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The first task I took on as the interim superintendent of the Highland Community School District was to organize a goal-setting session with the Board of Education in determining priorities for the year.
I would like to revisit those goals and give an update to each as well as make suggestions as to what those goals might look like in 2018-2019.
There is no question that the district has had some issues in recent years that it has had to work through. This includes the closing of a building within one of its communities.
I believe the district has taken positive steps to try to address some of these issues. We are a longways from being there. We have reached out to our communities in many ways. We held homecoming celebrations in both Riverside and Ainsworth and coordinated the dress-up days with the communities.
I have met with both mayors from Ainsworth and Riverside. We have worked with the local media to provide monthly updates.
I really appreciate the support that we have received from the local media to highlight activities at Highland Community School District. The opportunity to write a monthly article is valued, and we have expanded to include guest articles by students.
I have advocated and pushed staff and administration to be responsive to email requests or to return phone calls of parents within 24 hours.
We have worked hard as a district this year to be sure that the website is maintained and updated and that parents are receiving information in a timely fashion.
This turned into being even more of a challenge this year due to the limited funding from the state and a large drop in enrollment. The district has been close to the negative spending threshold in recent years, and my goal was to increase the general fund balance for the end of the year.
The good news is that I believe the district will finish the year ahead of where it has been in the past. My goal is $1 million unspent, but I am unsure if we will get there yet and won’t know until September.
We will be approving a budget for next year that drops our asking by $1 per thousand of assessed value. We have made some significant upgrades to facilities due to the refinancing of a bond and riverboat grants.
A very successful effort on this goal.
One of the concerns over being a small, rural school district is course offerings. We want to expand opportunities for students at the same time that staffing has to be limited or even reduced slightly.
We have accomplished this.
We have expanded opportunities by beginning a new agriculture education program and FFA club. We had three courses offered this year and will expand to another high school course and middle school exploratory next year.
We also started a job exploratory credit program for high school seniors. We shifted the focus of our family and consumer science program from general courses to a culinary arts program.
Probably the most exciting thing for the district that is being provided thanks to a Washington County Riverboat Foundation grant, is the implementation of aerospace technology advance career coursework.
We will be the first district in the state of Iowa to offer this coursework. We have two teachers traveling to Auburn University this summer to begin the training to offer the first course.
We are very proud of the fact that our elementary ranks as one of the top elementary buildings in the state on the Iowa Report Card. Our middle schools and high schools score as high or better than area middle schools and high schools.
I have encouraged our principals to raise the bar. We are looking at increasing graduation requirements. We are also looking to increase the number of students taking upper-level coursework.
What we are finding is that our students do really well on the basic skills, but there is a drop off when it comes to the ACT’s ranks. We will be adding a collegiate-level music course as well.
We need to bridge this gap with more challenging curriculums and coursework. We will continue to work on district communication and marketing.
I have enjoyed my brief tenure in the Highland Community School District. It is a fantastic district with wonderful opportunities for our students.