Sunday, February 12, 2017

Board meeting 2-14-17

Mission Statement
To create a positive learning environment that promotes high achievement, responsible citizenship, and success for all.

North Butler Community Schools
Regular Board Meeting Tuesday February 14, 2017, 6:00 PM
North Butler Elementary- Media Center, Allison

1.     Call to Order
2.     Review and Approve Agenda
3.     Review and Approve Minutes from January 11 and 18, 2016
4.     Review and Approve Financial reports
5.     Public Items of Discussion
a.     Travel Softball
6.     Board Items of Discussion
a.     Testing results
7.     Approve 17-18 Calendar
8.     Update on Job Descriptions
9.     Discuss/Approve Travel Softball use of facilities
10.  Approve Technology purchase for 17-18 (Laptops)
11.  Approve Office Computer upgrades for 17-18
12.  Approve bid on roof project for summer 17
13.  Approve Drivers Ed fees/contract
14.  Approve sharing agreements (HR/Ag/Bus. MGR/Library)
15.  Personnel Recommendations
16.  Admin Reports
17.  Board Reflections of Meeting

18.  Adjournment

Next Meeting March 13, 2017, 6:00 PM NB JH/HS Media Center, Greene.

It’s Great to Be A Bearcat!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Public Education Under Attack?

Where is the future of public education in Iowa? As Superintendent of North Butler Community Schools, I can tell you that the staff and students here are doing fabulous things! The staff starts early and stays late to ensure that they are giving the students everything that they can. We also have FANTASTIC kids here! In the 2.5 years that I have been here, not one politician has been present in any of our buildings during school hours to see what we are doing! Yet they are deciding how much funding we get, and how we can and cannot expend those funds.

With the things that I am seeing on a daily basis within both of our buildings, I can’t help but wonder; Why are our politicians playing political games and spending so much time working to dismantle public education, when the future of our state and the education of our future leaders rely on our public education system? Are they telling us that our kids in public education are disposable, and the ones that matter are in private schools and being home schooled? I will let you look at some of the legislation that has been introduced already this session and let you make your own determination on that.

With the passage of current legislation, Iowa public schools will get 1.11% growth in Supplementary State Aid (SSA) for the next school year. 1.11% does not even keep up with the changing costs of doing business for us, let alone let us expand to meet the requirements set in place by the legislature in previous sessions. 2017-18 now marks what I believe is the 7th straight year that education has taken a backseat to other things in the legislature. Rural districts continue to eliminate programs, close buildings, and reduce staff to make ends meet.

Tax incentives and tax rebates to business in that time have more than doubled. When businesses are allowed these tax rebates, it also takes away from our funding sources. If they are sales tax rebates it takes away from our infrastructure funds. If they are property tax rebates it takes away from our general fund.

We now have a group pushing for a voucher system and Educational Savings Accounts for those who CHOOSE to home school or send their children to private schools. I guess for them it is nice to have that choice, but what about those that cannot make that choice? Where would the money come from to put such a system in place? We already do not fund public education properly-which is a right that is granted to every child in the state of Iowa, but now people who have made a personal choice on how they educate their children who are demanding that OUR taxpayer dollars fund that choice. I see no alternative place where those funds would come from than education, and our legislators and Governor Branstad continually tell us that we cannot afford to fund public education appropriately! Where does this add up?

Politics along party lines seems to have replaced common sense in the state house. Our politicians seem to be more worried about voting along their parties predetermined platform than doing what is right for the future of our state. Both John Adams and George Washington warned against a 2 party system nearly 250 years ago, as Adams stated There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

Washington stated in his farewell address The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

If you take a solid look at what is happening in our country and our state at this time, their fears seem to be coming to fruition!

It seems that no matter what we say as educators, our professional opinions and expertise seem to fall on deaf ears. We have been asked for our opinions at times, then decisions go directly against the information given! I believe it is time for all of us to call on our elected officials to do what is right for our children, and not worry about their parties predetermined agenda. These officials need to get out and see what is actually happening in our schools, and see the effects of recent legislation. We have worked for several years toward implementation of a new assessment system, and that is now on hold. Educators work tirelessly to provide the best we can for our kids and our communities, and get little to no respect as professionals. We are training tomorrow’s doctors, lawyers, and nurses who will be caring for us as we age! I don’t know about you, but I think we should be putting everything that we can into our future!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017


It is that time of year where we get very busy in the schools. Not only are we working on the current year, but we are also working on the next school/fiscal year. As we work on planning the coming year, a large part is played by the state legislature.

