Friday, March 20, 2009

Students and Staff Featured on National News

On Monday, March 23 a crew from NBC news in Chicago will be at the high school to do a story on the service project students and staff undertook to help the Brownfields whilc Dave was hospitalized. The story will run on the Nightly News with Brian Williams sometime in the next week or two.

1-2-1 Information

Thursday, March 19 staff from Sidney Schools met with Mike Meeker from Apple Computers. An agreement has been reached with Apple to offer a 1-2-1 laptop program for all students grades 5 – 12 beginning in 2009-10. The 9-12 students will have the use of their laptops 24/7, and the 5-8 students will have the use of their laptops during the school day, with the possibility of expanding use as the year progresses. As part of the program, there will be an Implementation Night for all students and parents. Put these dates on your calendar:

• Thursday, August 6: Class registration for all K-12 students at their respective buildings. Registration materials will be sent to parents prior to the registration day.

• Monday, August 10: Implementation Night for all 9-12 students and their
parents/guardians. All students and parents must attend as policies and procedures will be explained to the students and parents. An Acceptable Use
Policy must be signed before a laptop will be issued to the students. Laptops
will be issued on the 10th.

• Tuesday, August 11: Implementation Night for all 5 – 8 students and their parents/guardians. The same procedures will be followed as with the 9-12 students, except the laptops will not be issued to the students.

• More detailed information will be forthcoming, including the time of the meetings. The district will also have available 30 – 40 laptops for use in grades PK – 4. Technology on-site and additional technology that has been ordered will make this program possible. The program will be financed with federal grants and state one-cent sales tax revenue.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Technology Panel

Yesterday I was asked to serve on a panel at Heartland AEA in Des Moines. Also on the panel were Tim Geyer - Norwalk Technology Coordinator; Cathy Molumby - Valley Superintendent; and Jeff Dicks - Newell/Fonda Superintendent. We presented information to superintendents, AEA personnel, and technology coordinators about how technology has been integrated into the curriculum in our schools. It was a very enjoybable and informational session. I shared with the group the progress the district has made over the last few years leading up to the implementation of a 1-2-1
laptop program in 2009-10. The vision and talent of community members, board members, AEA personnel, and staff have made this progression possible. Newell/Fonda is a district of 410 students in northwest Iowa. They are in the first year of a 1-2-1 at their high school. Mr. Dicks shared with great enthusiasm how the 1-2-1 is positively impacting learning and teaching in their district! Sidney CSD will be sending a team of board members, teachers, and administrators to Newell/Fonda sometime this spring to learn more about how to effectively implement the 1-2-1 initiative. Its an exciting time for our students, staff, and community!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Facilities Study - Sidney, Hamburg, Farragut

The facilities study for the Hamburg, Sidney, and Farragut Boards has been completed. It will be in the hands of board members this week and released to the public on March 9. The study will be distributed electronically via email and the school webpage. Hard copies will also be available at various locations in town. The study will be a discussion item at the March 16 board meeting – copies will be available at the meeting. March 30 the facilities study, along with a high school program study, will be considered by the three boards at a meeting to be held at 7 p.m. at the Hamburg High School Auditorium.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

SIAC/Joint Board Meeting

The public is invited to attend the School Improvement Advisory Committee meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. at the high school commons. The administration and personnel from the AEA will share student achievement data, student learning goals, and preview the Powerpoint that will be shared with external visitation team at the Department of Education site visit March 24, 25, and 26.

Also, the public is invited to a joint board meeting of the Hamburg, Sidney, and Farragut boards on March 30 at 7 p.m. at the Hamburg High School Auditorium. The meeting will be facilitated by AEA Chief Officer Glen Grove. Ed Gambs will present the findings of a facilities feasibility study he conducted for the districts. Also, the secondary principals will present a curricular and co-curricular report, based on potential opportunities for students in a high school of 250 - 350 students.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Budget/Community Helpers/Inventors

Governor Culver's proposed budget for 2009-10 maintains 4% allowable growth per pupil. However, the state is going to fund only 2%. What does that mean for Sidney? It means $155.19 less in state per pupil funding based on a certified enrollment of 354.8. That is a $55,061.14 state aid shortfall that will have to be made up through accessing cash reserves or increasing the property tax levy. Sidney has adequate cash reserves to fund the shortfall next year.

The February 7 Valley News has a feature story on Sidney students and staff who are helping out custodians David and Charlene Brownfield. David is undergoing stem cell treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The treatment will take four to six weeks. Family and Consumer Science Teacher Barb Pierce has organized students and staff to perform the Brownfield's custodial duties. The Brownfield's lost wages will be donated by the district to school organizations such as Student Council, National Honor Society, and Business Leaders of America. The school organizations will turn over their donations to the Brownfields. Thank you to all of the students and staff who are helping out the Brownfields during their time of need!

