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Few area districts seek an early start waiver from the State

News

March 18th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Only two school districts from southwest Iowa, the Riverside Community School District in Oakland and the Tri-Center Community School District in Neola, sought a waiver from the Iowa Department of Education to start school early next year. The Daily NonPareil reports a total of 52 districts applied for a waiver. The Riverside Community School District asked to start Aug. 25th, while the Tri-Center Community School District asked for Aug. 18th.

Last year, the state granted 326 school districts waivers, and only two districts started after Labor Day. But officials are cracking down on the waivers this year, no longer offering near automatic acceptance. Both the Council Bluffs and Lewis Central community school districts have approved 2015-16 calendars that did not require a waiver, with both local districts choosing an Aug. 31st start date for next year.

Some area school districts are waiting to see what happens in the Iowa Legislature before deciding. Glenwood, for example, adopted a calendar beginning Aug. 24 with a back-up calendar beginning Aug. 31 should lawmakers fail to reach a compromise. Atlantic and Audubon Community Schools have chosen not to file, with each district having back-up calendars similar to Glenwood.

The Iowa Senate has advanced a bill to allow schools to select their own start date, while the Iowa House supported a plan to set the earliest start date at Aug. 23, the last day of the Iowa State Fair.

AHSTW is still “AHSTW”

News

March 18th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

After reaching an impasse on what to name a reorganized school district representing AHST and Walnut, school board members decided to stick to their original compromise: AHSTW, a five-letter acronym for Avoca, Hancock, Shelby, Tennant and Walnut that already adorns the Avoca-based district’s secondary school, which educates middle and high school students from Walnut through a grade sharing agreement.

School officials say board members from both districts unanimously accepted AHSTW as the name for a proposed reorganized school district, during a brief, joint session of the AHST and Walnut School District Boards of Education, Tuesday evening, at the Walnut Community School. The vote means the process of collecting signatures for a petition to reorganize the districts into one, can begin.

At least 400 signatures from AHST and 178 signatures from Walnut district patrons are required, in order to advance the petition to the Green Hills Area Education Agency, which would hold a public hearing and approve an election to determine whether the districts will merge.

Jesse Ulrich, the shared superintendent for both AHST and Walnut, said he expects signatures to be collected by April 1st, which would put the district on track to hold an election in September, 2015,  along with the regular school board elections. If voters approve the merger, the districts would reorganize effective July 1st, 2016.

A reorganized AHSTW district would be governed by a seven-member board made up of four members from the existing AHST district, one from the existing Walnut district and two at-large seats, which would initially be split between AHST and Walnut representatives. The school boards would choose among their own members to fill the initial seats, according to the petition.

School officials say all assets and liabilities will be shared as a part of the new district, with AHSTW having a centralized campus, located in Avoca. The goal of reorganization, according to the schools, “Is to create a financially sustainable district to be able to provide a world-class education for the students they serve.”

Questions regarding reorganization, or patrons wishing to sign the petition, may contact Jesse Ulrich, Superintendent of both AHST and Walnut, at 712-343-6364.

Iowa early News Headlines: Wed., March 18th 2015

News

March 18th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

Here is the latest Iowa news from The Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Senate has passed a bill that would ban mental health providers in Iowa from practicing therapy aimed at converting the sexual orientation of a minor. The bill would prohibit a licensed mental health provider from offering therapy that attempts to change the sexual orientation of a person under 18 years old. It now heads to the House, where it’s unclear what kind of support it will get.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit against three counties over high nitrate levels in rivers is symbolic of intensifying efforts by environmental groups to treat agriculture like other industries long held accountable for environmental pollution. The Water Works board filed its lawsuit against three counties which oversee drainage systems that remove water from farm fields. The water utility says drainage water often carries nitrates that must be removed to keep drinking water safe. County supervisors in Buena Vista, Calhoun and Sac are named because they manage 10 drainage districts which the lawsuit says should be required to obtain federal water pollution discharge permits.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Senate committee has approved a bill that would offer additional preschool funding for 4-year-olds in Iowa who have limited proficiency in English. The legislation would provide additional funding for students with limited proficiency in English who are enrolled in the statewide preschool program. Sen. Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Robins leading the bill, says it would cost the state about $800,000 in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in January from 4.3 percent in December. State officials say Iowa added 3,100 nonfarm jobs from December to January, with the state’s trade, transportation and utilities sector alone gaining 2,200.

 

Iowa Senate OKs bill to expand law on texting while driving

News

March 17th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Senate has passed a bill that would allow law enforcement officials to more easily regulate Iowa’s ban on texting while driving. The Senate voted 44-6 Tuesday to make texting while driving a primary offense instead of a secondary one. It now heads to the House for consideration.

Iowa law prohibits a person from reading, writing and sending messages on an electronic device while driving. The bill would remove a stipulation that a law enforcement official must stop a person for a different offense to enforce it.

Sen. Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa, says distracted driving kills people. Most lawmakers voted for the bill, which has Gov. Terry Branstad’s support. But some Republicans questioned whether the legislation was needed.

