On April 13, our K-12 teaching staff participated in workplace visits during their professional development time. What a great experience for our teachers to be able to learn about industries in Washington as well as see applications of their curriculum. I have heard so much about this activity, that has been going on for 4 years, and I was equally impressed with the opportunity to visit 1 of the participating 8 businesses.
It is very easy for education to have our head in the sand when it comes to connecting our curriculum with the real-world, because our teachers have spent 12 years as a K-12 student, plus 4 more years for their degree, and then most went right into the classroom. That means they have spent most of their life in the school system either as a student or teacher. When I became a high school principal in 2004, I remember having conversations with our staff about bringing relevance to our teaching and I had a veteran Calculus teacher tell me, “that is really hard for me because I have spent my entire adult life in school”.
I see a lot of relevance in our classrooms today, and our teaching staff are making their curriculum relevant, but getting a first hand opportunity to walk and talk with local businesses is invaluable. Our goal is to not only learn what businesses do, but also what skills are needed. Second, we want to hear about innovations, workplace expectations, and the need for ongoing training and education.
I want to thank each businesses for taking time to spend with our staff and share with them. My hope is that each and every teacher had as good of experience as I did. I also hope that each teacher was able to go back and discuss their learning with their students. I see an opportunity to foster our school to workplace relationships in the future by including them in our classrooms.
A special thank you to Ed Raber Director, Washington Economic Development Group, for arranging the workplace tours through the relationships he has developed over the years. Thank you to the participating businesses this year and we hope that this experience can continue and evolve into mutual benefits. This year’s participating businesses:
Engineered Building Design, L.C.
Washington County Hospitals and Clinics
Premier 1 Supplies
ACH Foam Technologies
Reliant LTC Pharmacies/Smartscripts
Hiring Cost Savings Update
We have been busy hiring our teaching staff of our early retirees’. The building principals have done an outstanding job of managing the hiring process for their respective buildings. As a reminder, our goal through the restructuring/early retirement process was to save $1.1 million for next year. This was estimated using a model of leveraging our management fund to pay early retirements, and realizing the savings by hiring less expensive staff. Our hiring target was BA Step 6, that stands for Bachelor of Arts degree, and 6 years experience. We have only 2 positions that we hired above that level and most have been hired under 6 years experience. One of those positions was a hard to fill area, that we really had no choice in. Currently, we are on track to save $800,000 through the rehiring process. We still have work to do in the reduction/cost savings area, but this is a great starting point.
School finance is like steering a cruiseliner, it takes time to turn it around. That is because, our funding is a year behind, and with unstable enrollment predictions and low funding from the State of Iowa, we must be out in front of all of our issues. The early retirement strategy was our only tool, as long as we continue to monitor our spending moving forward, we should be able to balance a quality education wisely. Looming in our future are the 3 largest classes in our district next year. Those classes will be 9th, 10th, and 11th grade and it will be imperative to monitor the enrollment drop with our expenditures.
The auditorium is progressing very well. Completion is being touted for September, but we are optimistic that it may be sooner. I was able to walk through on April 27th and work is progressing very well. They have also have the loading dock area completed as well as the sidewalks on the south side. While it appears that not much is going on from the outside, the interior is changing fast.
The Stewart project is in full swing with utilities relocation and over excavating taking place. Footings for the building should begin within a week or so. Unlike the auditorium, the Stewart project is all weather dependent, and with the much needed rain, it may push back footing work, but we are off to a good start. Occupancy is slated for January 2017.