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Challenges and Changes

A rendering of the exterior of the planned new district office Many of our recent administrative, board, and staff conversations have centered on facilities and curriculum changes that will allow the district to move forward and provide a better experience for students. This blog shares a few details about three undertakings currently in the planning phase: replacing the Irving heating system and the impacts that will have on the year-round calendar, building a new district office and repurposing the current building as an online learning center, and improving the Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary playground and outdoor play area. The Irving heating system is an outdated steam system that was considered for replacement 18 years ago. District staff has done a […]

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Last weekend was a family wedding weekend for my family, with my sister’s youngest son getting married. I have officiated quite a few weddings, but it is different when there is a family connection. Weddings are one of those very special times, for the bride and groom, of course, but also for extended family and old friends who have the opportunity to reconnect. Much of the “older generation” of my family has passed on, so when I get to see my siblings and their children, my cousins, and my grandson, it really is a special thing. I have used the word twice already in different forms, but it really is about connection. I have been blessed to know a multitude […]

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September is School Election Month

On September 12 Indianola Community School District patrons will have the opportunity to go to the polls to elect new school board members and to vote on the renewal of the school district’s Physical Plant and Equipment Levy. Both of these items are extremely important to the school district, and I encourage everyone to get out and vote. Board service is an extremely rewarding way to volunteer and make a difference. I have had the pleasure of serving on a number of different boards through the years, from local park boards and church boards to state boards of different kinds. Currently, serving on the ICYF Board, Chamber Board, and Iowa High School Music Association Board keeps me connected with great […]

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Bargaining in a Time of Uncertainty

Monday night, February 13, the Indianola CSD School Board approved a two-year contract with the Indianola Education Association. The IEA membership had ratified the tentative agreement on Thursday afternoon. The contract is a total package settlement of 1.98% for each year. Total package includes all costs of employment to the district, such as insurance, FICA, and IPERS. The salary increase for the first year is 1.46%. Indianola Education Association President John Kaale commented on the agreement: “The spirit of cooperation, between the school district and the association, that made this agreement possible is among Indianola’s proudest traditions.” Indianola CSD Superintendent Art Sathoff commented on the settlement: “It was a win-win with both sides at the table understanding some unique pressures […]

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What 1.11% SSA Means for Schools

I was asked to write an article on this topic for the paper. Here is a re-run of that: Iowa school finance is complicated, but understanding certain concepts can help one’s overall understanding. I appreciate being asked to write on the topic. One of those important concepts is that Iowa’s school funding formula is a pupil-driven formula. Essentially, this means that student enrollment, in combination with increases in aid determined by the Iowa Legislature, drives school funding. Districts with increasing enrollment are under less financial pressure than districts with declining enrollment. A pupil-driven formula was selected in 1971 because it is a relatively equitable way to fund school districts. Today, virtually all school districts are under budget pressure. Even rapidly […]

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Resolute This time of year, as we usher in a new year, there is inevitably talk of New Year’s resolutions. I know there have been years that I have written resolutions because I believe there is power in writing things down. The whole idea of New Year’s resolutions has become kind of a joke to many people because of the speed with which resolutions are often broken. The whole concept of New Year’s resolutions can be questioned, I think. If change is needed, or worth doing, why do we need to wait for a certain day or a new year to tackle it? Shouldn’t we make it a daily commitment as soon as we can? Another New Year’s phenomenon has […]

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Understanding School Finance

There is nothing quite like Iowa school finance, and this blog attempts to explain a few key concepts. The goal is to make the complex more understandable, so this blog will not attempt to address every nuance of school budgeting. Future installments can dive deeper or cast a broader net. By the end of this blog, I hope readers have three key understandings: 1. School budgets are enrollment-driven. 2. Cash and spending authority are two separate and important concepts. 3. There are different funding streams that can only be used for certain purposes. These three things provide a good place to start understanding Iowa school finance. First, school budgets are enrollment-driven. In 1971 the Legislature adopted a pupil-driven funding formula […]

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Talking Inclement Weather Before the Snow Flies

I really love Iowa except for its winters. The early morning school cancellation decision is the bane of a superintendent’s existence! I haven’t met an administrative colleague who enjoys being up early to check roads, obsess about forecasts, huddle with transportation directors, or call and text neighboring districts. I am pretty sure students (and some staff) enjoy snow days much more than their superintendents do! When severe weather is expected, the transportation director and I will be monitoring hourly forecasts, such as those from NOAA, which tracks temperature, wind speed, wind chill, and different types of precipitation hourly by zip code. Timing is very important as we consider when and where bus routes run. We will attempt to communicate any […]

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Communication and Relationships

Communication and Relationships I have been fortunate to be an educator since my college graduation in 1988. I have also known the joy of coaching and the fulfillment of ministry during the last three decades. My family is a great blessing and has been a part of many experiences in the educational arena. I would never trade the experiences I have had—enjoyable and challenging alike—for anything else because I have gotten to work with people and have gotten to push and support them to be their best at the same time I was growing myself. I appreciate every day how fortunate my wife Cindy and I are to live in a community like Indianola, serving a tremendous school district. As […]

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The End is the Beginning

It is impossible not to be a little nostalgic during graduation season, Memorial Day weekend, and the last week of school. While we are pushing on to the next thing, we are also looking back fondly. Celebrations and remembrances are important, and they help us gain perspective and refocus on things that are important, like service, stewardship, and scholarship. They are times for family and community. Inevitably these culminating events are bittersweet, though. At the same time that we anticipate what will be, we mourn the passing of what was. It is the rare family who hasn’t had a loved one serve in the Armed Forces, and many have had a family member or friend die serving our country. At […]

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