Superintendent's News Corner
Okoboji Booster Clubs Restructured
As I’m sure most of you are well aware, for the past several years Okoboji Community School has had two booster clubs for supporting our middle school and high school student athletic and activity programs. The “Pioneer Club” covered managerial expenses such as paying for State dues as well as other general athletic/activity-related supplies while the “Athletic Booster Club” paid for things such as sending student athletes to summer camps, helping cover costs for participating in state competitions, and buying athletic equipment.
Having two booster clubs has been confusing to many people thru the years. For that reason, the Pioneer Club is being dissolved for the upcoming 2014-15 school year. Moving forward, our goal is to have only one organization, the “Okoboji Pioneer Booster Club.”
Booster clubs exist because General Fund dollars can not be spent on activity programs. All expenses to support student activities must come from the Activity Fund. This means activity programs can not exist without financial support from local businesses and patrons.
We hope all of the past supporters of the “Pioneer Club” and “Athletic Booster Club” will continue providing the same level of financial support for our new “Okoboji Pioneer Booster Club”. With your financial contributions, this organization will be able to continue supporting all of our student programs.
The Booster Club will offer five levels of membership and with each level, donors will be offered free activity passes as listed below.
Patron: $1000 or more 6 activity passes
Patron Use of Weight Room
Based on strong recommendations from the school’s insurance provider, auditor and attorney, the school can no longer issue keys to patrons for using the gyms and weight room. Allowing patrons “unlimited access” to the buildings puts the district in a horrible position regarding potential issues with liability, vandalism and theft.
Several people (primarily parents who coach youth teams) currently have keys to the high school building and the school has been directed to change how patrons are allowed to access the elementary, middle school and high school buildings.
Making the facilities more secure will involve several steps. The first thing the district is changing is to limit who will be able to access the weight room. With the purchase of the new weight lifting equipment, the doors on the high school weight room are being rekeyed in the next few days and keys will not be reissued to patrons.
Until the school board makes a decision on whether or not to continue allowing patrons to use the school’s weight room, keys will be re-issued to only the small group of coaches who are directly involved in the summer weight lifting program. If the school board decides to allow adult patrons to continue using the weight room, it will be only “with proper supervision by a certified coach during set hours”, as recommended by the district’s insurance provider, auditor and attorney.
In a few days, people will no longer have unlimited access to the weight room any time they want to work out. Until a decision is made regarding future use of the weight room by adult patrons, I encourage everyone to make plans to lift weights at an alternative location.
Okoboji Staff Conducts “Poverty Simulation”
On Monday, April 1 about 125 Okoboji teachers, support staff and administrators participated in a “Poverty Simulation” to become more familiar with the challenges families face when living in poverty. The simulation was organized by staff from the Iowa State University Extension Office and funded by a grant from the Dickinson County Endowment Fund.
Many people don’t think poverty is an “issue” in Dickinson County but it is a serious concern just as it is in many other parts of the country. Based on federal income guidelines, 38% of Okoboji’s students qualify for free or reduced lunches.
The simulation, which is designed to increase the understanding of the realities of poverty, was a real eye-opener for many of our staff. Participants learned what it might be like to be part of a typical low-income family trying to survive from month to month.
Over thirty community volunteers helped run the three-hour-long activity by playing the roles of people in organizations such as Law Enforcement, Department of Human Services, Food Pantry, Pawn Shop, Welfare Office, Banking, etc. Staff members, who were placed into family groups, were forced to utilize these organizations to obtain support and resources for their respective families. The simulation left many of our staff, including myself, feeling frustrated and “stressed-out” in how difficult it must be for low income families to provide the basic necessities needed for survival.
By understanding how it feels to walk in the shoes of low-income families, we hope to do a better job of helping our students and supporting our families. Students can not learn when they are worrying about things that come from living in poverty. Our goal is to remove some of those barriers. The Okoboji Community School and community currently does things like provide meals for over 50 students each week through the Back-Pack Program, purchase miscellaneous supplies for students throughout the school year, and provide hygiene products through our “Soap for Hope” program run by our Key Club. Our various student groups also do several food drives each year to support our families in need.
The poverty simulation was a successful professional development learning activity. Okoboji Community School will continue to work hard at providing a caring nurturing environment where all students can learn.
April 1 Election to Extend Sales Tax Revenue Purpose Statement
On April 1, 2014 Okoboji school patrons will have an opportunity to vote on extending our current Revenue Purpose Statement for directing the district’s spending of state one-cent sales tax revenues.
In 2000, voters approved a school local option sales tax. In 2008, the legislature changed the local option sales tax into a statewide penny sales tax to benefit students in all Iowa school districts. Under this legislation, the state will continue collecting the penny on retail purchases through December 31, 2029 and will continue to send proceeds to all Iowa school districts.
All school districts must determine how they plan to spend the sales tax money and to communicate those intentions to their patrons. Our current Revenue Purpose Statement indicating how the sales tax money will be spent runs until 2019. The Okoboji school board recently passed a resolution to extend our current Revenue Purpose Statement until 2029. Voters will have a chance to vote on that recommendation on April 1. The statement must follow Iowa law and schools can only use the funds for specific purposes described in law as school infrastructure and property tax relief. The wording in the ballot will be as follows:
“School infrastructure is defined by law to include the construction, reconstruction, repair, demolition work, purchasing, or remodeling of schoolhouses, stadiums, gyms, field-houses, and bus garages and the procurement of schoolhouse construction sites, the making of site improvements as authorized now or hereafter by the Iowa Code, and those equipment, transportation equipment, and public recreation and other activities for which revenues under Iowa Code sections 298.3 or 300.2 may be spent as authorized now or hereafter by the Iowa Code. Additionally, “school infrastructure” includes the payment or retirement of outstanding bonds previously issued for school infrastructure purposes and the payment or retirement of new bonds issued for school infrastructure purposes issued under sections 423E.5 and sections 423F.4 of the Iowa Code.”
Since the Revenue Purpose Statement will direct district expenses for a long time, until 2029, the statement as listed above allows for some flexibility for future school boards to operate within the constraints of the law and consider additional projects that otherwise would take property taxes to fund.
Since 2000 when the sales tax money became available, the district has used this revenue stream for making significant facility improvements (door and window replacement, roof repair, brick and concrete work, etc,) and for expanding our facilities (new high school gym and elementary building addition), purchasing new school busses and support vehicles on a regular basis, and providing computers for students and staff.
