Ambitious planning awaits Mt. Pleasant Community School District
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
A lot of people will be spending a lot of time soon plotting the path of the Mt. Pleasant Community School District for the next five years.
Superintendent of Schools Mike Wells, during Monday night’s school board meeting, outlined an ambitious strategic planning program that he hopes to include input from over 120 community residents, parents, faculty members and students.
“This is a five-year road map for the district and it will help hold people accountable for what happens. One element in my individual meetings with each of you was a desire for more accountability,” Wells began.
He said members of the planning committee could easily spend 100 hours on the project.
The planning, Wells said, will develop a vision for the future of education in Mt. Pleasant which includes a financial plan, community partnerships and collaboration with educational entities.
Wells plans to kick off the strategic plan in late September. At least seven meetings of the entire committee are scheduled in addition to meetings of subcommittees.
He hopes to present the final plan to the school board during its Feb. 10, 2014, meeting.
In addition to the 30 community representatives, chosen by the school district, five teachers from each building will be on the committee. “I want equal representation from every building,” Wells noted.
There will be 30 parents — five from each building — selected, 10 high school students and 10 middle school students. “The students are probably the most important people on the committee because they will be benefiting from it,” Well said.
Other committee members include personnel from Iowa Wesleyan College — “a key partner as we move forward, I want their input,” the superintendent emphasized.
Remaining members will be two delegates from the Area Education Agency, three support staff members, the PTA president, music boosters president and athletic boosters president, Wells said.
School board members and administrators will be asked to come as many meetings as possible although they will not be official members of the committee.
“If this plan is to be effective, we have to have at least 100 people involved. I would like to have over 120 people,” Wells said. There will be 15-20 community presentations during the planning process.
Meetings are to last 90 minutes — from 6:30-8 p.m. — and Wells said he will see to it that they do not run any longer than 90 minutes. “We are going to start and end meetings on time. If we are in the middle of something, we will end the meeting anyway and resume at the next meeting.”
The sup-erintendent hinted that the planning could result in a bond referendum for district needs. “The community will have some big decisions to make, that is if a bond issue is needed. We want world-class facilities. The education program drives the tax rate, it is not the other way around.”
In conclusion, the superintendent promised that the plan will be revisited annually and tweaked if necessary.
“It is a good plan,” board member Ken Feldmann said. “I don’t know of anyone who has been successful without planning.”
Board members also formally approved offering a community preschool for four-year-old students, beginning with the 2013-14 school year.
Planning for the preschool already has begun but the matter had not received official approval until last night.
Wells told the board that it will cost the district about $100,000 to operate the preschool the coming school year. Most of the expense will be in hiring at least one teacher and an associate. “We are not paying any salary to any of the existing preschool employees, but we will have to hire at least one teacher and an associate,” he noted. “Either the teacher or associate will have to be bilingual. I think it will be a huge attraction if we have a bilingual teacher.”
State law requires that students receive at least 10 hours of instruction weekly by a certified teacher.
Existing preschools partnering with the school district include Grasshopper Green, Little Bees and Head Start. Son Shine Academy Preschool and the Mt. Pleasant Christian School’s preschool opted not to join. “They (Son Shine and Mt. Pleasant Christian) don’t want to be involved with any state-funded preschool,” Wells explained.
Scholarship money will be available to students based on the free and reduced-lunch criteria.
Wells said he will direct the preschool the first year but hopes to have a representative from one of the preschools take over the duties next year.
“This will be a true community preschool,” the superintendent said. “We will be making group decisions.”
The superintendent said there are some issues with the district’s preschool planning in Salem, namely a location and no playground. “There isn’t any room at the school,” he said. Tentative plans call for housing the half-day preschool in the Salem Crew Library until a permanent location can be found. The state also requires a playground for students and that is in the planning stages in Salem. Wells said that there is some fund-raising (for the preschool) happening in Salem. “This is very important to them,” he said. Building a playground, he said, will cost between $15,000-$20,000.
The Mt. Pleasant preschool (for students not attending the partnering preschools) will be either in the Central Office or at Van Allen Elementary School.
School board members meet again in regular session Monday, Sept. 16, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center. The September meeting is being scheduled one week later due to the school elections Sept. 10.