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Deb Osborn

September 6, 2015
Reinbeck Courier

Dear Editor,

Just the Facts Ma'am

With the school board elections just around the corner, here's a list of decisions the current G-R School Board members have made over the last year. When deciding which candidates to cast your vote for, keep in mind some of these decisions. The future of G-R is definitely at risk. If we don't have the right individuals making timely, cost-saving decisions, the end could be near - much more quickly than the projections have forecast.

At the August 20, 2015 board meeting, the new superintendent, Jay Mathis, made a recommendation to hire an elementary evening custodian. When asked what the cost would be, he did not know. The buildings and grounds coordinator discussed the problem of being understaffed and went on to claim that a custodian is needed to babysit the Gladbrook building four hours a day. The contracts for 3 additional aides were approved. It was announced that the Gladbrook building will be used as a bus stop - paying a monitor a half hour a day plus mileage to Reinbeck. This would add the need of custodial duties for the area used, as well as the restroom facilities. The projected savings in closing a building reflected the reduction of 5.0-5.5 non certified staff. It appears that the district will not be able to maintain these reductions and cost savings that were used in making the decision to close a building.

At the July 20, 2015 meeting, the board approved a total of 6 bus routes, 3 shuttle routes, and 3 special education routes. This would be the same number of bus routes as last year. With over 50 new open enrollments out of the district, it would appear there should be a greater reduction in route miles. Where will the projected transportation savings come from, the savings that was used in the decision to close a building?

On April 16, 2015 the board approved the 28E sharing agreement for a superintendent with Eldora New Providence School District, without any cost information included or discussed. Last fall, the board would not even discuss sharing a superintendent when looking at ways to save money. This agreement presented to the board was for a split of duties with the following percentages: Gladbrook-Reinbeck district at forty percent and Eldora New Providence district at sixty percent. The cost of this agreement was not included at the time of approval, but the board approved it anyway. The cost of the agreement has still not been disclosed at public meetings. What is the true cost savings to the district for this sharing agreement?

On April 16, 2015, the board received bids for the parking lot project at the elementary. The opening of the bids was tabled until May to clarify the bids for dirt work. On May 6, 2015 the bids were opened, and there was a motion and second to accept Peterson Contractors, Inc. bid for $212,637.50. The bids were again tabled until the next meeting. At the May 21, 2015 meeting the original motion was voted on and was defeated. As it turns out, the board allowed the bid letting to happen without contracting an engineer, and this project was above the allowable threshold to be performed without an engineer.

At the June 18, 2015 board meeting, the board approved a quote from Peterson Contractors, Inc. for 25 temporary parking spaces for $8,396.25 for the elementary parking lot. In the buildings and grounds update included in the August 20, 2015 school board packet, it was reported that PCI has finished the extra parking spots at the elementary. The amount of spots seem to fewer than what Supt. Holloway had originally thought. When you have time, please take a look at the additional parking, and decide for yourself if the board cost effectively followed through on obtaining 25 new parking spots.

When looking at the cost savings incurred for principals after the building closure, under the previous three building configuration, the principal and dean of students were receiving just under $206,000 of salaries and benefits, this included a $10,000 stipend being paid to the superintendent for elementary principal duties. (This cost information was included in the May 21, 2015 board packet.) At the May 21, 2015 meeting, the board approved a 1.37% administration increase, as well as a $15,000 stipend to the current dean of students, Jason Strub, for elementary principal duties. At the June 18, 2015 meeting the board approved the new 7-12 principal, Andrew McQuillen, a contract and benefits to include administrative family insurance package, for a total two principals' package just under $219,000, this is an increase of $13,000 over last year's three principals/dean of students package. (Keep in mind, we're operating one less building and without 50 plus additional students that open enrolled out of the district.)

At the May 21, 2015 meeting the Board discussed the plans and needs for internet, phone, and cable TV services to the Gladbrook building. The Board approved to terminate internet, cable and phone services to the Gladbrook building on August 1, 2015. At the August 20, 2015 meeting there was a motion on the table to approve the consent agenda that included a $700 phone equipment and maintenance agreement with Windstream for the Gladbrook location. Even though it had been decided to terminate services as of August 1, the board failed to address timely modification in this maintenance contract. On Friday August 21, I phoned the Gladbrook building elementary (473-2875) and middle school (473-2842) and received answering machine messages. The district appears to still have active incoming phone lines to the Gladbrook building. The projected annual Gladbrook building phone expense savings reported by Superintendent Holloway to the community committee was to be $2,270.82.