On April 1, I encourage all Okoboji patrons to support extending the current Revenue Purpose Statement until 2029. A copy of the complete Revenue Purpose Statement document as it will appear on the ballot on April 1 is available on the district’s web site at www.okoboji.k12.ia.us (School Board, Finance tabs).
Flying the American Flag at School
Someone recently expressed a concern that the American flag was not being flown at one of the buildings when the wind was blowing hard. Therefore, it is appropriate I explain why we do not fly the flag when the weather is bad.
We will follow the guidelines in the paragraph below that indicates it is "considered to be disrespectful to fly the flag in inclement weather conditions".
For the military veterans on staff and in the community, we do not intend to be disrespectful by taking the flag down when the weather is bad, we're just trying to prevent our flags (and the ropes/chains that are used for raising and lowering them) from being damaged. Also, please notice that American flags are displayed inside of the buildings to honor our country.
High School Building Being Remodeled
Construction at Okoboji High School is tentatively scheduled begin this coming July. The biggest part of the project involves building a new entrance onto the East side of the current facility. This addition will include a drive up entrance for dropping off and picking up students, creating an attractive entrance/lobby area that will allow the building to be secured as needed, and building a new main office area.
In addition to creating a more secure and functional entrance, remodeling work will also be done in the following three areas. 1) The upper level of the current lunchroom and existing office space will be remodeled to create a new student work center, a teacher workroom and some badly needed space for storage. 2) The layout of the existing media center will be changed to create an additional classroom and to develop a more functional work space for our technology staff. 3) The current middle school wrestling room and three small adjoining work rooms will be remodeled into a slightly smaller wrestling room and additional storage space for physical education and athletic equipment.
The last thing included in this project will be constructing a new alternative high school building (classroom) near the visitor side of the football field. This facility will replace the existing Avenues of Opportunity building located on Hwy 71.
These facility improvements, which are scheduled for completion by February, 2015, are being funded by future revenue from the state-wide 1-cent sales tax.
Okoboji Submitting Teacher Leadership Application
The Iowa Department of Education (DE) recently released a major state-wide initiative to involve teachers in instructional leadership. Their goal is to have all school districts voluntarily implement a “teacher leadership and compensation system” over the next four years.
The overall purpose of the initiative is to directly involve Lead Teachers in the process of improving instruction in the classrooms. Master and mentor teachers will be trained (and compensated) to work with other teachers in analyzing student achievement data and in improving teaching techniques.
The Iowa General Assembly allocated $50 million dollars for the 2014-15 school year for some districts to begin implementing this process. These funds (approximately $308/pupil) will be distributed to districts serving one-third of the students in Iowa. In order to be eligible to receive the funds, districts must submit a detailed application plan explaining how teachers will be involved as instructional leaders.
Even though district leaders have not been told how the DE will decide which schools will receive the funds for next year, Okoboji is submitting an application. If approved, our district will receive roughly $284,000. The potential benefits of receiving funding to implement a teacher leadership model are too good to pass up.
Effective schools value professional development by providing opportunities for teachers to continually improve. We hope our application gets approved so we can implement a leadership system that will allow our lead teachers to work with the building principals in guiding the professional growth of other staff. The end result should be improved student achievement.
OSL Debate Team Receives National Recognition
Debate coach Greg Stevens was recently informed that our speech and debate program earned significant national recognition by the National Forensic League. This organization is the national honor society for secondary speech and debate. Based on points earned through competitive and service-related activities during the 2012-13 school year, the Okoboji-Spirit Lake chapter was ranked among the top 10% of schools nationwide and earned membership in the League’s prestigious 100 Club.
Everyone’s hard work in reaching this remarkable milestone will pay dividends for years to come. Earning this national award is amazing but what is more valuable from my perspective is what students get out of academic activities such as speech and debate. Participants learn how to communicate effectively and to think critically and as a result, become productive adults who contribute to our society in positive ways. Now isn’t that what education is all about?!
New Okoboji Logo to be Unveiled
The new Okoboji Community School Logo will be unveiled at the home basketball game on Friday, December 20. Students will be highly involved in the program by showing a video to highlight the features of the logo, giving away a few Okoboji t-shirts and holding banners displaying the new logo.
The logo was designed based on input obtained from an electronic survey administered to students, staff and parents. A twelve-member committee was then formed for working with a professional marketing firm. The final logo was approved by the school board on November 25.
The final logo is extremely attractive, very recognizable and will convey school pride. It was also designed to be very flexible in how it can be used for several years to come.
October 1, 2013 Enrollment
After seeing a big enrollment increase last year, the number of students served in our transitional kindergarten through twelfth grade classrooms this year is down 10, from 931 to 921. The number of “students served” includes our both resident students attending school in Okoboji and students open enrolled in from neighboring districts. The enrollment decline is primarily due to the graduation of a large senior class last May. The number of students served in our classrooms was 893 in 2010 and 913 in 2011.
Okoboji’s “certified enrollment” for this year is 919. This number, which includes all resident students attending school both in Okoboji and in neighboring districts, is used for generating funds and building the district’s general fund budget. The district cost per pupil for the 2013-14 school year is $6,135.
Are Children Being Left Behind?
Someone asked me a couple of days ago what I thought of the recent Iowa Department of Education report about two-thirds of Iowa schools not meeting No Child Left Behind standards. Therefore, it is appropriate to share my personal opinions and the district’s position on the recent press release.
Like many educators across the state and country, I believe recognizing student growth and progress is much more important than whether or not students meet arbitrary standards set by the federal government. Okoboji staff looks at and values trend-line data over time more than annual state assessment scores. We think it is more important to look at trends over five or ten year spans rather than just how each class did in one specific year. Our overall math, reading and science Iowa Assessment scores (formerly known as Iowa Test of Basic Skills) in recent years have progressed upward to where 80 to 85% of our students are proficient in the core subject areas.
Even though Iowa Assessment data is valuable and worth analyzing, results do not measure how students are doing in other important areas. Students also need to be able to communicate well, solve problems, think critically and work collaboratively with others.
The federal goal of having 100 percent of all students proficient in math and reading by 2014 is admirable but not realistic. Many students come to school each day with intellectual, physical, and emotional challenges that makes learning difficult. These students need additional help and the schools serving the struggling students need support rather than embarrassment.
