The Confucius International Education Group

The Clinton Community School District is pleased to announce a joint educational opportunity with the Confucius International Education Group (CIEG).  For the 2018-19 school year, approximately 72 Chinese international students ranging from freshmen to juniors will live at the old Ashford dormitories and receive their educations through Clinton High School.

There has been a lot of planning to ensure that this is a positive experience for everyone involved.  The planning has ranged from staffing, use of the Ashford campus including state of the art STEM classrooms, cultural integration activities, community and staff information meetings, joint use of resources by Clinton Community Schools and CIEG, transportation needs and perhaps using the city busing service, and so on.  We are planning on parent meetings on March 7 at 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. at Clinton High School’s Vernon Theater to provide information and answer questions directly related to  high school students.  As for the community information piece, CIEG and the Clinton Community School District are planning an information meeting and open house on Sunday, April 8 at 2:00 p.m. at the Durgin Educational Center at the Ashford campus. We strongly encourage you to come to any and all of these meetings and have your questions answered.

Personally, the educational upside of increasing our students’ personal background by experiencing  diversity first-hand is beyond my wildest dreams.  Throughout my educational career, I have witnessed the power of foreign exchange programs and the lastly relationships that have been built that stand the test of time.  I believe the relationship between Clinton Schools and CIEG will multiply that positive effect many times over.  The six principles of the Confucius educational philosophy, especially the emphasis on leadership and personal responsibility will make the Clinton School District reflect on our efforts to instill these values in all students.

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School Safety

The tragedy at a Parkland, Florida high school last week has refocused the nation on school safety.  I support the current efforts at Clinton Community Schools to ensure that students and staff can teach and learn in a safe environment:

  • The school district schedules meetings with law enforcement four times a year as a district to review current/future concerns and best practice procedures.
  • The school district and the city employ two school resource officers that work proactively to keep a safe school climate.
  • The school district has been trained in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) intruder training and plans to expand the depth of the training.
  • Each building restricts access inside by secured entryways, requiring identification to school personnel and identification tags for visitors.

One of the major lessons from Florida is that we need to encourage parents, staff, and the general public to inform school officials and/or law enforcement about observed questionable or threatening behaviors.  Parents, please reinforce this lesson with your child.  We need everyone’s commitment for school safety to ensure a basic right for all students.

School Choice

Last week, Republican State Senator Mark Chelgren introduced Senate File 2091, a bill that creates Education Savings Grants that would be available to students who are attending non-public schools or who are homeschooling.  Much of the rationale for vouchers comes from the parents who are paying taxes that go to public schools, but do not benefit from those taxes, because they utilize nonpublic education.

First, one needs to understand that over $50 million in tax dollars already supports private schooling and home schooling in Iowa.  Here is a breakdown of the use of those dollars:  nonpublic textbooks ($650,000), nonpublic transportation ($8,500,000), school tuition tax credits ($11,300,000), tuition and textbook tax credits ($15,200,000), home school assistance support ($2,000,000), nonpublic students using public opportunities ($1,600,000) and community partner preschool ($13,000,000).

Second, parents have many educational options in Iowa today.  Iowa offers open enrollment to other public school districts or to a virtual public school.  There are two kinds of homeschooling:  competent private instruction and independent private instruction.  There are also viable private school systems in the state.

Third, will the same accountability for public school funding be expected for private and homeschooling parents?  Currently, private and homeschooling advocates have lobbied hard for limited or no government regulation.  If they are receiving public funding, I believe private and homeschooling options must have the same government expectations and accountability concerning curriculum, student achievement, and the acceptance of ALL students.

This bill will be heavily debated during this legislative session.  My stance is that competition in schools is good and makes us strive to be better.  However, public schools need to compete on the same playing field.  Therefore the same accountability and educational assurances every public school district in Iowa is required to have should be the same for private or homeschooling options that are receiving government vouchers.

Our local representatives are:

 

 

Equity for all Students

Equity is a concept that most everyone agrees is right and just.  However, in Iowa public school funding, two major areas of inequity exist: per-pupil funding and transportation.

The per-pupil funding inequity was created over 40 years ago when the state of Iowa developed a funding formula, balancing state and local revenues for education.  At the time of the creation of this state funding formula, some property rich districts were already spending more per pupil than the new formula generated.  These districts were grandfathered in, with some able to spend up to $175 more per student.  Forty years later, nothing has been done to eliminate this inequity.

In the current 2017-18 school year, some school districts are allowed by the state to spend $6664 per student.  Clinton is allowed $6710 per student, $129 below the maximum of $6839 per student in some Iowa districts.  The $129 deficit per student means the Clinton School District has over $488,000 less to spend on students this year compared to other school districts.