Clarinda man arrested on a drug charge

News

March 17th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

A Page County man was arrested early this (Tuesday) morning on a drug charge. Clarinda Police say 24-year old Quentin Russell Horter, of Clarinda, was taken into custody in a parking lot at 1107 S. 16th Street, at around 12:30-a.m.

Horter faces a misdemeanor Possession of drug paraphernalia charge. He was subsequently released on his own recognizance pending an appearance before a Page County Magistrate.

Iowa Senate committee OKs preschool funding bill

News

March 17th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A Senate committee has approved a bill that would offer additional preschool funding for 4-year-olds in Iowa who have limited proficiency in English. The Appropriations Committee voted 18-3 Tuesday for the bill to advance for consideration in the full Senate. The Senate Education Committee voted in support of the bill last month.

The legislation would provide additional funding for students with limited proficiency in English who are enrolled in the statewide preschool program. Sen. Liz Mathis, a Democrat from Robins leading the bill, says it would cost the state about $800,000 in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.

Sen. Julian Garrett, an Indianola Republican, voted against the bill after expressing concern about the cost. Mathis says additional funding will allow more resources for students with greater needs.

 

Iowa man trying to burn dead grass causes large brush fire

News

March 17th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

HONEY CREEK, Iowa (AP) — A resident who tried to burn dead grass caused a fire that spread to nearby field, requiring the efforts of four southwest Iowa fire departments to control it. Pat West, who lives northwest of Honey Creek near Interstate 29 and 152nd Street, tells the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil that he intended to burn only a small section of his backyard. Instead, strong gusts of wind carried the flames north into a nearby field, and West says his attempts to extinguish the fire himself were futile.

Four area fire departments responded to the fire at about 12:15 p.m. Monday and contained it within an hour. The National Weather Service had issued a warning reflecting the dry conditions, but West won’t be fined because Pottawattamie County wasn’t under a burn ban.

Report: Iowa jobless rate dropped to 4.2 percent in January

News

March 17th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – A new report shows Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in January from 4.3 percent in December. Iowa Workforce Development said in the report released Tuesday that the rate is one-fifth of a point below the January 2014 rate of 4.4 percent. The new Iowa figure places the state below the national jobless rate of 5.7 percent in January.

The report also shows Iowa added 3,100 nonfarm jobs from December to January, with the state’s trade, transportation and utilities sector alone gaining 2,200 jobs. Professional and business services saw an increase of 1,800 jobs across the state, but a loss of 1,300 positions in education and health services offset some employment advances.

Since January 2014, Iowa added 24,800 jobs, led by the state’s construction sector at 6,500 new positions.

Audit of western Iowa fire department finds misspent funds

News

March 17th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – An investigation by the state auditor of a western Iowa town’s volunteer fire department has identified more than $100,000 in improper spending over a three-year period. Auditor Mary Mosiman issued the report Tuesday on the investigation of the Woodbine Volunteer Fire Department that found $106,268.62 of unsupported and improper spending from Jan. 1, 2009 through March 31, 2014.

The former Woodbine city administrator requested the investigation after the city revealed concerns about the use of fuel credit cards following an internal review. According to the report, the department wrongfully spent more than $11,000 on alcohol and over $1,000 in personal fuel purchases. It identifies just more than $92,000 in unsupported disbursements.

Mosiman also noted that the department didn’t maintain documents to reflect many of its expenditures.

Audubon School Board approves track renovation bid & budget hearing dates

News

March 17th, 2015 by Ric Hanson

The Audubon Community School District’s Board of Education Monday night, approved a contract with Midwest Tennis and Track out of Denison, for the Track Renovation. Superintendent Brett Gibbs said they had the lowest of two bids, in the amount of $97,000, plus crack repair at $4.50 per lineal foot. It won’t be known how much extra that will run until they remove the rubber coating. Gibbs said MTT was the original contractor behind the track installation more than a dozen years ago.

In other business, the Audubon School Board set April 8th as the date for a Public Hearing on a Budget Amendment and Budget Plan Publication. The budget amendment hearing begins at 5:30, followed at 5:45 by the Budget Hearing to set next year’s levy. Gibbs said they have tentatively set their levy at 4-percent. He says that equates to a little more than $12 per thousand dollars valuation, which is 31-cents less than the current year. Realistically, though, Gibbs said legislation that has been introduced by the State to pick up the property tax increase, which could make the levy $11.92.

The Board he says discussed the School Board election timeline, as well. There are three members up for election this year. The deadline to file applications to run for election or re-election is at the end of July. The forms will be available the first part of July. The election is Sept. 8th.

In other business Brett Gibbs said the Board replaced the district’s At Risk Coordinator who is retiring at the end of the school year. The board agreed to hire Anne Miller to replace that person for the upcoming school year. They also transferred Rachael King from Special Ed to 6th and 7th grade Language Arts. The person who currently holds that position will instead, become an Instructional Coach.

Gibbs said their basketball coaches also switched positions. Darren Miller, who was the Assistant Girls Coach, will become the Head Girls Coach, and Kim Subbert will become the Assistant Coach, per their mutual agreement. And, Blaine Kerkhoff the long-time Wrestling Coach tendered his retirement resignation Monday night. He cited the fact his last son is graduating this year, as a reason for stepping aside. Gibbs said Kerkhoff has served the program well over the years.