Identifying schools and districts as being “in need of assistance” is a ridiculously negative approach. Wouldn’t it be better to recognize schools in positive ways for making significant gains than for not meeting federal standards? Wouldn’t it be better to recognize teachers and principals for their work in improving student scores rather than labeling them as failures because students didn’t perform well enough on state assessments?
Okoboji, like many schools across the state and country, does a great job of meeting student needs and helping them progress in school, as evidenced by our elementary building recently earning the “National Blue Ribbon Award”. Okoboji has an excellent caring staff, a safe nurturing environment is provided, and resources are available for helping students. In other words, children are not being left behind.
Parents Accessing Student Information
Okoboji Community School recently upgraded our student information system from JMC to Infinite Campus. This new system has an online parent portal similar to the previous system. Depending on the grade level of their children, parents accessing the portal will have real-time access to grades, attendance, food service information, assignments and teacher lesson plans under one secure login. Additionally, Infinite Campus has a mobile app, both for Android and Apple iOS devices, which contains links to the same information found on the web portal.
Parents will receive a letter soon containing their unique security code information along with instructions needed to setup their personal accounts. We are confident that parents will be impressed with the capabilities and amount of information the Infinite Campus parent portal will provide.
Weather Related Announcements
With the heat wave we are currently experiencing and the fog that sometimes shows up during the fall months, it is appropriate to let everyone know how weather-related messages will be communicated this year. The methods highlighted below will be used for getting information out to everyone quickly and efficiently.
For morning announcements, our goal is to always communicate late starts or cancellations prior to 6:30 a.m. If early dismissals are needed, the times will be based on weather conditions. We will also always try to give students an opportunity to each lunch before going home.
I. Iowa School Alerts: Parents, students and community members can receive e-mail notifications. This system is run through the state of Iowa. To sign up, you must visit their website at https://schoolalerts.iowa.gov/. When a school notice is sent out, you can receive an e-mail at home, work, or on e-mail-enabled mobile devices like cell phones and tablets. To find out if you can receive e-mails on your mobile device, contact your service provider. Please note that School Alerts is not responsible for any fees your service provider may charge for receiving alerts. Once you create an account, you can add as many e-mail addresses for as many schools or school districts as you like.
II. KTIV News-Channel 4: KTIV Mobile Alerts from Sioux City will send out text message notifications for a variety of alerts. You have complete control over which alerts you would like to receive when you sign up. Be sure to check the box to receive School Closings and then select Okoboji in the list of schools. You can sign up for KTIV Mobile Alerts by visiting: http://www.ktiv.com/Global/link.asp?L=410648&nav=menu1474_3_6
III. Radio: We will continue calling alerts into the following three radio stations:
103.9 KUOO, Spirit Lake
107.7 KICD, Spencer
95.9 KILR, Estherville
IV. Website, Facebook and Twitter: Notices will be placed on the district website, and also posted on Facebook and Twitter. In order to receive the notifications in your social media feeds, be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Our district can be found at facebook.com/okobojischools and @OkobojiSchools on Twitter.
Pioneer Logo Update:
At the August 12, 2013 school board meeting, the Board approved the Logo Committee’s recommendation to hire C-3 Marketing from Des Moines, Iowa to design a new school logo. Input will be obtained from Okoboji students, staff and parents. The goal is to have the logo completed for unveiling at the December 16 home basketball game. This work is being done as a result of complaints expressed by the University of Oregon in December, 2012.
SCRIP Program Supports Okoboji Students
SCRIP is a national program in which patrons purchase shopping cards for local and national businesses. The SCRIP program purchases the cards at a discounted rate, the customer pays face value for the card, and our school earns the rebate dollars. The profits of this program benefit our school district-wide. Cards can be purchased for things ranging from gasoline, clothing, food, services and many miscellaneous retail products.
The Okoboji program has seen significant growth this year and SCRIP coordinators are excited to be able to begin supporting specific programs for students. Proceeds from the SCRIP program are designated to provide opportunities for students that cannot be made available through the district’s general fund. The focus of the local program is to provide opportunities to impact a large amount of students in meaningful ways. This spring, funds were provided to all three school buildings for the 2013-14 school year.
At the elementary building, a “Rock and Prevention” assembly has been scheduled for the October Character Counts week to address bullying and respect. A computer software program was purchased to help implement a new STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) class for all 7th and 8th grade students at the middle school. High School students will benefit from an assembly that has been scheduled for the beginning of the school year. The speaker, MK Mueller, will work with our students as an extension of our existing “8 to Great” curriculum, teaching students the “Empowerment Process for a Healthier and Happier Life”.
For Okoboji Community School, the cards can be purchased from parent volunteers at the elementary building or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. An order form can be found on our school website at www.okoboji.k12.ia.us.
In conclusion, additional support received for this program will result in greater opportunities for our Okoboji students. Let your everyday purchases earn money for our school. Thank you to all of our patrons who are currently using the SCRIP program and to the participating businesses for making these opportunities available for our students.
Changing School Logo / Okoboji O
As many of you already know, someone recently reported Okoboji CSD to the University of Oregon for using “their trademarked letter O”. As a result, we need to change our current logo (letter O). Ryan Paulsen, Athletic Director, has formed an eight-member committee of students, staff, parents, community/board members, and alumni to solicit ideas for a new school logo for future use.
Our Nickname and Mascot will still be the Pioneers but we need to transition from our current logo (the Okoboji “O”) to something new.
Anyone with a good creative idea for our next logo may submit them in digitized jpg format to Mr. Paulsen (email@example.com). Everyone is also encouraged to share a rationale explaining why you are presenting your design the way you are and why it should be adopted. Ideas will be accepted until Tuesday, May 7, 2013, at 500 PM.
The “Logo Committee” will review the ideas submitted and then choose the top 3 for recommending to the Okoboji School Board at the May 13 board meeting, who will then make the final selection of our next logo.
Okoboji Staff Visits New Tech High
On March 11, 22 Okoboji teachers, administrators and board members traveled to Sioux Falls, South Dakota to visit the New Technology High School. This school, also known as “New Tech High”, is a technology-rich school that uses an innovative project-based approach to teaching and learning. Students learn by working together to solve relevant real-world problems and by building projects.