Again this year the Iowa Legislature is nearly 365 days late setting SSA (Supplemental State Aid) for schools. The legislature is looking to address this by proposing the elimination of the deadline for setting SSA. For the past seven years, public schools have been woefully underfunded, and it appears that we will again be shorted by the legislature.  This legislature seems to think that schools can operate on an increase that is less than the cost of inflation. When that is combined with a decline in enrollment, many school districts across Iowa are actually looking at having less money for fiscal year (FY) 18 than they have for the current year. North Butler Community Schools is one of those districts.

The way that a school counterbalances this is to not expend all of the money that the state has allotted (Maximum Authorized Budget or MAB) and carry over a surplus (Unspent Authorized Budget or UAB). At the conclusion of FY 16 North Butler Community Schools carried a UAB of $670,200. We are projecting that amount to increase at the end of FY 17. The UAB adds into our MAB that is set by the Iowa Department of Education and allows us a safety net to work with. A district with a budget our size should carry a UAB of roughly $750,000 to $1,000,000. At the end of FY 17, we should fall well within that range.  This allows us to continue with our current programming without having to make staffing or other adjustments despite declining enrollment.

Tax credits for business have played a major role in the lack of funding for schools (see previous blog post, DM Register Article Jan. 12, 2017). As a district, we will make do with what we have and make the best of it!

Doing things the BEARCAT WAY

Even though we are facing challenges with funding from the legislature, we have many fantastic things happening at North Butler Community Schools.
1.     We have continued to employ high-quality teachers from PK-12th grade.
2.     We have added a transitional kindergarten class for our students who may not be completely ready for kindergarten.
3.     We have added a full time counselor at the elementary school.
4.     We have added 1.5 FTE academic and behavior interventionist positions at the elementary.  We anticipate this growing to 2.0 FTE for 17-18.
5.     We have added Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes for engineering and computer science into the JH/HS curriculum.
6.     The Voc Ag program is adding an aquaponics setup and will be growing fish and vegetables in the near future.
Most of this has come with little or no additional cost to the school district. The increases that we have incurred are, in my opinion, sustainable for the foreseeable future, barring a steep decline in enrollment.

As an administrator, I am very proud of the accomplishments of our staff and students. North Butler finished 10th out of 156 schools in Class 1A in the Bank of Iowa Challenge Cup. This is a platform that looks at all-around programs and involvement of students.  North Butler High School improved its standing on the Iowa School Report Card from commendable to high performing. District wide we set exceptionally high goals for our staff and students, and we met nearly all of those goals. While those things have been happening, our staff is not satisfied with the status quo. They continue to research and look for ways to improve what we are doing. We have groups of staff that have undertaken a pilot project in Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW), we have our Professional Learning Community (PLC) leaders asking to attend more training, and we have teachers asking our instructional coaches to assist them in improving what they are doing in the classroom. I have never seen a staff as eager to learn and improve as the staff at North Butler!

On Monday January 30th, we held a North Butler District Leadership Team meeting. The DLT meets to discuss suggestions, make recommendations to the administration, and make recommendations to the board for our direction as a school district. When functioning properly, administrators do little talking other than to provide updates during these meetings. I have never participated in a leadership team meeting as positive and productive as this past meeting. The district calendar for 17-18 was discussed and adjustments were made according to the input provided. We discussed things that we are doing well as a staff, and things that we can do better as a district. We discussed surveys that will be given to both staff members and community members for feedback. We also discussed how we would use this feedback to improve what we are doing as a staff, administration, board, and district.

Monday evening, January 30th, I attended one of the most impressive educational presentations that I have had the privilege of attending. The North Butler Community Schools Sophomore Class presented projects related to the September 2016 flooding in Greene to the public at the Greene Community Center. The students built their presentations, and also built the program for the evening, reserved the space, provided snacks, secured a guest speaker, and marketed their session. The students and Ms. Stahr did an incredible job in preparing for and making the evening a success. This program included some of the most authentic, real world learning that I have ever seen! The community center was packed, parking was hard to find, and the students did a magnificent job putting together and presenting their program! Hats off to our Sophomore Class. Thank you for setting the bar high for North Butler Community Schools!