NEH discusses whole grade sharing prospect

The Northeast Hamilton School Board met for a work session on Tuesday afternoon in the school INC room to discuss whole grade sharing and an update on negotiations with the Northeast Hamilton Education Association.

Board member Marlin Pruismann reported on a fact finding trip he took as a private citizen last Friday when he visited with Webster City School Superintendent Mike Sherwood in Webster City.

Summarizing his findings, Pruismann told the NEH Board that he believes Northeast Hamilton must retain a strong elementary school, establish a day care center and carry out partial day sharing as long as possible. But, he is convinced that for the financial solvency of the district, whole grade sharing needs to begin sooner rather than later.

From his research, Pruismann said he felt NEH’s best partner for whole grade sharing would be Webster City CSD because of the current relationship between the two districts and the opportunities offered to students in Hamilton County’s largest school district.

“I don’t want to go through this, again,” said Pruismann. He noted that Iowa’s school funding formula is changing the demographics of high schools throughout the state.

“Did we – how could we ever have thought that five years ago we’d be facing this?” he asked the Board.

At the January school board meeting, the option of having whole grade sharing offered to NEH students from both Webster City and South Hamilton in Jewell was discussed. Pruismann told the Board that students already have that option through open enrollment.

While the Board found the information enlightening, several Board members questioned Pruismann’s actions.

“I want to know why you felt you needed to do this one-on-one,” asked Board President Roxanne Anderson.

“That is an honest question,” replied Pruismann who said he sought answers as a private citizen, not as a board member.

“This issue hit me emotionally,” said Pruismann. “You know me, I will research information and get informed”.

He admitted his desire for getting answers was the driving force behind his independent fact-finding visit and it was motivated by the request of a district patron at January’s board meeting. The patron had asked him to research the topic and report his findings before making any decisions.

“There is a problem that you took it upon yourself when the Board hadn’t even discussed this,” said Board member Bruce Mark, who reported receiving phone calls as a result of the meeting. “There is no “i” in team”.

“When we do board business, we act as a team,” said Board member Mike Rapp.

“Call it irresponsible,” said Pruismann, who stressed its was understood that the Webster City meeting was informal and unofficial.

Board members were in agreement that any future informational or research contacts will include two or more board representatives.

Pruismann asked the Board’s permission to relay his findings to the district patron who initially requested it. It was approved.

After board protocol was reestablished, the Board discussed the issue of whole grade sharing.

During January’s school board meeting, Pruismann spoke of the opportunities available for students through whole grade sharing. He said that after his meeting with Supt. Sherwood, he is convinced that whole grade sharing needs to be established with Webster City CSD.

“The bottom line is we have an excellent grade school, we have an excellent staff,” said Pruismann. “It is up to the parents where they choose to send their students”.

Asked what the Board’s next move should be, Administrative Assistant Dennis Bahr said that a decision should be made soon.

“You can have one more year of partial day sharing, but I have serious thoughts about that,” Bahr said. “(A budget) gets read over and over, but it never comes back anything but red”.

In establishing a time line, the Board agreed that its decision should be made by April. The Board set another work session for Jan. 31 at 10 a.m. at the school. That meeting will also be open to the public.

Supt. Larry Frakes reported that school coaches will meet on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. to discuss which sports programs would participate in partial sharing next year. The results of that meeting will be reported at the Board work session on Jan. 31.

Supt. Frakes also reported that Board members will receive the initial contract proposal from the Northeast Hamilton Education Association on Thursday, Jan. 23 at 3:30 p.m. The Board will then adjourn into a closed session to discuss the matter. Board recommendations will be submitted at the February meeting.

The Board received a revised pay scale for non-certified personnel from Supt. Frakes. Action will be also be discussed at the February board meeting.

Bruce Mark noted that all paras, secretaries and teacher aides working over 30 hours receive benefits which are reflected in the pay package.