New London board briefed on education issues by legislators
By MEGAN COOPER
Mt. Pleasant News
NEW LONDON — “Each district should be able to decide their start date, not the state,” said State Sen. Tom Courtney, D-Burlington, to the New London School Board during its regular meeting Monday, Nov. 18.
Courtney, along with State Sen. Rich Taylor, D-Mt. Pleasant, discussed upcoming, Legislative session topics with the board.
“More control needs to be back with the school boards. People who are in education should be making decisions — those who know what is going on. Schools shouldn’t be forced to follow the same program because each district is different, just like each person is different,” said Taylor. “It burns me that we regulate (the state) so tightly, it shouldn’t be that way. We should actually loosen up and let the schools decide what is best for them.”
Superintendent Steve McAllister brought up the number of schools days and the start date with the senators.
“If we moved away from the 180 days of school, professional development doesn’t work like it used to. We need to stay with the 180 days because the community knows the schedule, and we don’t want to reduce the days kids are in school. If anything, we want to increase that,” McAllister said to the senators. “We need good, quality instructional time.”
In response, Courtney said, “I agree and I don’t think there will be anything with the start dates. Education is key. Take home schooling for instance, there is no quality control there. Essentially there could be four, unrelated students in one home school setting. There could be mini schools all over New London. There is no supervision, no testing, and by 18, it’s too late to see what those kids need. Schools districts don’t watch,” Courtney said. “I have said there needs to be some regulation here and the school district needs to know what is going on.”
McAllister will stay in contact with the senators as the upcoming session nears.
Chris Kempker, from the Henry County Extension office, discussed a policy that needs changed at New London. “As the policy stands now, tobacco is the only thing that is banned in the smoking policy. Nicotine is technically not. There has been an increase of e-cigarettes and companies are targeting teens by flavoring them with candy or fruit, which isn’t good for teeangers,” Kempker said.
Kempker suggested to the board that they change their wording in the policy to: School district facilities and grounds, including school vehicles, are off limits for tobacco and nicotine use, including the use of look-a-likes where the original would include tobacco or nicotine. It makes it a tobacco/nicotine free school district. The policy, worded this way, would then cover e-cigarettes. Kempker encouraged the board to make the change and cited other districts, like WACO, who are in the process of adopting the policy change.
Also during the meeting, the middle/high school principal, elementary principal, athletic director and superintendent gave their reports.
“Fall sports are over now. I feel kind of bad as they are so much fun when they are going on. We are moving into winter sports, though, and some of those have already started. The bowling program with Mt. Pleasant started last Monday and basketball starts soon as well. We also had the fall play last weekend and there were 20 actors/actresses, two student painters for props and two students doing light and sound, it went well,” Chris Selby, athletic director, said during the meeting.
Todd Palmatier. elementary school principal, mentioned the outstanding attendance of parents during parent/teacher conferences. “We had 98 percent attendance. Only five parents haven’t been contacted and we are in the process of doing so.”
Clark Elementary will be hosting two winter concerts coming up in December. On Dec. 16 is the All Bands Holiday concert and on Dec. 19 is the K-5 Vocal Concert. In January there will be a writing contest and in February there will be a science fair. Palmateir said, “The science fair is pretty neat if you can attend.”
Middle/high school principal Scott Kracht mentioned during his report, “We have noticed we need to start working on behaviors. How do we solve the problem? Detentions are going down, but we are having a hard time getting students to actually serve them. What will the requirements be? This is something we are going to start focusing on now and figuring out what we can do.”
During the superintendent›s report, McAllister discussed the all-weather track that has been a topic of discussion for several years. “We are at a go on this and we need to start moving forward. Fund-raisers can be implemented and I see this as something that is possible in the foreseeable future.”
The superintendent discussed how the school would be working on security issues and he has, along with Jon Munford who is the technology coordinator, looked at various vendors to see what kind of cameras could be purchased and what other security measures could be put in place. More information will come at a later date.
Finally, McAllister told the board about the upcoming School-to-Career meeting, which will be taking place at the school on Friday, Nov. 22. Teachers from southeast Iowa, business partners and the president of Southeastern Community College will all be at the school and around 9:30 a.m. they will watch Tiger TV, which is the New London High School’s TV station, film a live broadcast. McAllister even invited KWQC from Ottumwa to the event, but has not received a response.
“This will be a way for everyone to interact with the students and ask questions. It will be good to see. I have to add that them being on episode seven now, there is a huge difference from the first one. I am proud of our students,” McAllister said.
During the meeting the board also:
Approved the resignation of Mark Chiri as middle-school baseball coach pending the district finds a suitable replacement. Otherwise Chiri would have to stay on another year.
Approved the appointment of Jess Swanson as volunteer high school basketball coach.
The New London School board will meet again Dec. 16, at 7 p.m. in the boardroom.