Following Up …

Well, traffic on this site increased exponentially yesterday … the beauty of social media I guess! 🙂  Thought it might be a good idea to follow-up with a brief post today.  Thanks to everyone who read the unpublished letter to the editor (still haven’t heard from the Des Moines Register and still not optimistic it will be published) … and for those who offered comment.

In the letter I suggested the system of checks and balances built into a democracy either are, or are becoming, out-of-whack in Iowa government.  Please allow me to expound just a bit more … the governor’s line-item veto of one-time funding actually is part of the system of checks and balances – he certainly did not exceed his legal authority in doing what he did.  However, another part of the system of checks and balances is the ability of the legislature to override a gubernatorial veto.  I believe the governor has such a “tight grip” on legislators from his political party that there is absolutely no way the required 2/3 of both the House and Senate “sign-on” for a special session to override the veto – I genuinely hope I’m wrong on this.  Again, this is my opinion – but evidence seems to support the governor having almost a stranglehold on Republican legislators – that to me is where this goes completely off the rails.  What happened to the principle of politicians voting their own belief system regardless of the position of the executive branch or other outside influences?  Perhaps I’m too simple minded … but I want our representative government officials to study, learn, and formulate positions on data and what they believe to be right – not feel,  or dare I say, be bullied by the governor to hold the party line.  On a slight tangent – the irony of having bullying legislation a cornerstone of the governor’s legislative platform this past session just absolutely blows me away.

As long as I’m on a roll here … it also troubles me the governor indicated a concern for using one-time money for ongoing expenses – and I would agree with that basic economic principle.  However, the legislature clearly stated the one-time money could only be used for non-recurring expenses.  I fully understand this is a slippery slope – but at Interstate 35 we had already began a list of expenses that would be covered through the one-time money and meet the criteria set forth in the legislative compromise – including purchasing new math materials for grades 6-12.  We will now have to find the money to cover this purchase and other things on the list – but the reality is something has to give.  Further, the governor was irritated the legislature did not agree to a two-year funding bill for schools – so the solution to his displeasure with the legislature is to lessen the total money for fiscal year 16?  How exactly does that help our kids?  It just seems to me the priority was teaching the legislature a lesson at the expense of our current students.  Again, perhaps I’m too simple minded … but if that was the reason then it was just plain wrong – period.

Finally, it troubles me a great deal that the governor is not a product of public schools.  Please don’t misinterpret that statement as condemnation of private schools – it isn’t.  Although a veteran of public schools for 36+ years, I defend the right of parents to choose to educate their kids in private schools – I just don’t support tax dollars being used to do so.  It just causes me concern when the governor expounds the things he has done, a champion of public education of sorts, when his personal track record is almost exclusively private schools.  Again, I believe this is/was the governor’s right to choose private schools.  I also believe the governor deeply loves the state of Iowa and has provided service over the years few could match.  I just believe recent actions – and perhaps patterns – are concerning, especially for all the kids in public schools in Iowa now and into the future.  Our kids deserve better.

Okay, I’m done for today.


Letter to the Editor

Greetings everyone,

Things got “a bit busy” at the end of the year so I took a hiatus from posting to this blog.  I’ll attempt to do better in regularly updating …

As you’re likely aware, the 2015 legislative session in Iowa was long, contentious … and more than a little frustrating.  To put things in perspective, schools were required by law to certify their budgets for FY 16 (officially began on July 1, 2015) no later than April 15, 2015 … yet the legislature did not finish their work and let us know what revenue we would have until June.  To make a challenging situation even more challenging, last week the governor used his line item veto to strike out one-time funding for schools agreed to by both the House (Republican majority) and the Senate (Democratic majority).  For Interstate 35 Community School District, this means receiving $99,858 less than the legislature agreed to provide.

I’ve now been in education as a teacher, coach, principal, professor, and superintendent for 36+ years – and this is the most frustrating situation I’ve dealt with over these years.  Education is sometimes vilified as always wanting more money – of course we want more money as additional funding allows us to do more for our students – and the only thing important in schools is what we’re doing for our kids.  I do not and will not apologize for wanting what is best for our kids.

In any case, I am also concerned with the direction our great state seems to be heading regarding leadership; consequently I authored a letter to the editor and sent it to the Des Moines Register earlier this week.  Because it is much longer than their recommended 200 words, I’m not optimistic it will be published so I’m going to share it here.  Please understand these are my thoughts and beliefs and I’m not representing Interstate 35 Community School District directly with my comments.  You can agree or disagree – that’s the beauty of a democracy – but take some time to reflect not only on the words but also on where we seem to be heading as a state.  To me the only word that keeps coming up is … troubling.


