility of tracking down class composites from area country schools prior to the district merging in 1915.