The second major inequity is transportation.  Some school districts in Iowa spend over $1000 per student in a school year to get students to school.  Other districts spend less than $50 per student per year.  Clinton spent an average of $223 per student in the 2016-17 school year.  Transportation costs are paid out of the supplemental state aid per student as described in the above paragraph, ranging from $6664 to $6839 per student.  However, currently some school districts pay $950 more per student in transportation costs which means this $950 cannot be used for teachers, textbooks, technology, etc.

Where a child lives in the state of Iowa should not dictate the funding for his or her education.  Last year, the legislature proposed a bill for a 10 year phase-in to eliminate both per pupil and transportation inequity.  The bill did not move forward due to funding.  Although it is a tight financial year, the amount of money proposed for year 1 of the phase-in was reasonable.  If educational equity is something we can agree on, let’s find a way to begin the process.

Our local representatives are:

SAVE

SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) is a funding stream which was formerly known as the statewide school infrastructure sales and services tax or as the local option sales and services tax for school infrastructure.  These monies received for school infrastructure purposes are to be utilized solely for school infrastructure needs or school district property tax relief.

The Clinton School District has borrowed against future SAVE funds to build the new middle school, the new Jefferson Elementary, the new Eagle Heights Elementary, and the high school pool and gym addition.  By using SAVE funding, property tax payers benefit from these projects because they are not funded through local bond issues.

Although many facility needs were met in the last decade, some remain.  Clinton High School has some original infrastructure from 1950-1970.  HVAC, lighting, plumbing, electrical, windows, and flooring have exceeded their lifetimes. Parking at several of our school sites needs to be improved.  The third wing of the middle school and a performing arts center were eliminated from the middle school due to budget constraints.

The current SAVE expires in 2029.  Although this seems like a long time away, school districts are losing capacity to bond using SAVE.  Long term facility planning is affected if SAVE is not extended.  The ability to address the concerns in the above paragraph will be difficult without an extension of SAVE.

Extending SAVE in the 2018 session will not impact the tight budget discussions.  The extension will support school facility needs and act as property tax relief.  Please consider contacting our local representatives to support the extension of SAVE.

Our local representatives are:

Parents for Great Public Schools

This upcoming Tuesday evening, January 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the school board room, parents of the Iowans for Public Education will headline the Clinton PTA meeting agenda.  Their mission is below:

Iowans for Public Education is a grassroots movement to protect Iowa’s tradition of quality public schools. We plan to achieve this by—

• Defending against legislation that poses a threat to public education in Iowa
• Educating Iowans and their political leaders about issues affecting public education
• Providing tools, resources, and support for community action on these issues

Defending and supporting public education is a nonpartisan mission, as a strong public school system benefits us all. We welcome people from across the political spectrum who value Iowa’s rich tradition of high quality public schools, and we will embrace political leaders from any party who support our mission.

Please consider attending this meeting.  These parents are passionate about supporting our kids!

To join the closed discussion group, visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/360981620961306/.

School Starting Times, Transitional Kindergarten

There has been much discussion in our school district, community, state, and nation about the recommendation by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to have middle school and high school students start school no earlier than 8:30 A.M. The research on the sleep requirements for teenagers included discussion on the readiness of elementary students to learn earlier in the day.

Although the perfect school schedule does not exist, I do feel that the overall consensus in these conversations is to move our elementary school starting times earlier and move the secondary school starting time close to the recommended time of 8:30 A.M.  The district will need to work with the transportation department to finalize these times later this spring.

Also, the Clinton Community School District is discussing adding “transitional kindergarten” as a service to students and parents.  The following are two factors that support “transitional kindergarten”:

  • The age difference between a “young” and an “old” five-year old’s life experiences is about 16%, greater than in any other time in K-12 education.
  • The kindergarten curriculum that we experienced has now been pushed down to the four-year old’s preschool experience.  Today’s kindergarten classroom is much more academic, increasing the importance of readiness to learn.

I want every student on the first day of first grade to be at grade level or above, ready to learn with success.  “Transitional kindergarten” students will be taught the same kindergarten curriculum without the pressure of being proficient in all the standards.  However, if a student in transitional kindergarten blooms during the year, and is meeting or exceeding benchmarks, they will be recommended for first grade based on academic indicators.  Those transitional kindergarten students that are not at benchmark at the end of the year would enter kindergarten the next year as leaders in their class.

We will inform you more about these two changes as we plan for the next school year.