A large portion of the August 21, 2015 meeting was spent rescinding the boys' soccer sharing agreement with Dike New Hartford, the agreement that was just approved at the July 21, 2015 board meeting. It was introduced that a board member (that is seeking re-election), had voted in favor of this last month and has essentially changed his mind.

Let's take a look at previous board actions that have been rescinded:

1. Forming of community committee - October 1, 2014, rescinded (motion by Gehring, second by Swanson) to reduce the detailed requirements on the make-up of the committee on October 15, 2014.

2. Approved the facilitators to come back as necessary, even though the agreed upon contract costs would be exceeded - December 18, 2014. (motion by Wyatt, second by Sieh) Original agreement approved October 1, 2014.

3. Approved sharing spring sports with Grundy Center May 21, 2015, rescinded June 18, 2015 (motion by Wyatt, second by Brockett) so that Grundy Center would host three sports and GR would host only one.

4. Sharing boys' soccer with Dike New Hartford - approved July 21, 2015, rescinded August 21, 2015. (Wyatt/Sieh)

5. In the maps provided in the community committee packet distributed last fall, there was no classroom reserved for the Reinbeck Preschool. Supt. Holloway informed the committee that he had notified the preschool that they would need to find an alternate location after the 2014-15 school year. At the March 23, 2015 board meeting, a representative from the preschool, "visited with the board about the possibility of the preschool being able to stay in the elementary for at least part of next school year. The board did not make any decision but encouraged the preschool to have alternative plans and they will discuss more at the next work session/special meeting." At the April 8, 2015 special meeting, the board terminated the classroom space provided to the Reinbeck Preschool and stated that the district doesn't feel they have space available. At the April 16, 2015 meeting, two representatives with the Reinbeck Preschool "asked if the board would consider allowing the preschool to temporarily hold classes in the high school ICN room or possibly the industrial tech building." At the May 6, 2015 board work session, the board discussed the request from the preschool to consider the temporary location. At the special board meeting immediately following the work session, on a motion by Wyatt and second by Sieh, a lease agreement for the preschool to use the current Athletic Director's office was approved. Prior to this date's work session and special meeting, this proposed classroom location had never been discussed at a public meeting, but amazingly this lease was drawn up ready to sign.

The current board members seeking re-election have a track record of being indecisive. Is it in the best interest of our G-R students for the board to make a decision, but fail to timely act on it because these board members are changing their minds from one month to the next?

The public was assured that the details would be worked out by July 1st.

As of August 21, 2015, two business days before the first day of school, rural families in the Gladbrook area were still not sure as to what time their children would be getting on and off the bus. It was reported at the August 21, 2015 meeting that the buses had done a trial run that day, and they would hope to have routes finalized soon. On the morning of the first day of school, there were students being rerouted to a different designated bus stop than the one they had signed up for.

It was reported that the Reinbeck playground equipment has been delivered and is being stored in the high school maintenance garage. At the May 21, 2015 board meeting, 3 months ago, it was approved to purchase $18,724 playground equipment with volunteers to install the equipment. Per the contract, delivery will occur 4 weeks after order is placed. The old equipment inside the fenced-in area has been removed, but the new equipment has not been installed. The elementary principal, Jason Strub, stated that it is required that the equipment be fenced in for Early Childhood Special Education children to play outside. When asked where the ECSE children would play, he stated they could play in the dirt inside the fence. From the board table I heard they could be given a cardboard box. Is this the behavior we should expect at a district school board meeting?

Signage on the GR Elementary building to include "Gladbrook" was finally installed on August 27, 2015, four days after the start of the school year. The board approved the renaming of the buildings at the May 21, 2015 meeting, again 3 months ago.

The future of G-R needs a board that believes in transparency, equal representation, accountability, and open communication. On Tuesday, September 8, 2015, between noon and 8 p.m., place your vote for Linda Reardon-Lowry for the G-R School Board, and you can trust you will receive these qualities. Mrs. Pattie Bailey, a fourth grade teacher with the G-R district, has expressed in her repetitive editorials that there is a Gladbrook write-in campaign being planned. Based on the above track record of the current board members seeking re-election, we all better hope there is!

Deb Osborn




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