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JIM PIERCE

Age: 57

Family: Children Mike, Matt, Dave, Will and Kate

Education: Graduated from Guttenberg Community Schools, Guttenberg, IA. Attended the University of Iowa 1970-1973

Business/profession: President of Pierce Lumber Inc., Belle Plaine

Organizations: Member of the Belle Plaine Community Library Board of Directors for the past 12 years, treasurer the past 10 years; started a third, six-year term on the library board July 1, 2009.

Past school board experience: Elected to the Belle Plaine Community School District Board of Education in September 2006.

Memberships: National Hardwood Lumber Association, American Walnut Manufacturers Association, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ducks Unlimited, Whitetails Unlimited.

What is your role as a member of the school board?

 “I view myself as being a representative of all members and voters of the school district. As a representative, I feel it is my responsibility to assist the district in formulating policies that will enhance the educational opportunities of our children, provide a working environment for our staff and educators that allows and encourages the highest level of educational achievement possible for our students, and to maintain a strong financial position that provides the resources necessary for the long term, viable operation of our schools for generations to come.

What are your thoughts about where the district is now?

“Our school district has made great strides forward over the past three years. The sale of the former administration building and relocation of the superintendent’s office into Longfellow addressed concerns voters and members of this district had regarding visibility of and access to the administration.

“We have established a sharing arrangement with the HLV school district that provides for the sharing of superintendent, business manager and transportation director. The success of our program has become what is referred to in Des Moines as the ‘poster child’ for all small school districts in the state to emulate.

“One of the benchmarks of success is the status of our financial condition. The district had an ending balance in the general fund for fiscal year ending 2006 of less than $50,000, to a general fund balance for the fiscal year ending 2009 that will exceed $750,000.

 “The districts are currently sharing foreign language and vocational agriculture classes and will have in place the sharing of advanced placement math and science classes in the immediate future. The sharing possibilities will be enhanced with the addition of the ICN classrooms in the new high school. This arrangement is critical for the long term viability and success of our district and will allow Belle Plaine to maintain a school system during these difficult economic times when many other small schools are struggling to survive and remain within their small communities.

“The voters in our school district approved a bond issue for the first time in over 40 years! We have started the construction of additions to the high school and Longfellow this past month with completion scheduled for late next summer!”

What are your thoughts about the district’s future?

“With the completion of the additions to the high school and Longfellow, the district will have fewer sites to maintain, thus reducing maintenance costs; transportation of staff and children between sites will be greatly reduced; we will have ICN available onsite; become more energy efficient/reduce energy costs; we will finally meet State Fire Marshall’s codes; and we will be handicap accessible in all buildings, thus meeting the standards of Americans with Disabilities Act. Of greatest importance, the new additions provide an enhanced vehicle for our faculty and staff to perform their vocations in providing the very best educational opportunities possible for our children.”

What do you believe is the district’s current biggest challenge?

“One of the biggest challenges facing all school districts is financial stability. The State of Iowa is facing HUGE financial issues with a budget deficit anticipated to exceed $1 billion. This will put unbelievable strains on school financing, as this is the largest budget item the state has to finance. If the state cuts school funding, all school systems, including our own, have to try to adjust.

“Additionally, the closing of Benco in December could potentially cause a drop in enrollment in our district. Decreases in enrollment cause declining revenues as all school funding is derived from enrollment numbers.

“Our current financial strength will help us in the short term, but long term solutions to declining enrollment and state financial problems will constantly put pressure on the district to conserve expenditures and enhance revenue opportunities. If our schools are to remain viable, revenues and expenditures have to remain in balance, and that will be the biggest challenge our district will face in the future.”

If re-elected, what would you like to see happen in your next term?

“Completion of the new school additions is first on my list. I am excited about the potential these projects can provide for the educational opportunities of our children. I would like to see the two school districts, HLV and Belle Plaine, complete a longer term sharing agreement. I firmly believe sharing is the direction the State of Iowa will force other school districts toward, and we have already established a highly successful arrangement with HLV.

“In my opinion, it is in the best interests of both school districts to have a long term agreement that will allow stability in planning and operations, as well as promoting long term opportunities of sharing in the classrooms.

“I want to encourage the usage of the ICN to expand upon the curriculum we can offer our students, continue monitoring the educational achievement levels of our classes and work with the administration in all ways possible toward the goal of providing the excellence in educational opportunities our children deserve.”

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UPDATED August 28, 2009 2:24 PM

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