Posted on

Charles City schools continues to pursue admission to North Central Conference

By Travis Fischer,

The Charles City Community School Board talked budgets, high school projects, and athletic conferences during its regular meeting on Monday, April 22.

Opening the meeting to public comments, board member Kathryn Fox stated for the record her concerns about action taken the previous Friday resulting in Superintendent Anne Lundquist being placed on administrative leave with pay, and whether that action complied with Iowa’s open meeting laws. Fox said that actions moving forward should be made in public meetings.

In a comment to the board from the public, Scott Tjaden spoke at the meeting to express his frustration with the district’s finances, which in spite of several budget cuts and expense reductions over the years is still implementing a property tax increase to make ends meet.

“It seems like the easy thing to do is to go to the taxpayer,” said Tjaden. “No matter how much we try to save, we’re always behind.”

In regular business, Activities Director Dana Sullivan updated the board on the latest efforts to join an athletic conference as the Northeast Iowa Conference (NEIC) approaches dissolution.

“We need to be in a conference for the 25-26 school year,” said Sullivan.

The district had previously applied to join the North Central Conference, but was rejected by two of the existing districts, presumably due to the issue of extended travel distance.

Still feeling that the NCC is the most appropriate option for Charles City, Sullivan advised that the district file a complaint with the Iowa Department of Education and ask for mediation, and the board voted to go along with recommendation.

The NEIC’s end was sealed earlier this year when Crestwood applied and was granted admission into the Upper Iowa Conference.

With Waverly-Shell Rock departing the NEIC after this year and Crestwood leaving after the 2024-25 school year, that left just four schools — one less than state law allows for conferences to exist — in the NEIC.

Also at the meeting, the board heard from high school counselors Casey Brandau and Laurie Smith, who offered an update on the NIACC Regional Career Center. On track to open up for classes next fall, the new building is offering courses on manufacturing, health, construction and informational technology. Of the 32 seats in the career academy, 10 have already been filled by Charles City students and NIACC will communicate with the district if other schools need to be approached to fill seats.

On their end, Brandau and Smith are working to recruit students for classes next year, planning tours of the building as it nears completion to get potential attendees excited about what will be available.

Moving into new business, the board set a public hearing date to amend the FY2024 budget ahead of the May 13 meeting and adopted the budget for the 2024/25 school year.

The board also approved, with reluctance, the district’s health care plan for next year. The combination of increased health care costs and a need for an overall budget reduction left nobody enthusiastic about the offering, which has seen a significant increase in employee costs and an incentive for employees with other coverage options through spouses to utilize those.

“There was a lot of give and take,” said board member Fox. “I think every option that was presented was exhausted.”

In building business, the board approved a $181,800.55 bid from Jed Construction to replace the cement between the high school and middle school, which is currently in such a state that it has affected the district’s insurance coverage.

Director of Operations Jerry Mitchell noted that they will use the opportunity to also take out a sewer line coming out of the high school’s 600 circle during the project.

For other building matters, the board examined proposals from two firms for the study of the high school’s heating system and sewer system. The resulting study would be used to help the board prioritize what projects should be the district’s immediate focus.

“They’ll give you an estimation on how long the systems should last and a cost estimate on what replacement will be,” said Mitchell.

The board decided to table the matter until the next meeting to better examine its options.

The board then entered into a closed session as it continues to narrow down candidates for a new superintendent to begin with the new school year, July 1. An announcement of the three finalists is expected to be made soon.

Social Share