Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Letter to Director Buck/Legislators.

On December 12, 2014, all of the superintendent's in the state received an email from Dr. Brad Buck, the Director of the Iowa Department of Education. Dr. Buck was informing us that the DE would no longer automatically grant start date waivers to school districts, and that we would need to show that there would be a significant negative educational impact in order to get an early start waiver. This letter was a direct result of a letter that Dr. Buck received from Governor Branstad, and is precipitated by the State Fair, and the Tourism industry. Below is the letter that I sent to Dr. Buck, Governor Branstad, Lt. Governor Reynolds, and the legislators from our local area.   

December 23, 2014

Dr. Brad Buck
Director-Iowa Department of Education
Grimes Office Building
400 E. 14th Street
Des Moines, IA  50319-0146

Dr. Buck,

In response to your letter dated December 12, the North Butler Community Schools would like to voice our great concern over this matter.

First and foremost, it is shameful that tourism and the state fair have taken a priority over the education of our children. As educators, we are continually reminded that we should be striving to provide a "World Class" education, yet actions and funding levels continue to contradict that directive. We are asked to do more with less, and more restrictions being placed upon our funding streams. All while we are being forced to begin building budgets without knowing what the funding rate will be. The Legislature has also continually violated the law over when supplemental state aid amounts should be set. School funding should not be a political football.  The school start date is a distraction from the issue that should be front and center for state leaders– providing timely and adequate funding for schools through supplemental state aid.   The governor and director of education should focus on leading on this issue to ensure districts have the resources they need to meet the challenge of educational improvement.

Secondly, unless the Governor, Legislature, and the DE are going to address the start date of athletic seasons, camps and practices it is pointless to address the school start date. With camps being held the first week of August and practice starting the second week of August, a large number of our students are already done with their summer and have reported for their fall activities. Those families will not be vacationing at the end of August. I am not aware of a school who has ever punished a child or not excused them from participating in or visiting the state fair or taking a family vacation. In an article in the Des Moines Register dated 12/23/14 Representative Clownie states, "It really goes back to Iowa families who want to have a traditional summer." How do Iowans with children in High School activities get a traditional summer when baseball and softball go into the third week of July and football, volleyball, and cross country start the first week of August?

The focus of education reform in Iowa has emphasized local flexibility and engagement. The Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system is a good example, allowing districts to customize the approach to meet local needs based on stakeholder engagement.  The school calendar should also be a local decision, taking into account local needs.  There is a process for parents and the community to be involved in that decision-making. At North Butler we are involving our staff and community in these decisions through the use of our SIAC, Leadership team, and our PLC groups.

State-imposed limits on when school can start will negatively impact student learning.  Among the reasons are that aligning with community college and other postsecondary institutions maximizes educational opportunities for students and teachers. North Butler Community Schools had students take 99 classes for college credits in 2013-14, and have students taking 113 classes for college credits during this 2014-15 school year.

We feel that this is an attempt to circumvent the rulemaking and legislative process, both of which have been unable to make changes to the school start date law.  We believe that the start date should be a local decision based upon the needs of the communities in our district. We also believe that this directive from Governor Branstad goes directly against the recommendation of the 2012 Instructional Time Task Force which was mandated by the legislature. Their recommendations was that "school districts should determine their own school calendars, including local input of citizens at the school board level.”

We at North Butler Community Schools believe that these are issues that are better suited to be solved at a local level so that the needs of our communities can be addressed through the calendar building process. Thank you for your understanding of our position.


Joel Foster
Superintendent of Schools

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Position Opening

Due to a resignation North Butler Community Schools seeks a human resources/business office assistant for a shared position with Clarksville schools. Position will be full time with duties split between the 2 districts. Confidentiality and Microsoft office/clerical skills are a must. Send application to Joel Foster at joel.foster@northbutler.k12.ia.us or North Butler Community Schools, Box 428, Allison IA 50602. Position open until filled.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Several weeks ago some board members and I sat down and responded to questions from a letter written by a patron through my blog. There have obviously been some things said/done that have caused some issues due to these questions and responses, so I will attempt clarify some of this information.

