The Oelwein School Board approved hiring a social worker using COVID-19-relief funding, its state legislative policy priorities by consensus after a discussion of homeschool “bad actor” issues, and added Veridian Credit Union to its depositories.
The board approved:
• Hiring Jeannie Hamilton, a licensed independent social worker, on a two-year contract for student mental health through GEER II or ESSER III (COVID-19-relief) funding. She is not being given Oelwein Schools employment rights or benefits, according to board documents. As funding allows, she is to be paid monthly totaling $100,000 a year, (at $8,334 a month).
“Jeannie’s worked with the district for years,” Ehn said. “Kids get after-school care.” He noted this would assist the counselors.
• Transfer of ESSER II (COVID-19-relief) funds from the general fund to the nutrition fund in the amount of $86,542.81 to pay for “nutrition fund COVID expenses.”
• Came to a consensus to keep six policy advocacy priorities for the Iowa Association of School Boards, after Superintendent Josh Ehn gave the option to keep or change them.
Ehn also described the homeschool reporting policy debate over “bad actors” at board member Charlene Stocker’s request.
“I just did a survey and got the response and going to read off the six that got the highest votes,” Ehn said.
Policy areas are: Mental health, adequate supplemental state aid, COVID-19 remediation, research-based initiatives, supporting teacher leadership and development and homeschool reporting.
“There’s been a push at the legislative level to have less requirements for homeschooling, and fewer reporting requirements,” Ehn said responding to a board request.
“The pendulum… needs to swing back to the middle I think,” he said.
“There’s been some child abuse cases that have come about, some bad actors that have taken advantage of the homeschool stuff.
“Our staff sees it. Our principals kind of tightened the screws on some folks because parents are not making good decisions, and parents kind of throw their hands up and say ‘well I’ll homeschool them,’ not really knowing the consequences of that, and there’s never really a plan to homeschool, then they come back a year or two later, saying ‘I need an education,’ and they’re a year or two behind.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the homeschool community that’s actually doing it,” Ehn said. “They do a great job, I know some homeschool families that are phenomenal. Kids get a good education.
“It’s the interaction I think with the reporting piece that has caused some folks to take advantage of it and it makes our job harder,” Ehn said. “It’s starting to get a little attention.”
• The board approved adding Veridian Credit Union to it existing depositories, as presented. Ehn stated they had given back to the community. Although the Oelwein branch of Regions Bank closed, the administration recommended leaving it on the list for now, as presented. Other depositories are Fidelity Bank, Oelwein; Maynard Savings Bank, Hazleton; Community Bank, Oelwein and Iowa Schools Joint Investment Trust.