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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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On the Run

Wednesday morning, March 30, Emerson Elementary staff and students staged a surprise assembly to congratulate Principal Mark Timmerman on qualifying for the Boston Marathon April 18. Mr. Timmerman, a committed runner, has completed six marathons previously and qualified for Boston with a time of 3:04.40 at the Des Moines Marathon in October. Stacy Evans helped the students appreciate just how far 26.2 miles is and offered a little history on the origin of the marathon. A large majority of students thought they would like to make 196.5 laps around the Emerson halls, but much fewer thought they would look as happy as Mr. Timmerman did at the half-way point of the Des Moines Marathon! Mrs. Evans and Mr. Timmerman spoke [...]

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It’s a Small World After All

It’s a Small World After All Emerson Elementary held a very successful and engaging Culture Day on Friday, March 11. Besides student artwork and lots of food and celebration, students had the opportunity to learn from and interact with people who have first-hand knowledge of a variety of countries and cultures. Emerson staff did a tremendous job of organizing the day and hosting the honored guests. Students got to learn about the following: Kenyan Traditions: First Born Child, Josie Shaw Celebrating Chinese New Year, Phoebe Liang Musical Tour of Mexico, R.J. Hernandez Welcome to Russia, Jen Piffer Irish Storytelling, Maureen Korte Students had an opportunity to ask questions, play games, and learn about places far away. Thank you to the [...]

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Pursuing Goals

Pursuing Goals Indianola Middle School provides one great example of how the school district’s attendance centers identify improvement goals then go about striving to meet those goals. The over-arching goal that emerged from two different Instructional Rounds visits at Indianola Middle School the last two years was to make classrooms more student-centered, one of the Characteristics of Effective Instruction supported by the Iowa Department of Education. One of the first steps was to develop a Theory of Action, which is written as an “If. . .Then” statement like the goals of the school district’s strategic plan. Indianola Middle School’s Theory of Action for more student-centered classrooms is as follows: • If there is continued professional development focused on substantive and [...]

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