Recently I passed my first anniversary as superintendent of North Butler Community Schools. As I reflect upon the past year, there have been some difficult issues, but I am very excited about the things that we have accomplished and the direction we are going.
In September, we were all shocked to find that the district had overspent its budget for the second straight year. As a result of that discovery, the board and administration quickly took action to attempt to get the district on the road to recovery. Since that time we have reevaluated all spending, to ensure that all expenditures are coming from the proper accounts, and that all purchases are approved prior to ordering.
The board has had to make some very difficult decisions. Please understand that when decisions are made, we have to look at what is in the best interest of all of our students within the North Butler Community Schools. There are currently over 700 students being served by the North Butler Community Schools.
Through the course of the reductions that we have been forced to make over the past year, we have also been able to add programs, while still reducing costs. One of the biggest and best things that we have done is to add academic interventionists in both buildings by shifting personnel around. This will allow us to better target the individual needs of students who may struggle in one area or another, while allowing the classroom teacher to still provide fantastic instruction to the rest of the class. We will also be able to have more time for our Talented and Gifted teacher to work with students, as she will not have to spend time traveling.
North Butler also received a grant through the Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Scale-Up program. This has allowed us to bring Project Lead the Way (PLTW) to the Junior High. Project Lead the Way is one of the premier engineering programs in the country, and for North Butler students this currently includes a class in Design and Modeling, and another in Automation and Robotics. Our sincere hope is that as we get the district back to a more stable financial footing that we will be able to expand our PLTW offerings into the High School in order to provide our students a better experience in the areas where there is a higher need.
The technology that we provide our students at North Butler is among the best in Iowa. Our 7-12 grade students are 1-1 with MacBooks, 5th and 6th grade are 1-1 with Chromebooks, 3rd and 4th grade are 1-1 with I Pads, and PK-2 have accessibility to both I Pads and MacBooks for use in the classroom. We are working to ensure that each classroom has a projector, and we are continually working to increase the ability of our teachers to have access to training so that they can make better use of the technologies available to them.
Over the past year we have also made improvements to our facilities. Through the assistance of the community group who raised money for the athletic complex, we have been able to install an 8 lane all weather track, handicapped parking, seating and restrooms at the athletic complex. This is a wonderful addition to the facility and provides accessibility for everyone in our communities. Other improvements that we have made include blacktopping the parking lot at Allison so that teachers, staff, parents and grandparents will no longer have to walk through mud to get to the building; an age and size appropriate playground for our preschool that includes pieces that allow it to be used within the curriculum; video cameras in both buildings to provide security for the district and safety for our students; and eight new school busses for our everyday routes, as we were running very old equipment down the road when I arrived to North Butler, and this has already begun to save us money in repair bills.
Throughout the course of the last year, we have discovered that the curriculum in the district has not been renewed in many years, other than math. This past year, neither of the elementary schools nor the middle school was able to meet Adequate Yearly Progress as measured by the state in the area of reading. As we looked we discovered that the reading curriculum was more than 10 years old, and as such does not meet the Iowa Core Standards. Due to the decisions that have been made and the actions that have been taken, we believe that we are now in a place where we can set up a rotation so that our curriculum can be replaced on a regular basis, as it should be.
Currently we are projecting that we finished Fiscal Year 15 with a positive unspent balance. We will know more about exactly where we finished the year when our annual audit is completed, and our Certified Annual Report for the Department of Education is completed on September 15th. As I have stated before, a school district our size should have an unspent balance of $750,000 to $1.25 Million, so as you can see we still have a long way to go, but we are definitely headed in the right direction.
As always, please feel free to contact me should you have any questions!
It’s Great To Be A Bearcat!
Joel Foster, Superintendent.