New Faculty Excited to Come Aboard!

23 hrs ago, no responses

The new school year is just around the corner! Brand new teachers to the profession had their first day on August 11th, while those teachers who are joining Hudson for the first time started on August 17th. As has been […]

Hudson Yearbook Pickup Scheduled

5 days ago, no responses

Those who pre-ordered a yearbook of the 2016-2017 school year may pick them up at the following times and locations: Class of 2017 graduates: Saturday, July 22nd, noon-3 p.m. in the high school commons Other pre-orders: Monday, August 21st, 5-7 p.m. in the high school […]

7th Grade Computer Roll-out Meeting

1 week ago, no responses

A letter sent to 7th grade parents that outlines a mandatory meeting about computer rollout.  Please read through the message below. August 9, 2017 Dear Parents/Guardians and Students in Grade 7 In 2015, the Board of Directors for the Hudson […]

Seniors Taking College Classes

1 week ago, no responses

This letter was sent to seniors taking college classes (and their parents) and will include their Hawkeye class assignments: The school year is fast approaching and your son or daughter has signed up for a concurrent enrollment Hawkeye Community College (HCC) class […]

On To State! Pirate’s Continue to Roll in the Post-Season

4 weeks ago, no responses

Tuesday, July 11, 2017 RD 1 of Districts in Reinbeck vs GMG, Wolverines (11-14) Hudson started off postseason play with GMG.  This game took place in Reinbeck, as the Rebels would play host for half of the first round districts.  […]

Hudson Junior High Teacher, Students Honored

2 months ago, no responses

by junior Abby Lashbrook On May 31, at-risk coordinator Jeff Bell presented ​junior high language teacher Chris Dvorak and her 2016 Pirate Term, Crafters: On A Mission, a certificate of appreciation from the members from the 185th CSSB in Afghanistan. “It’s […]

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Voss Blog Log

    Education in Iowa Public Schools

    Dr. Anthony D. Voss, Superintendent of Schools

    With just a week to go until school starts, I am thankful we are finishing the 'punch list' for the early childhood wing in the elementary school. Over the last couple of weeks, I have enjoyed giving tours and explaining how the project evolved over the course of defining the scope of work; to planning, design, and execution. A long time coming, this renovation was first envisioned in the strategic plan titled, 'Hudson 2020' adopted by the Board of Directors in 2013. Isn't it awesome that a vision laid out in 2013 continues to guide us today? Not only does this honor the work of previous boards, but it gives the current board the latitude and flexibility to meet the needs of our students and community in 2017. Recommendation #4 broadly asks the Board to prioritize renovation of the elementary without boxing them in to include any specific scope of work or project. 

    We began this task with many work sessions that included brainstorming projects that needed to be addressed in our elementary school. Working in consultation with our School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC), we were able to narrow the scope of this work into different projects and priorities. Rising to the top of the list of priorities was the replacement of all the windows in the facility. With a single pane of glass, the seals were beginning to break down and they were not all that energy efficient. Teachers reported that in the winter wind would blow through unsealable gaps, making it cold. Obviously, some of this could be attributed to the window air conditioners we use to keep the rooms comfortable during those periods of hot humid weather.

    At the same time, it was important to maintain the ability to air condition our classrooms. The board liked the idea of window air conditioners because they were relatively inexpensive and easy to replace. If one went bad, we could simply swap it out for another one. However, it didn't seem to make a lot of sense to put in a new window that would let in natural light, seal up the gaps, and then install a window air conditioner. Ideas to install the units above the windows were quickly scrapped when we realized predicting the size of future air conditioners was an exercise in futility. That is when we landed on the idea of the mini-split unit, which is a ceiling mount unit controlled by a condenser on the roof of the building. While not as inexpensive as a window air unit, they more than made up for this additional cost through the energy efficiency that we will realize. Not to mention they are so quiet you can hardly hear them running!

    We have also improved our energy efficiency in this wing by replacing all the lights. The light fixtures in the elementary school are currently fluorescent bulbs, which are not very efficient by today's standards. So it was determined it would be a wise investment to replace all these fixtures with LEDs. Not only are they more energy efficient, but they have very little maintenance associated with them. This new lighting is also designed in a way to complement the natural light that comes in through our windows. On a bright sunny day, the LED lights will automatically adjust to the amount of light that is needed in the classroom by using a photo cell mounted in the ceiling. Further, if there is no one in the room, the lights will automatically turn off. 

    Perhaps the number one priority of the school board was to make our competition gym handicap accessible. Navigating the stairs on the North or South end of the valley has always been the primary way to get into the competition gym, and not all that practical for those who use walkers or wheelchairs. For years, the only way for our patrons in wheelchairs or walkers to enter the gym was to come through the emergency exits on the East end of the gym. Many strategies were discussed that included installing an elevator, putting in a lift, or installing a ramp. Ultimately, the Board decided the best course of action was to remove half the steps on the South side entrance and create a ramp, which turned out great! By the way, if you are visiting the district and need to access this ramp, we have three handicap parking spots right outside this entrance. 

    As we continued to identify and refine the scope of this work, it became obvious the entire project could not be completed at one time over the course of the summer employing the financing strategy that has been the goal of this Board. For example, the estimated cost to replace the windows in the entire facility was estimated at over $550,000. That is the sum the Board had budgeted for one year in renovation expenses.  We discussed the option of completing each of the different phases of the renovation as a stand alone project, but that idea was abandoned at the advice of our architect, engineer, and local contractors. They recommended a renovation where we completed each section of the building at one time so we only have to contend with demolition in one area of the facility at a time. 