When Iowa Became a Kingdom

I have now been involved in education as a teacher, coach, principal, college professor, and superintendent for 35+ years.  I have never been more disenchanted with the politics involved in educating our children.  Being a former government teacher, I always taught the legislative branch of a democracy was responsible for the making of laws; the executive branch was responsible for implementation of the laws – basically American Government 101.  A system of checks and balances was built into the system to keep one branch of government from becoming too powerful.   Perhaps I’ve been wrong all these years as it somehow appears to me Iowa has moved away from the basic tenets of democracy and actually moved toward a kingdom/monarchy.

Why would an educated, experienced veteran of education make such a statement?  Fair question – allow me to explain.  Governor Branstad recently used the line item veto to remove one-time funding for public schools of Iowa.   In his press release he basically lauded his efforts to increase “targeted growth in funding for initiatives,” as well as used the rhetoric of “My administration’s commitment to giving Iowa students a world-class education.”  All of this is just fine and dandy – and yes targeted funding through the Teacher Leadership and Compensation system has brought additional funding to the schools, albeit targeted (code word for lots of strings attached).  However, my current school district is in the last group of schools to apply for TLC funding – so we have not yet seen a dime of this targeted funding so proudly exclaimed by the governor.  Hopefully we will have our plan approved for year three – but the additional funding available for schools in years one and two of TLC implementation is lost for us and will never be recovered.  Is a student in my district worth less than a student in another district?  The answer is no – but in real dollars from the state the answer sadly is yes.

Let me take this a step further – the governor chided the legislature for not following the law in setting state supplemental assistance in a timely manner.  This is the same governor that I sat and listened to at an event the year before proudly proclaim they would not be setting state supplementary assistance for the following year even though that is what the law required.   Hmmm … one can’t have it both ways sir.

Even further into this thought process – I regularly conversed with legislators throughout the 2015 session.  I don’t remember the exact number but at least three or four legislators told me it was circulated the governor would not sign anything greater than his initial proposal of 1.25%.  Either that came from the governor or his office/staff – doesn’t really matter as it was taken as gospel by these legislators.  In any case, the Republican controlled House and the Democratic controlled Senate battled it out the entire session (and into overtime after the official session was to end) over funding for schools; the legislative process was basically crippled for all areas.  Eventually the legislative process worked and a compromise was reached – by nature a compromise doesn’t make anyone overly happy but is something done in good faith and can be lived with.  All the while the legislative session was unfolding (perhaps unraveling would be more apropos), those of us in the trenches in schools were left not having a clue about a budget for FY 16 that had to be certified by law by April 15.  By the way, those of us in the trenches chose to follow the law … seems like the right thing to do.

Although 150 legislators negotiated in good faith in arriving at the compromise, our governor opted to ignore their work and do what he wanted to do from the start – set funding at 1.25%.  He then further chastised the legislature for not setting spending for schools for FY 17 at the level he initially proposed.  In my estimation he basically threw the legislature under the bus for political cover and extolled all the things he and his administration have done for education.

I’m quite sure our founding fathers did not envision this type of behavior for our democracy – but the signs are here that Iowa, at least in public education, is operating as a kingdom where the king does what he wants.  You are certainly welcome to disagree with my assertions – but perhaps we could better fund things in this great state, including public education, if we just disbanded the legislative branch and let the governor continue operating with apparently no restrictions on his power.  Of course that is the silliest idea ever, but look at the data of what is happening … more than a little frustrating and alarming in my estimation.

Partisan politics is the death knell of civility in public service – and from my perspective it appears the king of partisanship is in the governor’s office.  I’m quite sure the founding fathers did not envision the chief executive of the state holding his party’s legislators hostage and not allowing them to think for themselves.   We have watched partisanship cripple action at the federal level and now we’re having the same thing happening in Iowa.  We are better than that … and I would ask the governor and legislators to put their political party in the background and figure a way to walk across the aisle in a civil manner and work together – for this great state and for our kids.

I would in no way minimize the contributions Governor Branstad has made to the state of Iowa over his many years of service.  However, in my estimation, he is wrong and has crossed way over the line this past legislative session.   We – especially our students – deserve better than we’re getting.   So no one believes my comments are political in nature – I register based on which primary or caucus I want to participate in – and have never voted a straight party ticket in my life.  My comments are from a genuine concern for the kids in our public schools – now and into the future.


