With fourteen days of classes remaining, the W-SR School Board met in regular session on Monday, May 9, to deal with an array of athletic, academic and financial issues facing the district.
One third of the meeting was spent discussing options created by the pending change in W-SR’s athletic conference after the Executive Board of the Northeast Iowa Conference voted to exclude W-SR from the conference earlier this year. Within the NEIC, W-SR has the highest student enrollment.
With NEIC membership set to expire after the 2022-23 school year, High School Activities Director Greg Bodensteiner presented several options for board consideration.
“Our size puts us in a tough spot,” Bodensteiner said.
He presented data including school size rated by BEDS data — which counts student enrollment in grades 9 through 11 — and provided information collected from W-SR student athletes and coaches, which is linked to the school board agenda.
“Our BEDS number now is 595, which seems a bubble. We’ve been between 520-540,” said Superintendent Ed Klamfoth. By comparison, NEIC members include Decorah at 430, Charles City at 399, and New Hampton at 272.
“There’s going to be more travel and kids are concerned about how much school they will miss. They want a more consistent level of competition, too,” Bodensteiner explained.
By a 4-1 vote, the board directed that an application be made to the Mississippi Valley Conference. Application does not guarantee acceptance but if admitted, W-SR would be the third lowest in enrollment of the 15-member MVC conference that includes Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids, Dubuque and Iowa City schools.
“As a former W-SR athlete, I wanted to play those big schools. Waverly has the athletes to do it,” said board member Jes Kettleson, who voted with the majority.
The lone dissenter, Board President Dennis Epley, was reached for comment after the meeting.
“A majority of the (W-SR) coaches indicated a preference to request acceptance into the WaMaC Conference, which consists of schools more similar in student population,” Epley said. “Travel time to WaMaC schools would also be slightly less. Travel time is important to students who have to leave school before classes are complete for the day and also may not get back home by midnight.”
In other board business, an opportunity to learn more about Greenview Alternative High School was provided by Greenview instructor Justin Little, introduced by W-SR High School Associate Principal Brady Weber.
“Ours is a small At-Risk diploma program where students take one class at a time,” Associate Principal Weber said of Greenview. “It has an individualized approach paired with vocational opportunity, with a focus on a 38-credit core curriculum.”
The staff includes one instructor, Little, and two support associates, Holly Williams and Stacy Hanson. Once housed on the Bremwood grounds, today the Alternative High School and High School are under one roof. It is a diploma-granting program, and graduating students can enroll in post-secondary education. Where once the program saw a mix of students from other districts, today primarily W-SR students are enrolled.
“This year 49 students started in the program and 32 are still active, with some returning to their home districts,” said instructor Little. “We build trust through honesty and show we care.”
Little detailed how student progress is tracked and shared with parents. Nine to 11 students will graduate on May 13 at 1 p.m.
In other academic news, Lied Center Principal Stacy Meisgeier was formally recognized and compensated as W-SR director of special education, in addition to her existing duties.
“This is a step forward to recognize and highlight the importance of this work, and it allows parents and caregivers to know who to contact,” said board member Charlene Wyatt-Sauer.
Seven construction change orders were approved by the board, reducing construction costs by $436,020 with one $706 addition.
“These are a result of the value engineering that has been taking place between vendors, Estes Construction Management and Invision Architects,” Klamfoth said. An Estes representative will be present at future monthly board meetings.
Food service contracts and food service equipment purchases were approved, and the board approved a $5 increase for substitute teachers to $130 a day, as well as an increase in the base wage for paraprofessionals.
“I only wish we could pay you more,” added Wyatt-Sauer.
Membership in the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) was affirmed at an annual cost of $7,770 per year. Over 95% of Iowa school districts belong to the IASB network, according to Board President Epley.
Wrapping up Teacher Appreciation Week and School Board Appreciation Month, Klamfoth told board members he appreciated their work and the accompanying challenges.
“Thank you for your dedication to education and to Waverly-Shell Rock,” Klamfoth said.
Eight district employees are retiring this year, including Christi Lines, Karen Nieman, Peggy Kaleas, Danise Schweer, Jill Borigter, Susan Howe, Todd Thompson and Shane Hoff.
The next regular school board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on June 13.