Make Up Day – May 28
Due to missing one day of school this winter due to icy road conditions, the last day school for students will be Tuesday, May 28, the day after Memorial Day. Should additional days be missed, they will be made up on May 29, 30, 31…
Open Enrollment Deadline - March 1, 2013
March 1, 2013 is the last date for regular open enrollment requests for the 2013-14 school year. If a student meets the definition of ‘good cause” under 281-Iowa Administrative Code 17.4 (1) because of a change of residence the application can be accepted after March 1, 2013.
Addressing Concerns and Answering Questions
The Okoboji School Board is currently updating board policies and a few of those policies deal with how to respond to parent and patron concerns. To support the board policies dealing with this issue, the Board recently adopted a process for how we would like parents and staff to work together in asking and responding to questions and concerns.
The document outlining the process is entitled “Do You Have a Concern?” can be accessed on the district website at http://www.okoboji.k12.ia.us/ on the parent or school board tabs. The communication process asks people to always try to resolve concerns at the lowest level closest to the issue. This means following the “chain of command”, which typically starts with the teacher, then progresses to the building principal, superintendent and school board levels.
The most important thing we can all do to avoid questions and concerns is to communicate openly on a regular basis. Parents should understand how their children are doing in school and get to know their teachers (and coaches) well. We in turn have a responsibility to share information openly on a regular basis.
No matter how hard everyone tries to communicate clearly, questions and concerns always arise and misunderstandings do develop. That is a natural part of life both inside and outside of school.
The intent of adopting the “Do You Have a Concern?” brochure is to make the preferred communication process clear to everyone. Our staff wants to continue working cooperatively with our parents and patrons in meeting the needs of our students. I encourage everyone to get on our website and look at the adopted brochure. We hope everyone finds it helpful.
Proud to be One...Newsletter coming in mail
Okoboji patrons will receive an 8-page “Proud To Be One” newsletter in the mail right before Christmas vacation. The purpose of the newsletter is to highlight district programs and initiatives while keeping the spotlight on our students.
This promotional newsletter will include information and pictures showing examples of what our students are doing K-12, both inside and outside of the classrooms, with academic work and through extracurricular activities. Two successful Okoboji alumni will also be featured in the “alumni and community connections” section.
The newsletter is being developed with the assistance of four community volunteers (Michelle Adams, Jill Harms, Sue Richter and Ali Wofford) and is being sponsored equally by Bank Midwest, Farmers Savings Bank, Northwest Bank and United Community Bank. Everyone’s loyal support in this effort is appreciated.
We are anxious to share with our parents and community what our students are doing. I encourage all Okoboji parents and patrons to be watching your mail for the “Proud To Be One” newsletter!
I’m afraid it’s time to remind everyone again of Okoboji’s procedures for dealing with inclement winter weather.
All weather-related announcements regarding late starts, cancellations and early dismissals are communicated through KTIV Television in Sioux City, KUOO Radio in Spirit Lake and KICD Radio in Spencer. Patrons may also sign up on the district webpage to receive personal notifications through the Iowa School Alert system.
Decisions to either start late or cancel school are typically made by 5:30 a.m. Roads conditions are checked between 4:00 and 5:30 a.m. with the media being notified by 5:45 at the latest. With this timeline, everyone should be able to receive morning announcements by 6:00 a.m.
If morning conditions are poor and extra time is needed to determine if the roads will be cleared in time, we may initially announce a two hour late start at about 6:00 a.m. and then later change the notice to a cancellation if weather and road conditions do not improve.
Decisions to start late or cancel may also be made in the evening if road conditions are extremely poor and extended weather forecasts call for more inclement weather.
Regarding early dismissals, decisions are made based on both present conditions and forecasts. It is the parents’ responsibility to stay tuned to one of the local media stations as needed so arrangements can be made for your children.
It is important to understand that all decisions are made with everyone’s safety in mind. Parents who disagree with the decisions made have the option of sending or bringing their children to school late when they determine road conditions to be safe. Students who drive to school are also encouraged to leave home early, wear appropriate winter clothing and drive slowly when road conditions are poor.
Certified Enrollment Up 18 Students
The total number of students served in Okoboji classrooms this year increased by 18 students compared to last year, going from 913 to 931. This number includes all K-12 students plus students in our 3 and 4 year old special needs classroom but does not include the 73 students enrolled in our Voluntary Preschool Program.
Of the 931 students served in our classrooms, 103 live in other districts but have open enrolled into Okoboji. Regarding students open enrolled out, 108 students live in the Okoboji district but attend school in neighboring districts. This number went up this year simply because a few students (families) recently moved into our district but continued attending school in their current neighboring districts.
The average number of students in kindergarten through fourth grade is 77.6 and the average number of students in grades five through twelfth is 66.7. Hopefully, the larger numbers of students in the elementary grades indicate our enrollment is gradually increasing.
Below are some details regarding the demographics and programs for serving our students:
Okoboji Board Discusses Future of Education
On October 8, the Okoboji School Board and School Improvement Advisory Committee held a joint meeting to discuss the future of education. The ninety minute discussion was facilitated by Dr. Scott McLeod, Director of Innovation for Prairie Lakes AEA and Associate Professor at the University of Kentucky. The conversation was held to help school board and community members understand why education must change to meet student needs in a global world.
With more information being readily available to students and teachers than ever before and with the nature of jobs changing so quickly, it is important for schools to change with the times. Students still need to graduate with a solid understanding of all curriculum areas but they also need the ability to find and use information effectively, work cooperatively with others in solving complex problems, and apply skills to many areas as changes take place.
Our task in the upcoming months is to continue making day-to-day student work more meaningful and complex so students have a deeper understanding of the curriculum. This change process must involve the utilization of technology. Computers (and other forms of technology) will never replace good teaching but they are proving to be an outstanding tool or improving student learning. Okoboji students in grades 2 through 12 are fortunate to have personal computers for daily use and teachers are provided necessary training.
Dr. McLeod will be working with our teachers on a future staff development day to help them understand the need to adjust the teaching/learning process to fit the 21st century. A community meeting is also tentatively being planned for March 11 to allow parents and patrons on opportunity to be involved.
In conclusion, Okoboji Community School is an outstanding school system. Our student achievement data scores over the years have been consistently high and a very high percent of our graduates go on be productive members of society. That is the one thing we can not forget when discussing what may need to change.
Click HERE for information on Dr. McLeod’s presentation on October 8.