Kevin W. Fiene, Ed. D.

Current Superintendent in Iowa

School Funding

Sorry … been awhile since posting but life just seems hectic!  Each week I receive an update from a consortium of Iowa education associations.  This week’s really jumped out at me so I’ve simply copied and pasted the entire article … see below.

Education Fact of the Week: Revenues Known: Now is the Time

Revenue Estimating Conference: 
The Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met on March 19, 2015 and updated the estimated state general fund revenue amounts for FY 2015 and FY 2016 (the current and next fiscal year). Overall, they made the following revisions from the December estimates:

  • Lowered the FY 2015 estimate by $89.7 million compared to the December estimate. The net change is an increase of $9.3 million when considering tax law changes made earlier in the Session. The new FY 2015 estimate is an increase of $278.4 million (4.3%) compared to actual FY 2014 general fund revenues.
  • Lowered the FY 2016 estimate by 38.3 million for economic reasons, but this amount was offset by federal tax coupling which increased the December estimate by $19.2 million for a net change to state revenues of $19.1 million. The new FY 2016 estimate represents an increase of $408.1 million (6.0%) compared to the revised FY 2015 estimate.
  • Members of the REC shared their rationale for the slight revisions:
    • Holly Lyons, Legislative Services Agency: sees solid USA and Iowa economic growth, slowing slightly at the national level but no cause for alarm. The SF 126 revenue coupling with federal law changes is the only reason for the reduction in the LSA numbers.
    • David Underwood, Business consultant, public member: Similar comments to last December. Farm income is down about 30%, but that’s not tremendously significant to the state individual income tax number. Good indicators in the economy overall buoy up our Iowa economy.
    • Dave Roederer, Department of Management (Governor’s appointee): Watching the global economy, excess oil reserves, will lower input costs for agriculture (price of fertilizer for example), but that takes a while. Didn’t factor in global oil price changes in Governor’s estimate. I concur with my colleagues on their assessment of Iowa’s growth. Most fundamentals are in pretty good shape.

What Does this Mean?
Since the March estimate for FY 2016 is lower than the December estimate, legislators must use the March number when working on FY 2016 budgets. Although the estimate did decrease, it was not a significant reduction compared to the $7.19 billion total.

Now that the REC has set their estimate, it is likely that budget targets will be released soon. When the state cost per pupil is set in the prior legislative session, as Iowa law dictates, those budget targets are set already knowing the school aid funding level. Since the timing for setting school aid has been delayed, it is even more critical for legislators to keep school aid funding a priority as they begin their budget discussions.

Some legislators have communicated with constituents about existing commitments, including:

  • The governor’s budget accounted for the federal coupling and was $172.9 ($173.0) million below the legal 99% spending authority. In other words, the governor has money in his budget for an additional 4.9% to his current 1.25% SSA for a total of 6.15% for FY 2015-2016 which is more than the education coalition asked for Iowa’s school children.
  • $50 million for teacher leadership and compensation grants;
  • Another $50 million within the formula to continue participation in those districts which began TLC July 1, 2014;
  • Additional funds for Medicaid since the federal match rate has changed due to Iowa’s improved economic condition; and
  • $133.7 million for the continued phase in of commercial/industrial property tax relief. (page 19, LSA analysis of Governor’s Budget Recommendation)

State and federal laws impose various deadlines on school districts involving budgeting, bargaining and staffing. Schools must follow the law and thoughtfully plan. Last week’s Education Facts showed the many deadlines imposed. April 15 is the budget certification deadline, now less than one month away.

Now is the Time:
The Education Coalition calls on our Legislature and Governor to set at least a 4% growth rate per student for the 2015-2016 school year, and set the 2016-2017 rate at 6%.

Schools need sufficient notice to anticipate revenue, make timely staffing decisions, and thoughtfully plan to invest the funds wisely for student learning. The future of Iowa’s students and our state’s continued success depend on a solid investment in the priority of public education.
Brought to you by the joint efforts of Iowa Association of School Boards, School Administrators of Iowa, Iowa Area Education Agencies, Iowa State Education Association, the Rural Schools Advocates of Iowa, and the Urban Education Network of Iowa in support of adequate and timely school funding.

