Collins-Maxwell board has conversation about planning for the future

Marlys BarkerTri-County
Times Editor

Collins-Maxwell school board members held their first regular meeting Monday with new superintendent Ottie Maxey at the helm.

Maxey, superintendent of the Ballard School District, will focus 20 percent of his time helping to lead the Collins-Maxwell district, under an operational sharing agreement that the board approved at its previous meeting.

Also on hand at Monday’s meeting was Harry Heiligenthal, leadership development director for the Iowa Association of School Boards, who walked the board through a nearly hour-long discussion about where the district goes from here.

Just prior to Heiligenthal’s conversation with the board, Wes Stover commented during the public forum time that he is concerned about the board establishing a five-year, 10-year, 15-year plan … ”like any good business should have.” Stover is a teacher and parent in the district and said he’s concerned about transparency and about hearing lots of rumors about what lies ahead, especially in the area of athletic sharing with Baxter.

“You guys had the surprise vote and dropped the bomb on everybody that we’re not (whole grade) sharing with Baxter,” he said. “We took three years (to look into things with Baxter),” he continued.

“As you know, it does look like (according to what Baxter has said they will do after Collins-Maxwell rejected WGS) the sports sharing is dead (between the two districts). And that’s sad,” Stover said, commenting on the success of both summer sports teams. “Doesn’t seem there’s been anything done to fix the relationship at all … A lot of people want to blame this on Baxter, but you can only hit a dog so many times before it bites,” he said.

Stover commented that he’s not even sure if Collins-Maxwell and Baxter have enough boys to field a football team in the coming year, and that’s a concern. He said parents of children who are out for sports are concerned about their kids’ options, and whether or not they’ll be able to open enroll past the deadline now if Baxter goes a different direction. They’re also concerned, he said, about being penalized and having to sit out for 90 days if they do open enroll to a school that will give them a better sports situation.

“These are things you guys don’t think about … it’s a mess,” Stover said.

No one on the board directly answered Stover’s concerns, but Heiligenthal’s conversation with the board included some key areas that it must look ahead to, one of which is athletics and activities.

Other areas for which the board needs to establish plans are technology/student learning, finances, facilities and community connections.

Board members feel that under interim superintendent Dr. Tom Lane’s direction, they’ve begun a good five-year plan in finances. They also believe that by sharing the director of teaching position with Ballard, held by Katie Claeys, and with the adoption of some new curriculum materials, they’re making strides in the area of technology/student learning.

All five of the areas, it was agreed, are connected, and each needs to be worked on while keeping the other areas in mind.

Reading intervention success

District instructional coach Jessica Swaab was on hand Monday to share some encouraging information about a second-grade class-wide intervention activity that showed results at the end of the recent school year.

Swaab, who was assisted by Heartland AEA professionals Mary Jo Brown and Kathy Siebold, worked with second-grade teachers in the Collins-Maxwell district to do a reading intervention at the end of the school year, one that actually ended on the last full day of school.

The 10-day intervention required Swaab to get baseline reading data on each second-grader first. Then, for 10 days, the students did a 15-minute fast-paced reading activity, where they partnered up to read passages, sometimes alternating words as they read aloud, sometimes alternating sentences and also listening to their teacher read and reading with their teacher.

“The intervention was finished on the last Friday of the school year, and on the following Monday (the last full day of school), we pulled all students in to check their growth,” she said.

Overall, the second-graders had grown by 269 words per minute, 7.75 words per student. Other impressive outcomes included that 33 students out of 35 (94 percent) maintained or gained words, with the greatest gain by an individual student being 27 words. Forty-three percent of the students raised their baseline score by 10 words or more.

Kids got excited about the intervention activity, and teachers were impressed enough that they’d like to start intervention activities at the beginning of the upcoming school year, Swaab said.

Security system purchased

The Collins-Maxwell board approved the purchase of a security system Monday, which will be installed and ready at the school either by or not long after the first day of school.

Security will be installed at both schools, in Collins and Maxwell. In Maxwell, there will be devices for both the secretary and principal to be able to buzz in students or visitors once the doors are locked. Teachers will have cards for the system. Total cost of the system comes to $59,687.