Passing School Busses Safely
Kadyn’s Law (Illigally Passing School Busses)
The section below is a summary of a long e-mail sent by the Iowa Department of Education requesting Iowa drivers to please use caution when passing school busses. I encourage everyone to read the information and then follow through by driving carefully when approaching and/or passing busses in the area.
Passing a school bus illegally could cost you your driver's license and a whole lot more
Earlier this year, Governor Branstad signed into law Senate File 2218 (Kadyn’s Law), that increased the criminal penalties for passing a stopped school bus. The law directed the Iowa DOT to enact rules that make illegally passing a stopped school bus a serious moving violation that triggers increasing periods of suspension for first, second and subsequent offenses.
The law which took effect at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year is aimed at preventing tragic deaths and serious injuries to Iowa’s school children while boarding or unloading from a school bus.
The number of vehicles illegally passing school busses has not decreased even after hearing the news of Kadyn’s death last year. During a one-day count conducted earlier this year was 43.7 percent, as compared to 38.2 percent in 2011.
Iowans need to be aware of the consequences of passing a stopped school bus. Kadyn’s law increased the criminal penalties and administrative sanctions for those convicted of such violations, which are now as listed below. Kim Snook, director of the Iowa DOT’s Office of Driver Services, said, “We hope that these increased penalties and sanctions will make driver’s think twice before foolishly choosing to pass a stopped school bus. More than thinking about their own penalty, however, we hope they will remember and recognize that passing a stopped school bus threatens the life of a child. The few seconds gained is not worth risking a child’s life.”
Student Safety Procedures
Are Okoboji Students Safe?
YES. With all of the hype that has taken place in Northwest Iowa over the past few days regarding possible attempted abductions, I think it is appropriate to let Okoboji patrons know what the district does in a proactive manner to make sure our students and staff are safe at all times. At no time in the past few days was the safety of our students in jeopardy.
The most important part of providing a safe atmosphere for students is doing the “day to day” things well. At Okoboji, students are supervised well in all three buildings, all secondary outside doors are kept locked as needed, visitors are directed to the main offices when entering the buildings, administrators communicate openly with various law enforcement officers and policies and procedures are in place for dealing with bullying and harassment.
Several types of emergency drills are conducted on a regular basis. These drills include fire and emergency evacuation, tornado, building lock-down, and emergency bus evacuation. Even though there is no way to guarantee 100% safety at all times in all situations, procedures are in place for dealing with many forms of potential emergencies. Staff members are aware of their responsibilities in each of the situations mentioned above.
Parents and students also have important roles to play in this area. Parents need talk to their children about the importance of staying away from strangers, knowing after school plans and reporting unusual or suspicious activities.
We understand the importance of providing a safe atmosphere for everyone - - because students must feel safe before they can learn. I encourage everyone to continue doing their respective “jobs” on a daily basis to make sure that our students, staff and visitors continue feeling safe at Okoboji Community Schools. Anyone wanting to know more about what specific things are done at each building to ensure a safe atmosphere are encouraged to contact the respective building principals.
Okoboji Staff Attends Leadership Symposium
On August 3, I had the honor of attending the Iowa Teacher and Principal Leadership Symposium at Drake University in Des Moines with our 3 principals and 11 teachers. The purpose of the conference was to hear speakers explain ways of meeting the increasing academic expectations of our students so they can better compete with students from other countries. The symposium was hosted by Governor Brandstad and Jason Glass, Director of the Iowa Department of Education.
Several educational leaders from Iowa and from around the country shared helpful insight on strategies for improving the education system in the United States. A few of the things mentioned include providing more opportunities for teachers to work together to discuss curriculum and plan lessons, change how teachers are evaluated, better prepare beginning teachers for the profession, free up more time for principals to be instructional leaders rather than building managers, be more focused on specific student achievement goals, provide more help for struggling students, and better align curriculum with assessments.
Changing the school “system” to meet the needs of all students in the 21st century so they can compete with students from around the globe is an overwhelming task, especially in times when resources are limited. With that said, Okoboji has an outstanding school system with a solid dedicated staff. We work hard in helping students develop basic academic skills in all subject areas and also strive to help them develop good people skills and to be good critical thinkers and problem solvers.
Okoboji Community Schools is committed to providing the best education possible for our students. We will continue doing the things that we already do well but also look forward to the challenges of making adjustments and improvements where they may be needed.
The people attending the August 3 Symposium included Jennifer Bouse, Ryan Cunningham, Brian Downing, Brett Eilts, Erin Frerichs, Gary Janssen, Nikki Lambertus, Heather Magelee, Jennifer Mier, Katie Nissen, Rob Olsen, Lisa Patterson, Emily Schaeffer, Greg Stevens, and Laura Stevens.
Summer Work Being Completed
Okoboji has a reputation of having outstanding facilities that meet student needs well. We put a great deal of pride in maintaining the buildings so they are a good reflection of the district.
While students are gone for the summer, a lot of work is being done to get ready for another school year. The custodians have been busy cleaning carpet, waxing floors, painting walls, and making minor repairs throughout the buildings.
In addition to the annual custodial work, several major facility repairs and upgrades are being done. Some of the significant items include:
· Varnishing gym floors
· Resurfacing track at high school
· Replacing damaged concrete sidewalks and curb at middle school
· Completing preventative maintenance on all roofs
· Tuck-pointing bricks (replacing cracked mortar) on middle school building
· Replacing carpet in several elementary classrooms
· Replacing old ceiling tile in elementary hallways
· Replacing old windows in elementary lunchroom
· Installing air conditioning in elementary gym
· Replacing several old interior doors in elementary building
· Painting walls and ceilings and replacing lights in vo-ag and wood shops at high school
As you can see from the above list, most of the projects can be considered preventative maintenance or normal upgrades - - just as everyone completes on their homes on a regular basis. All work is being paid for with Physical Plant and Equipment (PPEL) funds, which are provided through property tax (.33/$1,000).
We look forward to having everyone return to school in a few weeks and will do our best to make sure the buildings are ready.
Okoboji Expands Use of Technology
The goal for all educators is to maximize the use of available resources to improve instruction for students. Some of the most powerful teaching tools available today can be provided through effective use of technology.