ISP – Condensed Version

This post will likely only make sense if you read the previous one (Instructional Support Program – scroll down and you’ll find it).  A very astute district patron suggested after reading the original post, while although complimentary on substance and information, suggested making it shorter with bullet points about what’s really important about the Instructional Support Program (ISP) … here is my attempt at doing so.

  • State has not set the amount of funding for the General Fund – also known as the Operating Fund and “Teaching and Learning Fund” … so we’re having to build a budget and have it certified by April 15, 2015 without facts on revenues
  • The state sets funding for the General Fund through a school finance formula – there is absolutely no local control in this
  • The only locally controlled option to supplement the General Fund is a program called the Instructional Support Program
  • On January 26, 2015, the I-35 Board approved a resolution to consider the ISP
  • I-35 is higher than the state average in total tax levy % going for non-instructional things
  • I-35 is lower than the state average in total tax levy % going for instructional things
  • The Instructional Support Program would help reverse these percentages and put more money toward teaching and learning … without increasing the overall tax rate for I-35 patrons
  • We will reduce levies in other funds (primarily Management Fund) and use those levies to support the Instructional Support Program
  • A simple analogy may help in understanding
    • Our total school tax levy constitutes a pie.
    • We are not going to increase the overall size of the pie, but rather just cut the pieces in different sizes.
  • Our intent with the ISP is to maintain programs and reasonable class sizes, increase technology, and update curricular materials
  • Next step in the process is a Public Hearing:
    • Monday, February 16, 2015
    • 6:30 pm
    • High school library
  • After the Public Hearing, the Board will decide to either move forward with the Instructional Support Program or not
  • This is critically important to our district as there isn’t the time to pursue the voter-approved ISP (due to legal timelines for special school elections) and have the funding available for the 2015-2016 school year

That’s about as condensed as I can make it … for more details read the longer version.  If you have any questions please contact me at … this is very important stuff for the future of the Interstate 35 Community School District.

Instructional Support Program

Greetings everyone!

I want to walk everyone through what we’re attempting to do regarding school finance at Interstate 35 CSD.  School finance is rather confusing – sometimes even for those of us that work with it every day!  I will do my best to make this straightforward – if you have any questions please, please, please contact me (

On January 26, 2015, the I-35 Board of Directors approved a Resolution to Consider Participation in the Instructional Support Program and to Schedule a Public Hearing.  Obviously this language was prepared by our school attorney as there are specific timelines and requirements in the law when doing this.  In the spirit of transparency, it is important our constituents know exactly what this very legalistic-sounding Board action means.  Also, the Instructional Support Program is also referred to as the Instructional Support Levy.

The Instructional Support Program is an optional program that allows a local district to decide to supplement revenue for the school’s General Fund.  As hopefully you read in an earlier blog post (if not, scroll down and you’ll find additional information on school finance), the General Fund (also known as Operating Fund) is the largest part of a school’s budget.  It is the fund where we have to pay energy costs, transportation costs, salaries, benefits, curricular materials, professional development, etc..  I regularly refer to the General Fund as the “Teaching and Learning Fund” as that is its primary purpose.  There are multiple other funds in school but the important thing to remember is unlike how most of us operate in our personal lives, a school cannot legally shift money from one fund to another fund.  For instance, the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) can only be used on infrastructure, purchasing buses, and some technology; it cannot legally be used to pay salaries, benefits, diesel costs, repairs to buses, etc.

Further, what a school gets for revenue in the General Fund is dictated by the school finance formula – a reasonably complex formula that when broken down to its simplest form looks like this:  # of students x $ per pupil spending allotment (set by the Iowa Legislature) = Total General Fund money. Again this is an oversimplification but the general formula described is accurate.  What’s the point you may ask – the point is local schools have almost no local control on funding for the General Fund as everything is dictated by the number of students a district has and the amount of money per pupil that is approved by the Iowa Legislature.

One of the only ways a local district (local control – not state control) can supplement revenue to the General Fund is through the Instructional Support Program (ISP).  There are two ways for a local district to approve the ISP: 1) Board-approved for a maximum of five years, or 2) voter-approved for a maximum of 10 years. Further, the maximum ISP by law is equal to 10% of the total Operating Fund; it can be funded through local property tax or through a combination of property tax and income surtax.  For additional information on the Instructional Support Program, go to the I-35 website front page and there is a PDF document that goes into more detail (

It is also interesting to note that 329 out of 338 districts in Iowa have some form of the ISL (97%) in FY 2015 – Interstate 35 is one of the nine schools without the ISP.  Again in simple, straightforward language – districts with an ISP have more money to spend on teaching and learning per student than we do at Interstate 35.

