School Board Discusses Updating Board Goals

Oskaloosa Community School Board

Oskaloosa Community School Board

by Charlie Comfort

Oskaloosa, Iowa- Updating board goals was a major discussion at the most recent Oskaloosa School Board meeting in August. The board continually reviews and updates board goals on a nearly annual basis. Board goals help to guide the school board over the short term as they look to set a vision for the district. Historically, the board has identified several different categories, and then set three to four goals within each category, leading to a lot of goals to reach, and some not being attained. School board President Tom Richardson mentioned the need to have fewer goals. Vice President Shelly Herr agreed, noting “less is more” and that the more goals the district has, the less Superintendent Russ Reiter can prepare his personal goals for the district and implement them.

As for goals, Richardson suggested that the district focus on helping students who currently have an IEP (Individual Education Program), as well as getting students college ready. Student achievement and college/career readiness have long been discussed by the Oskaloosa School Board. The Iowa School Report Card for Oskaloosa reported that 28.4% of Oskaloosa seniors are college ready.

Richardson stated that his goals are based on “all those different types of things that are important to taking care of the kids of Oskaloosa.”

In regards to student goals, Herr suggested that the district make it a priority to offer high-quality student programming. She also said the board should make it a priority to expect improvement in math and reading, as well as general proficiency and showing yearling improvement. Herr suggested that students should show at least one year of growth after each school year. She also noted the need to have a way to track improvement, suggesting the need to provide students with high-quality teachers and administrators.

“How are we going to measure those sorts of things?” Herr asked the board. She also said the board should make it a priority to expect improvement in math and reading, as well as general proficiency, showing yearly improvement.

Lastly, Herr suggested the board have a better and more far reaching vision and strategic plan, noting that board member Carl Drost has historically called for a 20-year vision.

Board member Carl Drost agreed with much of what Herr said, noting that no matter what goals the board sets, it should be able to be tracked from year-to-year.

“Through it all, I think we need to have something we’ve discussed in the past that’s measurable,” Drost said.

Drost also recommended that as the board looks at student achievement, the board shouldn’t be settling for the state average. Drost said his belief that the district should strive to be more than “just average”; noting that as a businessman, he has focused on having the best business. Drost said that Osky Schools should strive to exceed the state average in student achievement soon.

“I think we need to exceed the state average sometime,” Drost said.

Ultimately, the board took no action on board goals after Board President Tom Richardson suggested waiting until after the school board elections in September to have renewed discussion on board goals and begin to set something in stone.

The board and Superintendent Reiter also discussed a staffing change in the district’s music department as a result of the death of teacher Kyle Braundmeier. A sharing plan between the Pella School District and Oskaloosa School District is currently in the works for Andrea Taylor to work in the elementary school’s music department for this school year. Taylor was Kyle Braundmeir’s long term sub as he battled cancer during the previous school year. Reiter said that Taylor would be paid by the Pella School District through their salary and benefits system and Oskaloosa would then reimburse Pella for Osky’s part of the agreement.

Reiter said that he did not know if the position will be 50/50 or 55/45 or something close to that. He said that he hopes to have a final answer soon. The sharing agreement will be a one year deal for the 2017-18 school year. Reiter expressed a desire to bring her on full time in the next school year. The board ultimately approved the sharing agreement on a 6-1 vote, with board member Amanda McGraw voting no.

The next meeting of the Oskaloosa School Board will be a special meeting on August 28th at 5:15 p.m. in the George Daily Auditorium meeting room.

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