Two years ago, Okoboji Community School implemented a three-year plan for becoming a one-to-one (1:1) school, meaning each student is provided a personal computer. This spring, the school board approved the final purchase of 320 laptop computers. With the additional computers, all students in grades two through twelve will have personal laptop computers and students in prekindergarten through first grade will have access to computers on mobile carts or in the elementary computer lab. Okoboji now has a total of 1,057 computers available for student and staff use. That translates to roughly one computer for every student and teacher in the elementary, middle school and high school buildings, which is an incredible investment. In addition to laptops computers, the pre-kindergarten program has been working in the 1:1 environment for the past two years using Apple iTouch computers for teaching new concepts and reinforcing student learning.
Okoboji Community School is committed to using technology as a “teaching tool for kids”. Our administrators, technology staff and teachers are constantly looking for ways to improve instruction through the use of technology. Even though teacher-lead instruction remains the primary method of teaching in most schools, using technology provides amazing opportunities for making learning more engaging, enjoyable, and challenging.
By making computers and technology more accessible, our building principals have seen positive changes in both instruction and student learning when doing classroom observations. Students are doing things such as creating websites, making video presentations, staying actively engaged, working together in collaborative groups and submitting assignments electronically.
Several middle school and high school teachers have also been trained in observing and assessing student engagement. Since the implementation of 1:1 at the secondary level, data shows that students have become more active in the learning process and are involved in higher levels of thinking.
Recent Senior Exit Survey results were also positive in measuring the benefits of the 1:1 computer initiative. 94% of all graduating seniors felt they were actively engaged in the classrooms this year and 74% thought the teachers were responsive to their individual learning needs.
Next year we plan to continue expanding the use of technology throughout the district, to continue being a progressive leader in providing modern methods of teaching and learning. Anyone with questions regarding the district’s use of technology should contact our technology director, Chris Koenck (firstname.lastname@example.org).
School Board Recognition Week (May 6-12)
I would like to thank our board members for their dedicated leadership and service to the children in our community. The theme for this year’s Iowa School Board Recognition Week is “Sowing the Seeds for Success”, meaning school boards help ensure high-quality programs to make sure all students are prepared to “grow and prosper” when they graduate.
School boards help provide opportunities for students to learn and excel. Their work should always be focused on reaching the district’s goals. Okoboji’s Board of Education has three main focus areas: student achievement, financial accountability and community involvement. Okoboji’s board members and respective years of service are Joe Conover (1 year), Brad Droegmiller (1 year), Mark Hale (7 years), Laurie Simington (6 years) and Dee Wermersen (5 years).
Below are some interesting facts about Iowa School Board Members:
Teacher Accreciation Week
May 7-11 is National Teacher Appreciation Week, a time designated for saying “Thank You” to our teachers. When acknowledging Okoboji’s teachers this week, it is appropriate to also include our “unofficial teachers”, our teacher associates, coaches, secretaries, bus drivers, cooks, custodians, volunteers, etc. Everyone working with students plays a key role at Okoboji Community School.
The district has 78 certified teachers, approximately 200 total employees and several volunteers. We are recognizing all staff this week because they all play key roles in educating our students from grade to grade and in preparing them for life after graduation.
Educators join the profession because they enjoy working with children and want to make a positive difference in young people’s lives. At Okoboji, our staff works hard at providing a safe nurturing environment with positive caring relationships with our students. On behalf of everyone in the district - - “Thank You Teachers” for your hard work.
5th /6th Grade Science Fair: I was unable to visit with any students as a result of the power outage (during the evening Science Fair) but was later able to look at all of the display boards in the middle school gym. I was impressed - - interesting topics, great visual displays, excellent work!
High School Jazz Band: Congratulations on your 5th place finish at the state tournament! Qualifying alone takes a lot of a lot of hard work throughout the school year and placing in the top five puts you in an elite group above your competitors. You represented the school well at the state tournament, just as you did all school year in the various performances. Keep up the good work.
Debate: Four National Qualifiers! You did a great job of representing Okoboji High School. Your success is a testament to your commitment and dedication to the debate program. I can’t imagine how many hours everyone put into getting ready for the qualifying tournament last weekend. Good luck in Indianapolis!
Did You know?
Did you know that Okoboji students and/or staff are interviewed each Friday on KUOO Radio? - - unless we don’t have school on Friday.
The “Sounding the Bell” segment, which airs at 3:30 p.m. is used to spotlight our students, staff and programs. The interviews last about 3 minutes each time.
This coming week, Mrs. Tschetter and a couple of her students will be talking about the Fifth and Sixth Grade Science Fair.
School Board Adopts 2012-13 Budget
On April 9, the Okoboji Board of Education adopted the 2012-13 budget after holding a public hearing. The adoption took place after an extensive study of the district’s overall financial health. The budget was developed and adopted to reflect the School Board’s goal of managing district finances in a fiscally responsible manner.
School budgets are pupil-driven. A district’s spending limit or “spending authority” for the general fund is determined by the number of students (Okoboji’s = 885) multiplied by the district’s cost per pupil (Okoboji’s = $6,015). In other words, schools with declining enrollments over time typically have to cut expenses while districts with increasing enrollments are able to spend more. Declining enrollment was not an issue for Okoboji this year as our enrollment increased from 869 to 885.
Okoboji’s final 2012-13 property tax rate will be $8.31 per $1,000 of taxable valuation, which is .03 less than the current fiscal year. The levy rate breaks down as listed below:
Congratulations to New NHS Inductees
On March 19, I had the privilege of attending the National Honor Society (NHS) Induction at Okoboji High School. Seventeen juniors and four seniors were inducted into this distinguished organization for 2012. Candidates qualify by having strong personal qualities in four areas: Character, Scholarship, Leadership and Service.
Being inducted into NHS is a result of a lot of hard work and excellent time management on the students’ part. It is also a result of students having strong support from others. These 21 students could not have achieved at such a high level without parents who make sacrifices to help their sons and daughters succeed. They have also had quality teachers in the classrooms and outstanding coaches and sponsors. The high level of support was witnessed on March 19 by the high number of parents and staff who attended the induction ceremony.
NHS members are solid reflections of our school. They are well-rounded young adults who achieve highly in many areas. They reach academic excellence and perform well in extracurricular activities while being strong role models and positive leaders in our school and community.
I am confident all 21 new NHS inductees and the 20 current 2011 members will be successful after graduation from OHS. Congratulations for your recent accomplishment!
Communications Survey Administered
Members of the district SIAC (School Improvement Advisory Committee) recently administered a survey to find out which methods of communication were preferred by our patrons. Our goal was to find out how we can improve our current efforts of relaying information to various groups of patrons by age group (12-19, 20-29, 30-39, etc.) and by category (parents, community members, alumni and students).