Normally I would be an advocate for the voter-approved Instructional Support Program – but in our current situation I believe the Board-approved ISP is a better option.  First, the Iowa Legislature has not set funding for next year … and the numbers being tossed around will be inadequate to maintain and grow programs. Second, if we were to pursue the voter-approved ISP, if approved the ISP would not be included in the 2015-2016 budget due to required timelines for special school elections.  Consequently to meet the immediate needs (2015-2016) I recommended pursuing the Board-approved ISP.

Here is perhaps the most critical information for patrons to know and understandwe are pursuing the Instructional Support Program but will not be raising our overall school tax levy rate.  Here is a bit more data to illustrate exactly what we are planning. 

  • Percentage of total school levies used for Operating Fund
    • Interstate 35 CSD – 66%
    • State average – 79%
  • Percentage of total school levies used for Non-Operating Funds
    • Interstate 35 CSD – 34%
    • State average – 21%

What this tells us is we’re generating less on teaching and learning (Operating Fund) than the state average and more than the state average for non-teaching and learning (non-operating funds) – schools are about teaching and learning so we need to adjust our levies accordingly.  To fund the Instructional Support Program we plan to lower the levy rate in the Management Fund – and perhaps slightly lower other non-operating fund levies – and move that levy to the ISP – which will directly fund teaching and learning.  We anticipate ISP money would help maintain reasonable class sizes, increase available technology, and update curricular materials.

Perhaps an analogy would be helpful.  Let’s consider all school levies constitute a pie.  We are NOT changing the overall size of the pie – we are just changing the size of the slices.  As previously stated, the total tax levy will not increase but we will be able to generate additional money for teaching and learning through the Instructional Support Program.

What happens next?  All of these steps follow the law:

  • Public Hearing at 6:30 pm on Monday, February 16, 2015, in the high school library
  • After the Public Hearing the Board will decide whether to approve a Resolution to Participate in the Instructional Support Program (more attorney language) … and if so the funding stream (property tax or combination of property tax and income surtax).

District patrons are encouraged to attend the Public Hearing.

In my estimation and professional opinion, approval of the Instructional Support Program is absolutely critical for the Interstate 35 Community School District.  Please let me know if you have any questions, thanks!

School Funding

Earlier this year I blogged two times about school finance – not the most exciting topic but obviously important nonetheless.  Today let’s talk a bit further about what Governor Branstad is proposing for 2015-2016 school funding.  In no particular order here are the facts:

  • Iowa law mandates the Iowa Legislature set the amount of school funding for the following year within 30 days after the Governor presents his/her budget.  This law was enacted to make sure schools had adequate time to develop reasonable budgets … and make any necessary adjustments.
  • For whatever reason, the 2014 Iowa Legislature opted to not follow the law and refused to set school funding for 2015-2016 … BTW, this is a regular occurrence – the irony of a legislative body with the primary function of making laws but choosing to just ignore a law instead of changing it just blows my mind … unbelievable in my mind … What happens to us non-legislators if we blatantly choose to break a law?
  • School budgets must be certified in April for the following year … most preparation of these budgets starts in January
  • Since we don’t know what our revenue per student will be for 2015-2016 it is “challenging” to develop a realistic budget
  • We also start negotiations with certified and classified staff about this time of the year – and again have no idea what our revenue will be for next year
  • Although a major oversimplification, funding for the General Fund (see other posts on School Finance) is basically a simple math equation:  # of students x funding per pupil = total General Fund revenue
  • Did you know …
    • Iowa ranks 35th in the nation in per pupil funding … we are $1,612 below the national average in per pupil funding
    • Iowa ranks 9th in the nation in reserve funds on hand (cash in the bank)
    • Iowa has the 12th highest growth rate in gross domestic product
    • Iowa ranks 9th in growth of per capita personal income nationwide?
  • When we begin the budgeting process, we estimate a 3-3.5% increase in fixed costs, e.g., fuel costs, energy costs, salary/benefit costs, etc.

Okay, I could go on quite some time with factual data … so what’s the point?  The point is Governor Branstad recently recommended a 1.25% increase in school funding per pupil for next year, and 2.45% for the following year.  One of the reasons given is these are tough times and we need to tighten our belt (a paraphrase).  Hmm … none of the factual data supports that assertion.

