Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 2013

District Perspective
Superintendent John Carver
Twitter: johnccarver
SKYPE: johnccarver

School Board Convention 2013
This past week the Howard-Winneshiek Community Schools, Board of Education participated in the Iowa Association of School Board (IASB) state convention, held in Des Moines. Howard-Winn was one of few Iowa School Districts in which the entire Board attended. This is outstanding and illustrates Board President Scott Fortune, Vice President Duane Bodermann, and Directors James Kitchen, Doug Berg, Karlos McClure's commitment to grow and learn. In addition to connected and networking with Board members from across the state, Howard-Winn Directors, along with Board Secretary and Business Manager Clint Farlinger toured Des Moines North High School, Woodside Middle School-Saydel Community Schools, Urbandale High School, Des Moines Christian School, Waukee High School and Des Moines Area Community College-West Campus. The Board also spent time in the Dallas Center-Grimes School District. In that there are many "take aways" emerging themes include: 

  • Instructional practices happening at Howard-Winn are second to none. In many ways, with what we are doing with technology, embedding STEM, empower kids and connecting them to their passion, Howard-Winn is way ahead.
  • Our physical pants and students activity programs need to continued to be examined. This is a crucial "piece of the pie" as we look to invite families to be a part of the Howard-Winneshiek Community.
  • Many across the state are excited and support the direction Howard-Winn is going! We are moving forward.

Early Retirement
I was approached by several staff members about the possibility of Early Retirement. Currently Howard-Winn does not have an early retirement policy. I took the inquiry to the Board and they directed me to explore further interest. To date 12 employees have indicated an interest. Components of a possible early retirement policy:

  • 10 years of uninterrupted service  
  • Age 55
  • cash payment connect to 2014 wages, spread out over two years.
  • Strict timelines and expectations will be established. 
It is strongly suggested that interested staff members review their current financial condition
Any action on Early Retirement is subject to approval by the Board of Education. More information will follow.

Possible Campus Configurations
At the December Board meeting I will be making recommendation on the configuration of the District. In that there are many contributing factors, my first focus is on the kids and their instruction. The past District configuration had elementary grade levels being taught in Elma. Lime Springs and Cresco. Over the past 40 years, the steady decline in residents has translated into the decline in the enrollment of students at Howard-Winn.
Over the years, as enrollment shrank, grade levels in the outlying areas were combined so as to keep the buildings open. The concern today is that with limited financial resources and continual population decline, instruction is not what it could be. This is NOT because of the teachers, but because of the structure. In Elma, there is one K-1 teacher teaching 18 students and one grades 2-3 teacher teaching 14 students. In Lime Springs one full time and a part time teacher teaches a combination class of 24 1st and 2nd graders. also there is one teacher that teaches a combination 4th and 5th grade class of 18 students. For the combination classroom teachers the challenge is to prepare, plan and deliver instruction that meets the needs of such a wide student academic ability. The teachers in these combination assignments are professional, committed educators and I am impressed with their effort. Again this is a structure problem.

Going forward, one of the proposals worth considering is consolidating grade level instruction. The thinking is to end the practice of duplication of services and designate a particular grade level (or levels) to a particular campus. This would facilitate teachers to support and work together, providing continuity of instruction.  Yes this would mean students from Cresco would be transported to a different campus.

Your thoughts and reflections are valued and appreciated. Please contact me at to share your thinking.

Shout Outs:
  • National Honor Society: Congratulation to the new inductees!
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Fantastic performance. We are blessed with so many talented young people and a committed Director!
  • Fall sports season begins: Excited for the "tip offs" and the "take downs" to begin!
  • Winter Weather Season: Twitter, Facebook, Iowa Alerts and local TV and Radio. Snow is coming!

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