Overall, many of the 275 respondents considered the district’s webpage and direct e-mails from building principals and teachers to be the best two ways for obtaining school news. The survey also indicated students, ages 12-19, prefer using social media (facebook, etc.) while adults between the ages of 60-79 prefer reading news in the weekly newspapers and school newsletters.
The survey results indicate Okoboji Community School needs to continue placing information on the district website, e-mail parents as much as possible, distribute both electronic and paper copies of the district newsletter, place articles in the newspaper, promote students and programs on the local radio stations and lastly, continue expanding the use of social media.
Okoboji Community School staff works hard at trying to keep our patrons informed and we will continue looking for ways to improve. Results of the survey will be made available on the district’s webpage (http://www.okoboji.k12.ia.us/).
2012-13 District Calendar Adopted
At a special board meeting held on February 24, the Okoboji School Board approved the district calendar for the upcoming 2012-13 school year. The first day of school will be Monday, August 27 and the last day of school is scheduled for Friday, May 24.
The calendar was developed to provide staff development throughout the school year. Two professional development days (August 17 and January 3) have been scheduled to coincide with neighboring districts. Okoboji teachers will be working on the Iowa Core Curriculum with teachers from Clay Central-Everly, Graettinger-Terrill, Ruthven-Ayrshire and Spencer.
Graduation will be held on Sunday, May 26 and all snow make-up days are scheduled for after Memorial Day. A copy of the adopted calendar may be viewed on the district website (http://www.okoboji.k12.ia.us/).
Loyalty, Dedication and Commitment
Five Okoboji teachers will be retiring at the end of the current 2011-12 school year and they will be missed. The total number of combined years of service to the district is an amazing 122 years. The time committed to serving our students is an incredible testament of their loyalty, dedication and commitment to both serving the district and in teaching our students.
All educators enter the profession with hopes of making a positive difference in the lives of children. They strive to help mold young people into responsible adults who are later able to contribute to society in positive ways. The five Okoboji retirees have left that legacy. They have done much more than “just teach subject matter”; they helped our students become better people.
On a professional level, all five individuals have also developed reputations for being outstanding team players with a willingness to work together to do whatever is necessary to help students.
Names of retirees along with their teaching areas and number of years which they worked at Okoboji include:
1) Ben McCullough, High School Business, 33 years
2) Kathy Dodd, High School Family and Consumer Science, 33 years
3) Teresa Place, Sixth Grade Math and Language Arts, 26 years
4) Helen Dorenkamp, Elementary Guidance, 18 years
5) Lois Dotson, Elementary Reading, 12 years
Congratulations to each of you for having outstanding teaching careers and for making a positive difference in the lives of so many students!
Thank You Milford Commercial Club
I want to express my gratitude to the Milford Commercial Club for donating $250 to the Okoboji High School Activity Fund. To earn the money, members of the organization served Walking Tacos and Cookies during the high school basketball game on January 24.
Donated money will go into an account to help students who may have financial barriers which make it difficult to participate in activities. This “designated fund” is used to pay for athletic physicals, purchase shoes, etc.
Your generosity will help some our students become involved in activities which they may not have been able to do without your help. Donations such as this help us achieve our goal of having all students involved in at least one meaningful extracurricular activity.
School Board Holds Finance Work-Sessions
The Okoboji school board recently held two finance work sessions to discuss steps needed for addressing the district’s declining Unspent Balance. Unspent balance is “unused spending authority” in the general fund and is considered the most important indicator of a school’s financial health. Recent board discussions have been focused on how low the district should allow our unspent balance to drop.
Each year schools are provided spending authority based on student enrollment. This amount is the district’s legal spending limit, just like a personal credit card contains an individual’s spending limit. And as with credit cards, it is never a good idea to spend the maximum amount allowed.
This spending limit has nothing to do with whether or not schools have money in the bank, just like most people have money in a checkbook or savings account. Even schools like Okoboji with adequate cash in the bank can not spend the money unless they are given the legal authority to spend.
The only way for Okoboji Community School to maintain a healthy unspent balance is to reduce expenditures. One potential way to do that was to offer an early retirement incentive to certified staff. In January, additional discussions will be held to decide how much money needs to be cut out of the general fund and how to minimize reductions without negatively impacting our current programs.
The majority of the schools in Iowa and throughout the country are facing the same financial issues as Okoboji. With federal stimulus money no longer available and less revenue coming from the state, schools are being forced to reduce expenditures. Schools simply can not operate well when expenditures increase at a higher rate than the state increases spending limits and revenues. Our expenditures have increased in recent years from approximately $8,000,000 to $10,000,000 while our unspent balance is projected to decline if adjustments are not made.
As superintendent, I want to assure everyone the district administrators and school board members will do our best to protect student programs as much as possible. All board discussions regarding potential reductions will be made in open session.
New Mulch in Elementary Playground
Okoboji Elementary School is in the process of replacing the old decayed mulch with new wood mulch. The upgrade sounds like a simple job but it took three days to remove all of the old compost-like material from around the equipment. Seven semi loads (595 cubic yards) of new oak mulch is now being installed.
The depth of the wood directly under the playground equipment will be 12 inches and the depth along the outer edges will be 6 inches. This product, which meets all national playground safety standards, will provide a much safer (and cleaner) playground area for our elementary students.
Wood was chosen over rubber mulch because it is much less expensive, does not leave black marks on clothes and because it is a “natural product”. The total cost of the upgrade will be roughly $22,000, to be paid out of the new elementary building addition funds.
We encourage everyone to take advantage of the improved playground area.
Middle School Student Leadership
LEADING LIKE NEVER BEFORE
Okoboji Middle School increases student leadership opportunities
Submitted by: Ryan Cunningham, Middle School Principal
Okoboji Middle School is in the process of changing our student leadership structure to promote student involvement and empower more student leaders. School leaders decided to scrap the traditional student senate this year in favor of a system involving more students. While student senate gave three individuals per grade the opportunity to lead, many potential leaders were left out. Fifth grade students have always expressed a lot of interest in running for student senate, but by the time they were in eighth grade, the interest level dwindled significantly.
“It was almost like students were not excited about being leaders anymore, like they knew who was going to be elected or that it was just a popularity contest,” said middle school principal Ryan Cunningham. Language Arts teacher Jeanne Fisher and Math teacher Connie Jones helped spearhead a new program focused on getting more students involved. They started by creating leadership teams which students had the option to sign up for.