It gets “better” … we attended a legislative forum last night and were told that over the past 12 years schools in Iowa have averaged over a 4.5+% average growth in funding each year.  This would be an example of what I call “slippery math” … if you take the total amount of money given to schools and divide by the number of years then it would be a true statement.  What is SO INTENTIONALLY MISLEADING about the statement however is the figure includes when two years ago the state reduced property taxes and replaced a portion of them with state aid – they included this in their figures even though it was NOT new money, the source of the money was just different.  They also included what is known as categorical funding – categorical funding can only be used for things within specific “categories” … it CANNOT be used for other general fund purposes like buying books, technology, paying utility bills, etc.  The reality is that Iowa schools have received closer to an average 2% yearly increase over the past 12 years (I’m working on the exact number).  Frankly I do not know of any schools who haven’t cut any discretionary programs et al. over the years – contrary to what some legislators believe because they’re looking at flawed information, there is no low hanging fruit left within schools to magically pluck and reduce costs because we’ve been dealing with this “mess” for a long time.

We profess to put education in Iowa as a major priority – the highest priority is verbiage often used.  However, funding has not supported that notion.  I can’t speak for others, but I fully understand the demands of the state budget and also believe roads/bridges are important, public safety is important, etc. … and I also understand and support that budgets must be balanced.  Consequently it just comes down to priorities … I ask you, what is more important than the education of our children?

The bottom line is the only way we as a school can continue to balance our budget (required by law – and we choose to follow the law) is to cut programs and cut staff.  The saddest thing when this happens – and it will happen in my opinion with what the Governor is attempting to do – is we lessen opportunities for our kids, our students.

You may agree or disagree with me – that’s the beauty of this country.  If you agree with the case I’ve presented, please take time to contact your state legislator and/or the Governor’s office and tell them to adequately fund public education as it is WAY TOO IMPORTANT TO SIT OUT ON THE SIDELINES.  If you need addresses, emails, or phone numbers, shoot me an email at kfiene@i-35, and I’ll provide you with the information you need.

Geez …

Thought it might be appropriate to review how we go about making decisions regarding whether the school is on time, starting late, getting out early, or canceled … truthfully not one my favorite job responsibilities!

First, we try to operate with a simple philosophy – keeping our students and staff safe.  Although easy enough to articulate, this philosophy isn’t all that simple to implement – and I’m fully aware there is a lot of interpretation that goes with this philosophy – and that opinions abound when a decision is actually made.

Second, we utilize multiple sources in checking the weather:

Third, our Transportation Director and I both get out and drive various roads within our district; we meet and visit about what we’re finding and seeing.  Sometimes we may actually call some patrons who live in particularly troublesome travel areas.

Fourth, area Superintendents (and/or Transportation Directors) visit about conditions, information, and possible plans.  Ultimately each district makes their own decision but a lot of collaboration goes on behind the scenes before a decision is made.

Sometimes all these steps occur during the day and evening; if it’s a morning decision we start with these steps at about 4:00 am.  If school is to be delayed in the morning or even canceled, we really need to make that decision no later than 6:00 am, e.g., before we’re starting to prepare school breakfast and before bus drivers are on the road coming to work.

Once we’ve looked at as much data as possible/available, visited with other districts, etc., we weigh our options (usually the Transportation Director and me).  From there ultimately I make the decision and we begin the notification process, e.g., bus drivers, staff, television, website, text notifications, etc.

I would love to tell you the process used in making these decisions is perfectly scientific and there is some magic formula to follow – but that just isn’t the case.  We try to use data as much as possible but weather is not an exact science – so ultimately we go back to the overall philosophy described above.  If I’m going to make an error in this decision-making process, I want to error on the side of student and staff safety.

As previously mentioned this is not my favorite part of my job … but we do the best we can!

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!  As holidays approach I always get “overly reflective” …

  • Nancy and I are so blessed to have joined Interstate 35 CSD and the area
  • We are also blessed to be close to all three of our children and grandchild (wow did they undersell the awesomeness of becoming a grandparent!)
  • As has been shared with me by several district patrons … Interstate 35 CSD is a diamond in the rough ,,, I couldn’t agree more as this is a quality school system providing excellent opportunities for students – but I genuinely believe the best years lie ahead as we move into the future … we want to be the district that all others wish they were
  • We are fortunate to have a dedicated, caring staff … teachers, associates, secretaries, custodians, maintenance, food service, transportation … everyone is dedicated to the students of this district and what else matters?
  • Our students are awesome – they have made us feel very welcome and part of the Road Runner family

Truthfully I could go on and on … but suffice to say we’re thrilled to be here and it is an honor and privilege to serve the Interstate 35 School District.

