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Highlights of May 21st School Board Meeting

Below are highlights from the May 21st Linn-Mar Board of Education meeting.
Please remember these are just highlights and should not be considered the official minutes.

During the work session students of Dr. John Hanson, High School Social Studies Teacher, presented information on their attendance at the Future Leaders of Linn County Forum. Tyler Hungate (Senior), Arsha Vaddadi (Sophomore), and Kevin Drahos (Junior) thanked the board for allowing them, and six other students, to attend the forum that included breakfast with the Linn County supervisors and various department administrators. The day also included small group sessions, an official meeting of the supervisors, and participation in a mock council meeting and trouble-shooting sessions.

Karla Terry, Coordinator of Community Relations, introduced Beth Morrissey, Carrie Smith, Amy Westfall, and Angie Krueger, some of the volunteer coordinators from around the district, and thanked all of our volunteers for their time and service to the district. Mrs. Terry also shared the following statistics on the Volunteer Program for 2017-18:

  • 1,600 volunteers were vetted/approved
  • 397 new volunteers
  • 25 volunteer orientations were hosted
  • 685 reader placements during America Reads Day
  • 92 volunteers will be honored at the 100-hour volunteer luncheon, with several logging over 1,000 hours
  • 24,200+ volunteer hours logged, with the addition of approximately 200 volunteers who chose to serve but not log their hours

Dr. Shepherd thanked all of the volunteers for, “Their profound impact on the students and for being pillars of success at Linn-Mar.”

Kelly Kretschmar, Director of Elementary Teaching & Learning, and Jill Weigel, Grant Wood AEA Regional Administrator, presented information on the process and results of the Elementary Homework Guiding Coalition. The coalition consisted of two teachers from each elementary building and the building principals, along with Mrs. Kretschmar and Mrs. Weigel. Over the last year, the coalition met seven times to discuss research articles, board policies on homework and wellness, and feedback received on current grade level practices and alignment with board policy. The group came to consensus on the following items pertaining to homework at the elementary level:

  1. Homework will be purposeful and clearly tied to student learning.
  2. Students will have demonstrated competency in the skill being practiced before being asked to complete the skill independently through homework.
  3. Homework will have a parent education component along with a parent awareness component.
  4. Feedback will be provided for homework.
  5. Homework will be removed from the report card, but may be addressed in the PRIDE comment section.

Next steps for the Elementary Homework Guiding Coalition will be to present the information to staff prior to the end of the current school year and then present a review at the start of the 2018-19 school year.

Debra Barry and Erin Watts, Coordinators of the Teacher Leadership Compensation Program, shared some history of the program, highlights of the program’s accomplishments, and next steps. The Teacher Leadership Program began in 2014 for the Linn-Mar District when it received a grant from the Iowa Department of Education along with 38 other districts. Goals of the program are: 1) To attract and retain new teachers, 2) Provide increased opportunities for collaboration between teachers, 3) Increase professional development and leadership opportunities, and 4) Improve instruction and impact student achievement. The program consists of instructional coaches, mentor coaches, and technology integration coaches in addition to the many in-classroom model teachers and facilitators for a total of 131 staff members serving as part of the program. In 2017-18 there were 2,049 coaching interactions recorded throughout the district.

As part of the Teacher Leadership Program, Mrs. Barry and Mrs. Watts became certified trainers of Cognitive Coaching and have extended several trainings to other districts. To date, they have trained 312 teacher from around Iowa with 150 being Linn-Mar staff members. These trainings have resulted in $19,135 being brought back into the district to support the Teacher Leadership Compensation Program. Our teacher leaders will join with the Iowa City teacher leaders for a professional learning opportunity in August that will include opportunities to practice Cognitive Coaching. Be sure to check out this innovative, collaborative project in August by following: #cultivateyourcoaching.

During the regular meeting the board shared highlights of their visit to Excelsior Middle School, commenting on the excitement they saw in the students as they were learning during their school day and commending the staff for their expertise in managing so many students through a small cafeteria over the lunch period. The board also shared highlights of the Finance/Audit Committee meeting sharing they reviewed the 2018-19 student fee schedule and the placement of a second modular classroom at Indian Creek Elementary.

The board approved the following items during the regular meeting:

  • Resolution ordering a special election of the issuance of $55,000,000 general obligation school bonds on September 11, 2018
  • 2018-19 student fee schedule
  • FY19 Linn-Mar Education Association (LMEA) agreement at a total package increase of 2.47%
  • FY19 administrators/managers and exempt/non-exempt staff salaries at a total package increase of 2.47%
  • Open enrollment requests and the consent agenda

Several members of the board thanked Superintendent Shepherd for his service to the district over the last three years and wished him and his family well in their new journey in Texas. Board Member Isenberg listed several of Dr. Shepherd’s accomplishments during his tenure with the district, including but not limited to: improvement in test scores, a Blue Ribbon elementary building, the second best high school in Iowa, a recognized speaker at the Iowa Association of School Boards conference, organization of the Iowa BIG program in the district, an increase in digital learning, participation in MEDCO’s Community Promise program, and increased learning for students and staff.

Click here to view the full agenda and exhibits from the May 21st school board meeting.