The leadership teams developed are: Recognition, Magazine Sales, Media Helpers, Student Technology Assistance, Book Fair, Window Decorating, Announcements, Character Counts, Homeroom of the Year (8 various groups), Service, and Spirit. All students were given the opportunity to pick their top three choices. “We didn’t know what to expect, if there would be 10 or 250,” said Jones. “To our shock and delight, over 240 of our 260 students signed up,” said Cunningham, “it was pretty remarkable.”
The size of each group ranges from 5 to 20, depending on the activity. With such a large number of teams, the biggest challenge was trying to get the groups organized. At this point in the year, the amount of student initiated activity has significantly increased from previous years. “This has really helped students feel that this is their school and they have a say in helping to create a place that is student-friendly,” said Cunningham. Fisher beleives the leadership team format are helping to “promote our kids’ achievements and successes.” Most importantly, we want every student to know they have the potential to lead and get the chance to actually lead an idea initiative. We are laying the building blocks to help develop all students’ leadership capacity and our hope is that the lessons they learn at Okoboji Middle School will have a positive impact on their future.
"Have You Noticed...?"
When you last visited any of the buildings at Okoboji Community School, did you notice how clean and well maintained our facilities are kept? As superintendent, I want to publicly say “thank you” to our custodians for their hard work on a daily basis. They do a great job of maintaining the facilities both inside and out so they are a good reflection of the district.
When people visit for parent teacher conferences, music concerts or athletic events, comments are frequently made about the cleanliness of our buildings, the shininess of the floors, the quality our athletic and performing arts facilities, and the overall attractiveness of the facilities. The excellent condition of our buildings is an indicator of the high degree of pride our students and staff take in our facilities and to a large degree, is a result of Dennis Baschke’s leadership as Head Custodian.
Staff members help our custodians by keeping classrooms and hallways orderly and students pick up after themselves (most of the time). Vandalism is almost unheard of at Okoboji Community Schools. In my visits to the elementary, middle school and high school buildings this year, I have never been disappointed in the condition of the facilities.
In addition to cleanliness, tax payers can also be assured that our buildings are very functional, well designed, and appropriately sized. They meet the current needs of our students very well. Steps are also in place to keep them maintained as needed.
In conclusion, if you haven’t noticed lately how nice our buildings are, I encourage you to visit any of them in the near future. Please look at the district’s activity calendar and find a reason to come see for yourself!
Okoboji Students Excel On ACT Tests
By: Brian Downing, High School Principal
The high school years are filled with many yearly rituals and traditions. One of the more significant ones for juniors and seniors is the taking of the ACT test (American College Testing). The ACT was founded in 1959 and since that time, has been used to measure students’ readiness for the rigors of college level work. Each fall the school receives a report from ACT that discusses the college readiness of our graduates as measured by the ACT. It is important to note that ACT is just one measure of academic readiness for college level coursework. Many other factors, both academic and non-academic go into a student’s readiness to successfully navigate college demands.
Forty-six members of the Okoboji High School class of 2011 took the ACT. The average composite score of the group was 23.2, which is 1.2 higher than 2010 and almost a full point higher than the 2011 state average (22.3). OHS students showed across-the-board strength with scores above 23.0 on English, reading, and science. All of these areas were above state averages. Math also showed a significant growth of over a point from 2010 (20.7 to 21.9).
ACT also reports on a factor they call “college readiness.” Their data has shown a higher likelihood of success in certain college level courses if students reach or exceed a certain score on the corresponding section of the test. In all four areas tested, Okoboji students scored at or above college readiness levels compared to students testing in the rest of the state.
Our teachers use this data and more detailed information we get in the report to examine our course offerings, curriculum, and instructional strategies. As stated earlier, this is only one piece of the larger puzzle that displays our students’ readiness for the world beyond high school but we believe this is a strong indicator that an Okoboji diploma is a clear sign of preparation for the rigors of college level course work.
More detailed ACT data is available on the high school section of the district website.
Okoboji Board Commits to Professional Growth
Okoboji Community School Board members are committed to being a “Learning Board” that participates in training and shows a commitment to serving the district effectively. The Board’s ability to lead in positive ways has a tremendous impact in areas such as student achievement, management of facilities and finances, and in the overall reputation of the district.
On October 19, board members held a two-hour work session with district administrators to discuss the respective roles of the superintendent and the Board. The meeting was facilitated by Jeff Herzberg, Chief Administrator for Prairie Lakes AEA. Follow-up work will include the development of board committees, updating district goals, and developing a way of assessing board meetings and overall board effectiveness.
On November 17, two board members and I attended the Iowa Association of School Board Convention in Des Moines. This annual event always provides excellent opportunities for school leaders throughout the state to expand their knowledge.
In December, board members will hold two finance work sessions to become more familiar with the district’s financial health and discuss steps for remaining “financially healthy”.
After Christmas vacation, the Board’s primary focus will be on student achievement. Learning activities will be scheduled on a monthly basis either as part of the monthly board meetings or through work sessions. Strong school boards have a good understanding of curriculum, how material is taught and how learning is assessed.
The Board’s goal areas for 2011-12 focus on student achievement, fiscal responsibility, and public relations. Members of the Okoboji Board of Education include Laurie Simington, (President), Dee Wermersen (Vice-President), Mark Hale, Joe Conover, and Brad Droegmiller.
On Saturday, October 22, eight Okoboji teachers and administrators played Donkey Basketball.
This annual YMCA fundraiser was held in the Spirit Lake high school gym and is conducted to support the Kinship program.
Erin Frerichs, Ashley Fischer, Ryan Cunningham, Eric Thompson, JoAnne Sackett, Brian Downing, Nikki Lambertus, Abby Goodlaxson and I proudly represented the district.
Everyone had a good time and luckily nobody got hurt!
I just want to say congratulations to the boys cross country team for qualifying for the state meet. Your hard work paid off and you represented our school well! Reaching goals is always rewarding.
Congratulations to all of the coaches at both the junior high and high school levels and to the girls and junior high runners who also worked hard all season. Thank you to the parents and fans for your support of the cross country program.
Following the fire trucks from Fostoria to Milford last night as they escorted the team bus into town was awsome! Have fun in Fort Dodge next Saturday....Good Luck.