The Lewis Central Community School District Board of Education discussed legislative priorities Monday and ultimately decided to affirm those suggested by the Iowa Association of School Boards.
“They seem very thorough,” said Superintendent Eric Knost, who recommended adopting the association’s legislative resolutions.
Board member Bob Hendrix noted that mental health has become a major issue but wasn’t sure how it should be dealt with.
“There’s really not a good guideline out there right now,” he said.
Dave Black, school improvement specialist, said the school district is fortunate to have a partnership with Heartland Family Service and access to its therapists. Students who need help can be referred to HFS therapists who provide services on the Lewis Central campus.
“If we didn’t have that partnership, we’d have a hard time finding good, qualified people,” he said.
Hendrix said training teachers to identify symptoms might be a problem.
Teachers need to be trained to be trauma informed, Knost said. He said there was a professional development opportunity on trauma-responsive schools and creating a trauma-informed culture.
The IASB has listed 31 priorities, so here are some that have been talked about the most (or the longest) and haven’t been addressed. The IASB:
Supports an increase in funding for the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program ... (to help) districts to provide services such as full-day programming and transportation to ensure that all 4-year-olds have the ability to attend the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program.
2. Early literacy
Supports funding for research on best practices for improving proficiency in early literacy strategies and professional development and classroom intervention on implementing those.
3. English learners
Supports sufficient and on-time funding for English-learners until the students reach proficiency.
4. Mental Health
a. Supports efforts to establish comprehensive community mental health systems to offer prevention and treatment services and comprehensive school mental health programs that include in-school access for students to mental health professionals and provisions for reimbursement by Medicaid and private insurers
b. Supports additional ongoing teacher, administrator and support staff training to improve the awareness and understanding of child emotional and mental health needs
c. Supports incentives for workforce development for mental health professionals in schools
5. Special education funding
a. Supports federal commitment to fund 40% of the cost of educating students receiving special education services and requests that the federal government fulfill that longstanding commitment by increasing funding by a minimum of 8% per year until the 40% figure is achieved.
b. Supports predictable and timely state funding to serve students receiving special education services at a level that reflects the actual cost, including educational programming and health care costs.
6. School calendars
Supports the authority of locally elected school boards to determine the school calendar to best meet student needs, including start dates, year-round schools and other innovations.
In other business, Jeff Carper, director of operations, reported that most summer projects have been completed. The concrete work in front of the high school is still in progress, and a couple inspections still need to be done. Repairs have been made to the press box, but a few more may be done. Painting at the Educational Resource Center has been put off until winter break.
Black said installation of the card access system at Lewis Central Middle School was almost finished.
So far, expenses have come to $926,488.11 out of an estimated total of $947,862.50 that will be covered by Physical Plant and Equipment Levy revenue, Carper said. An additional $7,100 may need to be paid for with money from the general fund.
Knost said he will continue the district’s established goals, focusing especially on maintaining the right culture by building relationships and on guiding the capital projects the district has in the works.