Merry Christmas.


We were just notified that senior Josh Hughes has been selected as one of two Iowa students to participate in the United States Senate Youth Program in Washington, DC!  Is that awesome or what!  This is a very prestigious program – and highly competitive – WAY TO GO JOSH!

To read the Iowa Department of Education press release, please click here.

Geez … Time Flies When You’re Having Fun


I went to post today and noticed my last post was over a month ago … my bad and my apology.  Where exactly does all the time go … and why does it seem to just go faster and faster the older I get? 🙂  The reality is everyone gets very wrapped up in all the things going on around us … and I’m certainly no different.  In an effort to “catch up” with postings, let me share a potpourri of things … in no particular order!

  1. If you haven’t had a chance to see our Dance Team perform you’re missing a great show!  Mr. Kaster, Mr. Condon and I got the opportunity to watch our kids perform at the state competition in Wells Fargo Arena last week – they ended up placing second but there is no doubt in my mind we were the best!  Our kids did an amazing job and seriously were the class act of their competition – it was an awesome night to be a Road Runner!  Special props to Tiffany Johnson and Deann Strange for their guidance and leadership as coaches of the Dance Team – and even more special props to the participants – they work so hard and just delivered a rock solid performance – thank you for your efforts and representing Interstate 35 Community School District so well.
  2. Have you seen the new format of the Road Runner Report?  It is truly an amazing document put together by our students – the focus has shifted from simply reciting things that are happening at school to digging deeper from a journalism perspective.  The appearance of the Road Runner Report has also changed due to some new technology available to our students and staff – to me it is an extremely professional look and the quality of the writing/articles is super.  If you haven’t checked it out – please do so!
  3. If you haven’t seen, Interstate 35 School Board meetings now have a digital footprint … as a trial, we videotaped the November 25, 2014 Board Work Session and Regular meeting.  The digital tape was delivered to Interstate Communications for playing on the public access channel; it also has been uploaded to YouTube.  If you wish to watch the meetings and don’t have Interstate Communications cable television, simply go to the school’s website and look in the News section on the front page.  Please know the recording is just that … a recording of exactly what occurred at the Work Session and Regular meeting without editing.  This is being done by the Board in the spirit of transparency; the practice will be reviewed after several months to see how it is working for our patrons.
  4. The Wellness Center is now officially open for public use!  If you haven’t seen the new Wellness Center it is worth your while to stop in and take a tour.  Our I-35 students are using the facility virtually every day in physical education classes, and students are also using the facility before and after school.  The Board wanted to make the facility available for public use as long as it doesn’t interfere with the primary objective – the students.  Consequently we asked Mr. Kaster to pull together a committee and design a program for public use that would be revenue neutral, e.g., not use district funds for public use.  They came up with a very reasonably priced punch card system; punch cards may be purchased from the central office during regular business hours, from the Wellness Center during public use hours, and at various school activities.  If you have any questions, feel free to give the central office a call for more details!
  5. We’ve been working diligently in putting together a curriculum review process in our district that will include curriculum mapping (what is taught where and when), revisions to be compliant with the Iowa Core, and to align our K-12 curriculum in all areas.  This work is challenging and tedious and is not something that gets done (well anyway) in short period of time.  Our district’s initial focus with this new process will be K-12 math.  We have put together a District Math Team that is designing the process for reviewing all aspects of our K-12 math program, including focused work on mathematical shifts taking place across the country, the Standards of Mathematical Practice, and the Iowa Core – all of these are driven by research and best practices from that research.  We’ll certainly share more information as this moves along; again, this work is challenging and time consuming and will not be accomplished in a short period of time – substantive change takes time to become internalized.  While this process is going on, our District Leadership Team (comprised of teachers, associates, and administrators) is developing as well.  Subcommittees of the District Leadership Team currently include Curriculum, Professional Development, Technology, and Program Review.  We believe the structures we’re putting in place will coordinate our efforts in all of these areas as we look to the future.  Again, as these processes mature we’ll share more and more information with all of you.

Well, I could probably go on and on and on … but better move to other things at this point.  I promise to try and do a better job of posting more often … Merry Christmas everyone.