Rep. John Wills at Sibley-Ocheyedan school board

State representative John Wills met with the Sibley-Ocheyedan school board during their meeting on Nov. 15 to discuss legislative items affecting schools across the state.

SIBLEY—The Sibley-Ocheyedan School District Board of Education covered a lot of ground during three successive meetings held Nov. 15.

State Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) joined the board members for their annual meeting to discuss legislative updates affecting education.

“I think that this is going to be a good year,” Wills said. “Right now we’re about a billion dollars in the black and next year is projected surpluses of another billion dollars. So I think we’re really looking at a good year financially.”

Wills, originally from Sibley, noted that the Iowa House of Representatives gets out it annual school spending bill during this time of year.

“We’re going to follow the law so that you all can budget and put yourselves in a good position to have good financial planning,” he said.

The finalized spending package was an increase of 2.4 percent from last year.

“There are some other priorities that we’re looking at as well, so there’s got to be some give and take,” he said. “All in all, we have provided in the last 10 years almost a billion dollars in new funding. We have exceeded inflation rates until this year.”

Transportation equity, charter schools, educational savings accounts, workforce shortages, and mental health services and funding were additional topics of discussion.

Wills expressed his disappointment that with the recent redistricting, he will no longer represent Osceola County following next year’s election.

Elementary and high school principals Cory Jenness and Stan De Zeeuw gave updates on parent-teacher conferences, interventions and professional development, and have been satisfied with staff attendance that has been at or mostly above 90 percent all year so far.

Elementary conferences were well attended, with 277 families signed up out of 294 students, or 92 percent. Participation was 36.7 percent for the middle school and 27.5 percent at the high school. Most parents and staff members expressed positive feedback about having the conferences scheduled and the option for meeting in-person.

Jenness shared a reminder that Sibley-Ocheyedan Elementary ranked No. 13 out of 614 schools in Iowa, according to U.S. News Education.

Superintendent Jamie Craig reviewed his goals related to professional development, as well as line-item budgeting which has been completed for this year.

Craig also reviewed the district financial report. Top takeaways from the document were a credit equity ratio of 2.00, meaning the district has $2 to pay every dollar of debt; a net cash ratio of 191 days that the district could pay its bills without having to borrow cash; a stable employee cost ratio; an unspent balance ratio of 32.8 percent; and tax rates decreasing for the fifth year in a row.

“All of the key indicators are in the green,” Craig said. “Financially, we’re very solid.”

However, with enrollment numbers going down and about $400,000 in annual ESSER funding ending by fiscal year 2025, the board needs to maintain fiscal responsibility as they budget.

Craig read his “recognition of excellence,” sharing recent student achievements for cross country, All-State music, honor band and National Honor Society.

The organizational meeting started with the oath of office for the recently elected board members Jamie Arend, Greg Atherton and Laurel Klaassen, followed by the re-election by motion of board president Kyle Grimes and Atherton as vice president. Kindra Reiter was reappointed as board secretary and treasurer.

During the regular meeting, business instructor Matt Vermeer gave a literacy presentation on behalf of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) team.

He shared their objectives and goals, which included contributing to a college and career readiness plan, curriculum maps, close reading, Google Classroom and other goals.

“Something that we have different with the CTE area is a program of study,” Vermeer said. “We do not have a curriculum issued out from the state, so the state requires us to align ourselves with the local community colleges and their programs,” he said.

Teachers complete this process every five years. Doing so also qualifies the district for Perkins funding for specialty items to enhance school programs.

Due to staff training scheduling, several changes were approved for the school calendar. Jan. 3 is now a vacation day and professional development will take place on Jan. 4. Students will return to classes for the first day of second semester on Wednesday, Jan. 5.

May 13 is now the last day of school for seniors. There will be a one-hour early dismissal on May 18, with May 20 now scheduled as the last student day. May 23 will be a staff professional development day.

“All of this is contingent on weather, because this year we can’t just do virtual learning for snow days to have it count,” Craig said.