The questions were copied directly from the email I received from a patron. The board or administration did not write them. I will clarify some of the responses to clear up any questions/accusations that may have been made in the community or in the comments in this blog. I will also turn off comments to the blog so that anonymous commenters can no longer comment. Any questions or comments will need to be directed back to me in another form.

These questions and responses are:

·      To what extent of our recent budget woes are attributed to the incompetence of the previous administration and budget manager? If you cannot give this answer due to legal reasons, please state so and provide us with those reasons.
a.     There was a clerical error in reporting some data. The biggest issue was that someone entered a receivable for sharing money, but there was not any sharing money to be received. 
b.    Our response to this question is that a clerical error was made. Nothing more, nothing less. We do not know who made the error or how it was made. Something was inadvertently entered into the books. We do not believe that there was any malicious intent or that there was any wrongdoing. Just a simple error. Any reference to anyone’s abilities to perform their duties is not made by the school district.
·      How did the district overspend its authority and revenue and when? Were these issues due to errors in budget projection? I find it highly unlikely that such repeated events were due to auditor error.
a.     a. As we look at and review the information from previous years, the expenditures exceeded revenues in each of the previous 5 years. This results from several things. Lack of oversight in spending by the administration, lack of financial controls also contributed to these problems. Many of the issues were due to errors in budget projection or faulty numbers-only the one time was there an auditor markdown. In reviewing numbers it has become clear that the numbers given to the board over the past several years were faulty. The board asked for items in the past and would not receive them, or the information would not be accurate.  The auditor explained to us several weeks ago that they had told the previous superintendent that the previous business manager was not qualified to do the job that he was expecting and asking her to do. That information was never relayed to the board.
b.    In stating the auditors explanation to us, and within our response, all that is being stated is that the previous business manager did not have an accounting degree or accounting background. Nothing more, nothing less.
c.     A lack of oversight and financial controls falls back on the superintendent’s office. It is currently my responsibility and mine alone to set proper oversight and controls in place. It is the superintendent’s duty to ensure that the board is informed accurately and in a timely manner when they request information.

d.    In stating the previous 5 years I am referring to only FY 10-14, and does not date to FY 2009. All financial information is from the auditor or state.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Amended Agenda for Monday 12-8-14 Regular Board Meeting

North Butler Community Schools
Monthly Board Meeting December 8, 2014
North Butler High School - Media Center, Greene 6:30 PM
Tentative Agenda
1.     Call to Order
2.     Review and Approve Agenda
3.     Review and approve minutes from 11/10/2014 meeting.
4.     Financial Reports
5.     Public Items of Discussion
6.     Board Items of Discussion
A.    Operational sharing items
7.     Review and accept results of PPEL vote
8.     Approve request for Modified Supplemental Amount-Dropout Prevention
9.     Discuss/Approve early retirement policy
10.  Approve updated Wellness Policy (waive 2nd reading)
11.  Approve changes to Policy 411.3 (waive 2nd reading)
12.  Approve changes to Policy 414.1 (waive 2nd reading)
13.  Approve changes to Policy 414.2 (waive 2nd reading)
14.  Approve Classified Staff handbook
15.  Approve Calendar date change for 1-1 conference in April (Needs to be April 8th is on calendar as 2nd)
16.  Approve change of preschool from 2 ½ days per week to 2 days (Wednesday as planning/data entry day for teachers)
17.  Approve bid letting for track project
18.  Administrative reports
19.  Exempt Session to discuss strategy in matters relating to employment conditions of employees not covered by the collective bargaining law;
20.  Approve 28E with Clarksville for HR position
21.  Human Resources
a)     Personnel recommendations
22.  Adjournment