Independence, IA (October 7, 2013) – Each year the Iowa Association of School Boards recognizes up to three Iowa school districts for exemplary leadership that creates positive results and change in their school districts and communities. A plaque and certificate are given in honor of T.E. Davidson, long-time school board member and past IASB executive director. Recipients of the 2012-13 Boards Making a Difference Award include the school boards of Independence, Lynnville-Sully, and Council Bluffs community schools.
The Independence schools pride themselves for having a strong board of education, but with the intent of “raising the bar” the Board enlisted the assistance of Mary Jane Vens, from the Iowa Association of School Boards, to facilitate a board goal setting workshop. Through this workshop the board set the following five goals along with an action plan to help them achieve these goals for the 2012-13 school year.
- Obtaining and Sustaining Academic Excellence
- Responsibly Manage Fiscal Resources
- Establish a Strong Public/Marketing Program for the District
- Establish a Long Range Facility Plan
- Create an Exemplary Activities Department
The Board focuses every regular monthly board meeting on student achievement and/or educational initiatives. The district’s principals and curriculum director are assigned presentations to the Board each month on a rotating basis, which gives the Board a more complete picture of the district-wide educational programs and student achievement initiatives. By having the Board a part of these student achievement discussions, they are aware of what interventions need to be facilitated with students and what kind of funding that entails.
Besides working to achieve these goals, the administration team collaborated with the Board to craft a comprehensive bond campaign plan to build the new Jr./Sr. High School. With the Board’s encouragement, a committee that consisted of parents, teachers, administrators, superintendent, two board members, coaches, farmers, city officials and alumni was created. The Board was very supportive throughout the whole bond campaign process and was very receptive to the district patrons’ feedback. The Bond Issue vote passed with a 69% yes vote. The Board worked very hard to reach out to all stakeholders. They listened to what people had to say and their suggestions. The Board also worked closely with Jr/Sr High Administration and Staff and sought their input on the design of the new building.
One consistent message that was heard throughout the Bond campaign was the need to bring the Agriculture Education Program back to the school district. Because of this feedback, the Board initiated the formation of a committee to study this idea. The committee began its work, and the input, support, and donations to start the Ag Ed Program were overwhelming. The Board gave their approval last fall for ICSD to start an Ag Ed Program for the 2013-2014 school year. There are now 144 students signed up to take these classes.
The Board also monitors the financial condition of the school on a monthly basis and has very open communication with the Superintendent and the Director of Finance. The implementation of the line item budget three years ago, along with additional financial reports, has helped them stay up to date and on top of all District finances. The Board has had to make very difficult decisions to reduce spending and to turn the downward slide of all key indicators into an upward climb.
IASB is proud to recognize the Independence Community School District Board of Education for truly making a difference for its students and its community. The board and superintendent team will be recognized at IASB’s 68th annual convention in Des Moines on November 21st.