Congratulations to all of the young inventors who participated in the annual Invention Convention! Talented and Gifted teacher Helen Pollock reported that over 20 elementary students participated in the convention. The following students will advance to the regional competition in Council Bluffs: Anthony Kelsay, Dustin Bohlen, Lily Matsuda, Shea Sears, Mackenzie Hulsing, Renata Valquier, Christian Slater, Michael Coates, and Blake Moreland.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The World is Getting Smaller and Smaller

Last week the Valley News featured Mrs. Larsen and her Pre-Algebra class. Mrs. Larsen taught a lesson using a Barbie doll and a bungee cord. The next day Mrs. Larsen received an email from an Alegbra teacher in New York City who saw the story online. She wanted more information from Mrs. Larsen on this lesson and other lessons she utilizes to make math more relevant to students.

Sidney/Farragut/Hamburg Whole Grade Sharing Study

In November 2008 the Sidney, Farragut, and Hamburg boards meant to discuss possible whole grade sharing opportunities. From that meeting the boards agreed to hire an external consultant to do a facilities feasibility study, and instructed the secondary principals of the three districts to study curricular and extra-curricular offerings in high schools of 250 - 350 students.

Ed Gambs was hired by the districts to do the facilities study. Mr. Gambs is a retired superintendent who served the Logan-Magnolia and Tri-Center districts. On February 9 Mr. Gambs will be visiting with each board separately. Mr. Gambs will be visiting with the Sidney Board at 4:30 p.m. at the board room, located at 2754 Knox Road. The meeting is open to the public.

The secondary principals are compiling information from area high schools such as Shenandoah, Underwood, Tri-Center, Clarinda, and Griswold. The facilities and high school program studies will be presented to the three boards at a joint meeting to be held sometime in March.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Financial Condition of Iowa Schools

Staff and Patrons:
A spreadsheet from the Department of Education was sent out on my email distribution list. The spreadsheet provides preliminary information on the total general fund expenditures, unspent balance, undesignated/unreserved fund, and total cash and investments for all Iowa school districts for fiscal year 2008 (July 1, 2007 - June 30, 2008). This financial information is compiled by the Iowa Department of Management and Budget.

Unspent balance is the difference between the total general fund expenditures and the maximum allowable expenditures or budget authority. A district that overspends (negative unspent balance) their maximum allowable expenditures is subject to review by the School Budget Review Committee (SBRC), and must submit a plan to the SBRC to work towards a positive unspent balance. Sidney CSD finished the 2008 fiscal year with a positive unspent balance of $504,973.52. The Iowa Association of School Boards recommends a minimum positive unspent balance of $1,000 per student. Sidney's 2008 certified enrollment was 385 students.

Undesignated/unreserved fund balance is essentially the amount of cash in the general fund as of June 30, 2008. Sidney CSD finished the 2008 fiscal year with a balance of $799,985.83. The Iowa Association of School Boards recommends a minimum $1 of cash in the undesignated/unreserved fund balance for every $1 of unspent balance. Sidney CSD finished fiscal year 2008 with $1.58 in cash for every $1 of unspent balance. Districts with negative undesignated/unreserved fund balances have two courses of action: 1] borrow money to meet financial obligations; and/or 2] increase the property tax levy for additional cash.

At the end of fiscal year 2008 Sidney CSD was in a fiscally stable and sound position. However, these two key financial trends warrant continual scrutiny. In recent years more and more districts have seen spending authority eroded at an accelerated rate as student enrollment decreases. Also, the economic downturn has made uncertain the level of future state funding for PK-12 education.

Feel free to email, phone, stop in, or post comments on this blog space.

Technology In-service

I will periodically be posting information concerning Sidney Community Schools.  Please post your thoughts, ideas, concerns, questions, etc... concerning any school-related topic.  Today and tomorrow the staff is involved with staff development focused on integrating technology into the curriculum.  The training has been hosted by Maryann Angeroth, Deanna Etherington, and Judy Griffin from the AEA.  The training has been very worthwhile and practical.  Staff has received training in iMovie, Web 2.0, and online database resources.  Technology training will continue to be a focus of the professional development at Sidney.  Next year each student grades 9 - 12 will have the use of a MacBook for educational purposes.  Laptops for grades 3 - 8 will be utilized in house on portable lap top carts as has been current practice.  The ratio of laptops to students in those grades will be 1 laptop for every 1.5 students.  Providing 21st Century learning tools to improve student learning, achievement, and opportunity is a priority of the Sidney Community Schools.