The Ballard School Board met for its December meeting last Monday and was greeted with tidings of comfort and joy via positive reports throughout the evening.


The meeting began with a moment of recognition for Jean Saveraid, recent recipient of the “Better Boardsmanship Award” at the Iowa Association of School Boards convention in November. The award is given annually to board members who make a concerted effort to better themselves in the area of education by participating in leadership and service activities, which earn credits toward the award. Saveraid has won the award an estimated ten years in a row.


The FFA followed up Saveraid’s recognition with a group presentation by Ashley Kahler, Grace Long, Carla Edleman, Sierra Knight and Joseph Jordan, who portrayed how a recent trip to the 2017 FFA Convention in Indianapolis helped a group of young people “come together as one,” as Joseph Jordan explained. The group competed in numerous events, with the Ag team finishing in 10th place nationally and the Marketing team advancing to the semi-finals of their event. Jenny Lichty, FFA teacher, summarized the event to her students by saying, “I love this program because I get to see you all grow up in 12 days.”


The good news continued to roll in with a presentation by Katie Claeys, director of Teaching and Learning. Claeys presented the results from three years of data in the Ballard District through its MAP and FAST testing, which revealed “systematic progress and growth, especially in the area of reading.” FAST testing is based on legislation that was passed in 2012, which aims to make all students in the state of Iowa proficient readers, while MAP testing measures the progress of students in the areas of math, reading, and science. “Overall, we are so pleased to see the improvements in our MAP and FAST data over the last few years, specifically in the area of literacy. Our teachers have worked tirelessly to continue growing their own instructional practices and knowledge around making instructional decisions based on student data. We continue to challenge ourselves to find ways to meet the needs of each student in our system. We are just beginning a math curriculum review process and hope to replicate those positive results in that academic area, as well,” said Claeys.


Finally, the board rejoiced in its excellent audit rating in its monthly financial reporting. The audit was performed by Bohnsack and Frommelt and it results were shared with the board by Mia Frommelt. The rating given was the highest attainable.


In other school board news:


• Mark your calendars! The school board passed the 2018-19 academic calendar. School will start on Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018 and end on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 (pending snow days).


• The board approved the early retirement of four longtime district employees: Jean Brinkman-Longnecker, Carolyn Fair, Cheryl Pittman and Thomas Sharpnack.


• Change in board meeting dates: The board approved a motion to meet on the third Monday of the month, rather than the second Monday, beginning on Jan. 15.