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Security, early retirement policy headline Newton school board meeting

While the hottest topic on last night’s Newton Community School District Board of Education agenda garnered plenty of discussion by board members, those it affects will have to wait at least another two weeks for a decision.

On the matter of instituting an early retirement option for part-time staff who have put in several years of work with the district, the board was cautious how such a plan might fare financially.

“We had some long-timers that wanted the policy considered, so they came to the board and asked,” NCSD Superintendent Steve McDermott said. “What we have to remember is that every hour that every person in this district works is paid for, so this goes above and beyond; it’s a financial tool.”

Board member Sheri Benson noted that it would be beneficial for the board to consider the attrition rate of part-time staff as well as the finer details laid out in the part-time contract. Thus, that information will be available for discussion as the issue will again be present on next meeting’s agenda.

Meanwhile, the board reviewed and approved all of the applications for early retirement from full-time staff for this school year. While the district had previously set a goal of 15 retirees, the board approved all 16 applications for retirement.

In the superintendent’s report, McDermott highlighted security measures Newton schools have begun implementing in an effort ensure the highest security for all students.

“Recent tragedies have spurred us to look at things in a little different light,” McDermott said. “You have to find a good balance between preparation and frightening the kids to the point where they can’t learn ... they have to feel safe in order to learn.”

Among the efforts mentioned by McDermott were the installation of more higher-quality cameras inside buildings as well as outside doors, the installation of classroom door handles that lock from the inside as well as from the hallway and more sound security for main office areas.

In addition, McDermott announced what he described as “quite a healthy donation” anticipated from the Iowa Speedway at the Newton Chamber of Commerce dinner later this month in support of the district’s 1:1 iPad initiative.

“It’ll be in the ballpark of $10,000, so we’re really excited about that,” McDermott said. “That will purchase nearly a classroom set of the devices.”

It won’t just be students utilizing tablet technology, though, as McDermott announced that board members would soon receive iPads as well in an effort to eliminate paper waste at meetings and “learn along with the students.”

Lastly, the board welcomed new Berg Middle School Assistant Principal George Panosh to the district. Panosh formerly worked for the Linn-Mar School District in Marion where he recently served as the Technology Integration Coach. In addition to his assistant principal duties, Panosh will serve as the middle school’s activities director.

In other business:

• In order to make up for days of canceled school due to the snowstorm prior to the holiday break, the district will utilize its one built-in snow day on Feb. 18 as well as extending school in the spring through May 30.

• The newly-installed driveway at the Berg Complex will see its first traffic on Jan 22. A map detailing the new traffic pattern will print early next week.

• As Director of Elementary Education Jim Gilbert was ill, the Educational Services Update and response to teacher DINA survey was postponed until next meeting.

• McDermott outlined his recent visit with Sen. Dennis Black and Rep. Dan Kelley as he and Gilbert “Lunched with Legislators” and discussed the allowable growth rate for the coming fiscal year. “I feel we have two allies in these gentlemen,” McDermott said.

Staff writer Nicole Wiegand may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 422, or at

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