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Building maintenance projects are reviewed at board meeting

By JIM MAGDEFRAU, Star-Press editor

KEYSTONE – Building maintenance and other projects at Benton Community’s facilities were reviewed at the Dec. 17 meeting of the Benton Community Board of Directors last Wednesday night in Keystone.

Explaining the projects which will be funded from the general fund, the physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) and the local option sales and service tax, was Doug Embray, business manager.

Embray said the board needs to decide how to pay for a new school bus, either from the PPEL or the general fund.

Work at the Atkins center was covered at a work session, focusing on the new classroom addition. The school hopes to take air conditioners from that center and move them to the Norway center.

Keystone work includes light ballasts, cement work, gym mats and the north parking lot.

The middle/senior high school is looking at new security cameras for inside and outside, insulating pipes, and boiler work. Embray pointed out the school is in pretty good shape.

Norway’s center hopes to get the air conditioners from the Atkins project.

Van Horne’s elementary center will get lighting improvement and a new rock base for the playground.

He said there is $265,000 to $313,000 in work planned for this year.

A final look at the projects will come in February or March.

Student conduct

The board reviewed and approved several policies dealing mainly with the board of directors and elections. The second reading was also approved for the student conduct policy, with debate on “look-alike” drugs and weapons in school. Board President Brenda Schanbacher and board member Terry Harrington both pointed out the school does not have a “zero tolerance” policy.

Superintendent Gary Zittergruen said the concept for this came from the safe and drug-free schools federal program, which is in the school’s improvement plan. The concept and goal is to be drug free, and if it is to be drug free, there’s zero tolerance.

Schanbacher said she agreed with the concept, but stressed there is no “zero tolerance” board policy.

Board member Bill Boies observed, “I’d rather err on saying ‘zero’ than to say have a tolerance for it.”

High school principal James Bieschke said he viewed zero tolerance as meaning there is going to be a consequence.

The third reading of the policy is set for next month.

Other business

In other business at the board meeting last Wednesday night in Van Horne:

- In discussion about warrants, Harrington said an opportunity was missed when the school decided to put shingles on the leaking Norway gym roof. He felt it should have been a “team” decision and a chance to put a metal roof on the gym. Zittergruen said the school was within its scope of authority to put the shingles on the roof, but the board can review its policies on purchases and bidding.

- Harrington gave a report on the delegate convention at the Iowa Association of School Board convention. He was disappointed on the discussion among other school board members from throughout Iowa on legislation requiring 18-year-old students to attend school. The current law requires students 16 and under to attend school. He stressed he wants to see kids stay in school.

He said at the meeting a procedure was missed in voting and corrected. Harrington observed, “They didn’t call it breaking the law. They called it a missed procedure. Even they make mistakes. It’s treated a whole lot different than we were treated.” He was referring to the previous month’s state ombudsman’s report on the school board and the open meetings law.

- In finances, Embray said the school is under pressure in its general fund due to declining enrollment, utilities, services and the anticipated across-the-board state cut that came last Thursday. Zittergruen pointed out there were cuts also in 2003, 2004 and 2005. These were cuts in allowable growth, which schools don’t recover from.

- Presentations were given in Skills Iowa and Second Chance Reading, which will be featured in next week’s issue.

- Administrative reports were given on Project Lead the Way, Christmas programs, and professional development.

- The board approved using allowable growth funds to help special education. In the past, Benton has been able to send its unused money back to the state.

- A work session was held before the meeting. The board reviewed trajectories for school test scores, budget work, enrollment, the Instructional Support Levy, and plans for the Atkins Center addition. They hope to have bids on the work and bonds, if needed, at the March meetings. They also met with the Keystone staff.

UPDATED December 23, 2008 10:58 AM

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