    Now that this phase of the project is wrapping up, it is time to start considering phase two of the renovation. We have the benefit of hindsight and have clearly articulated the scope, it will be up to the board to decide which area of the building to tackle next and how best to finance the project!

    Posted: August 15, 2017, 9:35 pm
    The last three weeks we have discussed priorities the Board of Directors have identified for the upcoming legislative session. To recap, we have covered a lot of ground, including the importance of removing the sunset on the one cent sales tax, the benefit of operational sharing and ensuring those incentives continue, and the unintended consequences of unfunded mandates. Today we save the best for last, and if you have been following me for awhile, you probably know what is coming next.

    Timely and adequate supplemental state aid. Specifically speaking, we are interested in the amount of inflationary increase associated with per pupil funding for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1, 2018. During the 2016-2017 school year, the state 'cost per pupil' was $6,591. Supplemental state aid increased the state cost per pupil by 1.11%, so for the 2017-2018 school year, the state cost per pupil increased by $73 to $6,664. To put that in perspective, CPI for the month of August is 2.4% and for the last year has averaged 1.48%. 

    I think it is also important to note that then Governor Branstad recommended an increase of about 2.45% in his Condition of the State address in January of 2017. At the time, we all lamented the fact that it was low, but now with the benefit of hindsight, we are thankful we saw an increase at all. As the year continued to unfold, the Revenue Estimating Conference downgraded revenue projections at each meeting. We are in a situation now where it seems very likely that a special session of the Legislature will be called in October to deal with an even greater shortfall. We will undoubtedly have an opportunity to debate the reasons for those shortfalls in future articles, but for the meantime, I'll focus on the need for adequate and timely supplemental state aid. My point is that, yes we get it and understand, but wonder if the larger issue is one of priority. 

    Nevertheless, and thankfully this issue was settled relatively early in this past session. Although it is worth pointing out that we should have been discussing supplemental state aid for the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2018. You see, the law as previously written required the legislature to set supplemental state aid 18 months in advance of the new fiscal year. This was designed to give school districts ample time to make changes to personnel and programming decisions.  But when they set the new funding levels, they also changed the law that removed the 18 month lead time. Now we have a mere 6 months. 

    Indeed the budget is going to be tight this next year and I recognize that. I further realize that there are many, many competing priorities that we have as a state. But perhaps as a state it would be wise to consider our priorities. Many of our politicians talk about their support of education as a priority and the fact that Iowa has traditionally found itself recognized as a leader in education. They talk about how important it is to retain (or regain depending on who you talk to) that coveted status.

    But at 1.11% supplemental state aid, it makes it incredibly difficult to maintain our standing as a leader. At 1.11%, Hudson schools will see an increase in revenue of $45,955. With a general fund budget of $8.4 Million and an overall budget of $10.7 Million, that hardly seems adequate. Consider this: It's August and we have already invested $33,275 in a new science curriculum. School doesn't start for two more weeks. 

    Posted: August 8, 2017, 9:38 pm
    Over the last several years Iowa school districts have endured very small increases in supplemental state aid year over year. We'll talk more about that next week, but the impact of a low growth rate has a pretty significant negative impact on schools over time. This issue is further challenging in school districts where enrollment is decreasing, and in fact, often times this has a compounding effect. The consequences of this are obvious and lead to school districts cutting positions, and unfortunately in some cases eliminating programs. But as a general rule of thumb, when considering budget cuts in schools, the idea is to keep the cuts as far away from students as possible. That means creating efficiencies wherever we can find them.

    One common way to create efficiencies in Iowa public school districts is through operational sharing. This type of arrangement allows school districts to share the services of some employees with other school districts. Basically, one school district serves as the district of employment for a particular employee and 'sub contracts' out the employee to a neighboring school. In Hudson, we share two positions with other school districts: business manager and transportation director. With our business manager, we share the cost of employment 50/50 with Grundy Center. Hudson holds the contract so the business manager is employed by the Hudson Community School District. In the case of transportation director, we share the cost of employment 75/25 with North Tama. In this arrangement, North Tama is the agency of employment and holds that contract. (If you have ever wondered or noticed a Hudson bus in the North Tama garage, now you know the reason why.)

    The benefit of this type of arrangement is probably pretty obvious. The cost of employment is split between the two school districts per the agreement. The downside is that the employee can't be in two places at once, and as a result organizational changes in operation are necessary. This might mean that other operational employees have to pick up some of the extra work, or work that is the primary responsibility of the shared employee has to wait until that employee is in the school district. Needless to say, operational sharing does mean that people aren't always readily available to handle issues and some tasks take a little longer to complete. (Admittedly advances in technology make this less burdensome, but there are tasks that need to be completed onsite.) We've been sharing our business manager for several years now, so pretty much have the organizational aspects of this ironed out nicely at this point. Sure, it is not without challenges from time to time, and everyone has to take on a few more responsibilities....

    But the state has made it worth it. School districts are incentivized to create these efficiencies by sharing key operational positions. It works like this: you share a business manager, each school district receives the equivalent of five students for funding. If you share a transportation director, each school district receives the equivalent of five students for funding. To keep it from getting out of hand, districts are limited in both the number of operational positions that can be shared and the equivalent amount of funding they can receive. Nevertheless, this funding can go quite a long way to fill the gap created by inadequate funding. So, the equivalent of ten students we receive for operational sharing generates $67,766 in revenue for the school district. Pretty neat deal! But here is the problem: when the law was enacted it had a sunset of five years. That was three years ago. We, and numerous school districts around the state have come to rely on that revenue to keep programs running and afloat. For that reason, the board has set removing the sunset on operational sharing as a legislative priority during the second session of the 87th general assembly, set to commence in January. 

    Posted: August 2, 2017, 12:58 am