Boards look at ways to improve education

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Boards look at ways to improve education

 

Becky Walz

News Editor

 

“Our students are our pride, and as our enrollments spiral down we hand the teachers more duties for the same money. Those challenges are not getting better,” said Arnie Kriener, South Winn board member, at Monday’s joint meeting with Turkey Valley.

Board members of the two districts, along with officials from Northeast Iowa Community College, met to discuss the future of the students and what the educational system of the districts should look like in five or 10 years.

“This is simply a chance to share ideas for the future about the districts’ declining enrollments,” said Superintendent Chris Hoover.

According to figures given at the meeting, the two districts are looking at a combined projected enrollment of 757 students in kindergarten through 12th grade for the 2017-2018 school year.

Chris Wiltgen of Calmar facilitated the talks between the three entities and opened the discussion, noting that the sharing opportunities available with SW and TV, combined with NICC, would help prepare students for brighter futures, hopefully in northeast Iowa.

“There is a nationwide trend where more students are entering college with credits, if not one or two years already complete,” noted Wiltgen.

A collaboration between the two districts and NICC would be a unique model, offering education in a way no one does now.

Dr. Liang Wee, president of NICC, urged the boards to discuss partnering opportunities in which more South Winn and Turkey Valley students could possibly graduate with both a high school diploma and two-year degree at the same time.

“We have the opportunity to talk about leaving a legacy for our students in five, 10, 15, or even 20 years from now,” stated Wee. “By not doing anything we will know what the results are, and it would be a travesty to sit back and do nothing. We don’t have all the answers now, but let’s get there together. NICC is committed to working with you.”

Additional discussion revolved around the infrastructure involved in the future of sharing possibilities with elementary schools in Ossian and Jackson Junction, transportation issues, and other challenges the districts may see in the future.

“We need to think about what we want the students to be like. We use lots of technology,” continued Wee. “The key thing is to think about creating the best programs for our young people. The frame of thinking is not about what we have now, but how can both schools come up with a plan for students today for careers in the future, and how do we as leaders build infrastructure around that?”

“What do we have to lose by going through this discovery phase?” questioned SW’s Don Schroeder.

Turkey Valley board president Linus Kuhn reiterated, “This concept is a long way from being considered a merger, consolidation, or whole-grade sharing.”

At future, individual meetings, the two boards will discuss declining enrollment, sharing opportunities, and what each board envisions the future of education to be.

The two boards will reconvene in October to discuss what options they have in the coming years and whether or not they support the endeavor of sharing programs.

“So the question is what do we want education to look like in grades 7-12 in five years? We aren’t just throwing it together; we want to do something for education,” noted Roger Ott, a Turkey Valley board member. “That’s what it is all about.”

Wiltgen will provide to the board members several models from across that nation of high schools and colleges working together to education students. Following October’s meeting, if both boards agree to proceed toward a feasibility study, board members will begin contacting community members and parents for additional input on what they would like to see in terms of education and resources.

“Parents need to be thinking of what they want our educational systems to look like in the future,” closed SW board member Wendy Mihm-Herold.

 

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