Board members list priorities for hypothetical funds
The Fairfield Community School District Board approved the district’s request for modified allowable growth funds of $102,929 at a special meeting Monday.
“This isn’t cash, but new spending authority,” said Superintendent Art Sathoff. “We compile various risk factors to determine the number of students at risk to drop out of school and the state has a formula to determine the new spending authority amount. The district also has to show how it will spend the money.
“A large portion of this will go to salaries for our alternative school teachers and associates,” said Sathoff. “Part of it will go to guidance counselors and some for materials.”
Sathoff said the district’s alternative school, the Opportunity Center, has about 40 students enrolled, with half attending the morning session and half attending an afternoon session.
Board members also held a work session and held a discussion around a hypothetical question from the Iowa Association of School Boards.
The scenario was if the district would receive a windfall amount of money, what priorities would board members choose from a prescribed list of seven choices. The board members were to keep in mind the district operates with limited resources and the exercise had a rule that either 100 percent of the money was spent in one area or the funds could be divided into 80 and 20 percent only and used only in two areas.
Each board member was tasked to work on this exercise silently and individually, before sharing their choices.
The list of choices to appropriate a theoretical windfall included:
• Increase the offerings and programs for students to better meet the wide variety of individual needs of students.
Board president Jennifer Anderson selected to spend 80 percent of the funds on this option.
“We’re on track to be fiscally sound and we already have an infrastructure plan going,” she said. “I’d like to see more programs available to benefit students.”
• Informing the community and engaging with the community to know the district’s strengths.
No one chose this option.
• Save the money to provide the district fiscal security.
Board member Kate Van Pelt chose to put 20 percent of the money here and newly appointed board member Phil Miller put 80 percent here.
“It’s always in the back of my mind to have a solid financial district,” said Van Pelt.
“Without a sound fiscal base, everything else is in jeopardy,” said Miller.
Board member Joe Carr said he didn’t choose this area because the district is already on track to be fiscally sound.
• Provide quality professional development for staff, focused on improving instruction.
Carr put 20 percent of the funds here.
“We want professional development that is result oriented, with a laser focus and not a shotgun scatter,” he said.
Van Pelt and Jeremy Miller each dedicated 80 percent of funds to professional development.
“Improving instruction will help students,” said Van Pelt.
• Infrastructure development, including buses, buildings and equipment updates.
Board member Rich Metcalf chose to use 100 percent of the money for infrastructure. Board member Jerry Nelson dedicated 80 percent and Phil Miller used 20 percent for infrastructure.
“We still need to have air conditioning at the elementary schools,” said Metcalf. “Hopefully a better environment can raise learning levels. And with all buildings air conditioned, we can have the option of year-round school.”
Phil Miller agreed, that if the environment in the classrooms isn’t conducive to learning, it makes everyone’s job harder.
Nelson agreed that two more buildings need upgrades and air conditioning.
• Technology – to improve higher levels of learning.
Carr chose to use 80 percent of the funding on technology. Three more school board members, Anderson, Jeremy Miller and Nelson, chose to spend 20 percent of the money on technology.
“We have to provide the tools students need when they go out into the world,” said Jeremy Miller.
Sathoff said he would have chosen to spend a monetary windfall on infrastructure and technology.
“I think we have a good professional development program and curriculum,” he said.
“I agree we’re on track fiscally and I like our current professional development program,” said Anderson.
Sathoff told the board its goals and the district’s resources mesh with the district’s plans
“We’re chipping away at having upgraded technology and wiring, and we’re getting ready to do the high school,” said Sathoff. “A priority is to have a more reliable online system. And we want to continue to be fiscally sound.
“As far as professional development, this teacher leadership and compensation program looks good and we’re moving toward a plan and addressing professional development and curriculum.
“One of the goals in the teacher leadership emerging is more community outreach,” said Sathoff.
“In mid-January we’ll have an exempt board meeting regarding negotiations,” Sathoff said. “I like to go into bargaining knowing where we’ll end up. The initial offering will be in early February.”
The current certified staff contract was negotiated for two years and expires at the end of this year.