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Reed’s resignation, budget headline school board meeting

Monday’s human resources report at the school board meeting proved to be an eye opener. Long-time Newton Senior High School wrestling coach Bill Reed put in his resignation effective immediately at this school year.

Reed, who is currently on vacation in Colorado, declined to comment. However, he did say he will provide a response next week when he returns.

Superintendent Steve McDermott commented on Reed’s resignation.

“All I can tell you is he decided to resign his position,” McDermott said. “He had successful teams over the years and will continue to teach (in the district).”

Reed’s resignation after 15 years didn’t spur much of a discussion among the board members.

The board also approved of a 6:15 p.m. meeting on April 8 for several public hearings, including the hearing for surveillance cameras, the 2012-2013 budget amendment and the 2013-2014 budget proposal hearing. April 15 is the final day to submit budgets for next school year.

Absent from the meeting were board president Andy Elbert, whose role was filled by board member Nat Clark, and business secretary Gayle Isaac, whose role was filled by secondary education director Tina Ross.

Isaac’s absence was notable due to several board members having questions about the proposed 2013 to 2014 fiscal year budget. 

“I guess it would be helpful for me, if next time Gayle could speak to what his vision is as to how we made these reductions as to how we are getting to this point,” board member Sherri Benson said. “Not saying that his theories are incorrect or anything like that, it’s just to help me be comfortable with the fact …”

Board member Dennis Combs piggybacked off of Benson’s initial statement: “I’d like to hear that that night (April 8 public hearing) to make sure that we have…we definitely want him here to be able to ask that.”

McDermott reassured the board that Isaac was out for legitimate reasons and broke down parts of the projected $44,426,930 budget, which is about $2 million less than the actual budget for 2012.

“At this point, we are planning on bringing this in with a zero-percent allowable growth, we know nothing else,” McDermott said. “That’s the plan and this is how this particular plan was…I think this is a good solution and a good plan. It is conservative, we have not jockeyed numbers. We have been real straight with this as we have been in the past, and it has served us well.”

During the superintendant’s report, McDermott explained the district’s current contract situation with the United Electrical Workers Union and local teachers union, Newton Community Education Association.

The district is in the first year of a three-year agreement with both unions.

“There is no bargaining on those fronts,” McDermott said.

However, both contracts allow for a three percent salary increase for both groups. McDermott said they will move forward with the increase, and the unions agree with it the decision.

Another item on the agenda was the Berg PTA’s application for a grant from Prairie Meadows Casino. The grant would be used to expand the playground and to get new equipment. In order for Prairie Meadows to consider any grant, it would need approval from the school board.

“I don’t see any reason why we would want them not to apply,” McDermott said. “No liability on our part to follow through and finish up. The only thing we do with playgrounds, so far in my time here, at least, has been the surfaces underneath it. The equipment itself, the most expensive parts, the groups have raised money for it themselves.”

The board approved the cooperative swimming agreement with Pella Community School District and McDermott provided an update on a subject that the board discussed in the past.

“As Gayle has reported to you in line with our security planning, we’ve talked about changing door latches and making things more ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant,” McDermott said. “At one time we talked about changing every lock on every classroom door in the school district.”

“Well, we started down that road and changed a few of those along the way,” McDermott continued. “We have roughly 350 of those remaining…That’s moving forward, that’s just an awareness for you folks and that’s not anything you need to necessarily approve this evening. But Gayle wanted me to pass along that and there’s a high likelihood of us getting that done sooner than later.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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