NEH says goodbye to Hocking

While the Northeast Hamilton School Board approved book and lunch fees in addition to milk, bread and fuel bids for FY 2014 at last Thursday’s meeting, one concern of district patrons dominated the meeting.

Shirley Nelson and Janet Greufe, representing approximately 75 petitioners, asked the Board to include a house owned by the district in the new superintendent’s compensation package or give first rental priority to a district employee. If neither option is viable, the district should repurpose or sell the home, the petition stated.

The home was either bought or donated to the district over 50 years ago, reported Nelson. Over the years, the house has been used as part of the district’s compensation package for its superintendent.

This past year, Patrick Hocking was already employed with the district when he was named superintendent. As he already owned a home, the district rented out the house to the first and only applicant.

Janet Greufe asked the district why the house had not been offered to Larry Frakes, the incoming district superintendent.

“If not the superintendent, then an NEH employee,” questioned Greufe. “If that is not possible, the petitioners want the house repurposed”.

Greufe suggested possible use for the property as a day care facility or after-school facility. If the district cannot use the property, the house should be sold, she said.

“We don’t want the school district in the landlord business,” she said.

The 1,200 square foot home is currently rented to a district patron for $550/month with utilities, lawn care and snow removal as the renter’s expense and responsibility.

Acting Board President Roxanne Anderson reported that the home had been offered to Supt. Frakes, who declined the offer. Instead, Frakes took the extra monetary compensation for a salary package of $99,000.

The lease on the home was then renewed with the current occupant.

Frakes, who was present at the meeting, told patrons it was his choice not to live in the district house.

“It is a beautiful home,” said Frakes, who voiced his preference to finding a larger, more private property – possibly an acreage in the area. He also voiced his wish to permit the current residents to stay in the home.

“I did not want to displace a family with two students currently in our district,” he said.

Greufe asked the Board to consider installing a gas meter or tank at the home in order to ensure the district was not supplementing the lessee’s rental agreement.

Moving onto agenda items, the Board approved the bread bid from Pan O Gold of Ankeny, the milk bid from Hiland Dairy, the gasohol and diesel bid from United Coop and the propane bid from Innovative Ag Services. Each bid was the lowest presented, said Supt. Hocking.

Book and lunch fees were also set for the upcoming year. On the recommendation of Supt. Hocking, the Board kept the current textbook fees but increased lunch prices.

“I hate to see it increase, but everything is going up,” said Board member Randy Greenfield who made the motion to raise next year’s lunch prices.

The new prices will be: K-5 lunch – $2.50; 6-12 – $2.65; Adult – $3.50; K-12 breakfast – $1.50; Adult breakfast – $1.75; and extra milk – $0.40.

The Board and new administration needs to establish a policy for delinquent lunch accounts, said Supt. Hocking.

In contractual business, the Board approved the resignations of Jeff Meyer, JH Student Council; Karla Isaacson, speech advisor; Sally Greenfield, HS Student Council; Leslie Keehn, Social Studies teacher/Prom sponsor; Molly Kelly, preschool teacher; Josh Vanderloop, JH boys track; and Jody Kelley, elementary school teacher.

The Board approved contracts for: Manda Thomas, secondary science teacher; Adam Vorrie, Social Studies teacher; head girls basketball coach; Chelsea Heeren, preschool, John Seiser, head football and head boys basketball coach; Kacey Pruismann, head volleyball coach; Sherri Olson, summer work help/Fire Marshall list; Amy Pruismann, yearbook sponsor, Paige Moberly and Kim Cavanagh, co-Prom sponsors; Sherry Leksell, National Honor Society; Jenny Pruismann, JH Student Council and Glenn Tjaden, Driver’s Ed.

The Board approved a procedural motion to apply for an Early Start waiver with the State of Iowa.

In other business, the Board approved the Certificate of Completion for the 2010 elementary school addition with a final payment of $186,165. The amount will be payable on or before July 14, 2013 if no other unpaid bills or liens are submitted against the completion of the project.

The Board approved the purchase of the property at 101 Royel in Blairsburg for the use as a day care facility at a cost of $25,894.

Action on the school bus barn was tabled due to discussions which are still in progress, reported Administrative Assistant Dennis Bahr.

In the Board Professional Development session before the regular meeting, the NEH discussed the district’s participation in a newly formed Regional Business Office. The partnership with Webster City CSD will provide NEH with staff to assist in district business operation.Then later at the regular meeting, the Board approved a check signer for board bills and payroll bills. Cathi Hildebrand was appointed as the temporary NEH Board Secretary until a new one could be appointed. Hildebrand then took the Oath of Office.

Supt. Hocking distributed the NEH student handbooks for review. Hocking noted that several changes were made to bring current policy into alignment with Webster City CSD policy.

Supt. Hocking reported that registration dates will be Tuesday, Aug. 13 from 4 – 8 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 14 from 3 – 7 p.m. and Thursday, Aug. 15 from 2 – 6 p.m. In addition, the registration will be held in conjunction with the iPad roll-out which last year resulted in 100 percent parent/student participation.

Supt. Hocking reported that the Board will need to consider updating the elementary Math curriculum soon as well as elementary science and health curriculum.

Summer office hours for the district will be Monday – Thursday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m., reported Supt. Hocking. While Tuesday, June 18 will be the last day for Hocking and Business Manager Susie Fiscus, Hocking noted that Amy Pruismann will be available in the school office during those business


In administrative reports, Dennis Bahr gave an overview of a successful year at NEH. He noted highlights included the hiring of Susie Fiscus as business manager, a successful first year for the iPad initiative, a successful first year Partial Day Sharing with Webster City and the success of Cross Country runner Stephen Smith who placed first is several Lynx meets.

Other highlights Bahr cited included the district refinancing its elementary school bonds in order to pay off the building ten years earlier with a savings to the district taxpayer of $460,000. The district was also able to lower property taxes and income surtaxes for district patrons.

Bahr also mentioned the purchase and development of a day care property.

In losing Supt. Hocking, who resigned last month to take the lead position at Lisbon Community Schools, Bahr told the Board that the district would be losing 19 years of district experience. He asked the Board and the district patrons to remember that the new superintendent will be bringing a new background of experiences to the table.

Bahr also encouraged the Board to pro-actively plan for the future and to address issues “when the pressure is low”.

“It has been a whale of a good year for people,” concluded Bahr.

In his final NEH School Board meeting, Supt. Hocking thanked the Board, staff, community and students for 19 great years at NEH.

“I want to thank you for your support over the years,” said Hocking.

In her final Board meeting, Business Manager Susie Fiscus thanked the district for the opportunity to serve.

“I enjoyed my short year here,” said Fiscus, who will be moving to Connecticut. “But new adventures are calling”.

After the Board entered into a Closed Session, it reconvened and approved a 3.20 percent salary increase for classified staff for the 2013-2014 school year, an hourly pay increase to $13/hour for school secretary Amy Pruismann and a $30,000 annual salary to Head Custodian Jill Babington.

The meeting adjourned at 8:38 p.m.