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New face, old problem

Berg Elementary School driveway came up again in NCSD Superintendent Bob Callaghan’s first official board meeting

In Monday’s Newton Community School District Board of Education meeting, several old issues came back up — including one that was previously thought resolved.

During the meeting, Berg Elementary Principal Jolene Comer said the school made some changes to its pick up/drop-off policy in its 2013-14 student handbook.

In the January 28 board meeting, the then-new process was said to have “went very well” and that there were only two instances of confusion.

“Our improvement in the lane to separate middle and elementary schools has created issues with the walking students,” board member Donna Cook said. “I think there are some things there that we need to explore for safety reasons.”

Comer said she wanted to put the item in the handbook, to remind everyone of the dropping off procedures and for parents to stay cautious.

“A mother contacted me about the whole drop off (procedure) and her child ran into a car, kind of sort of,” Cook said.  “(Board member) Sherri (Benson) and I went out and took pictures and I brought those pictures tonight.

“It was clear to me that the expectations to me aren’t well known to the students, perhaps,” Cook continued. “We didn’t see a strong staff presence, at least on the day we were there. It’s apparent that the parents park where they think it’s the fastest and easiest to get them out of there and the kids are running into traffic.”

The matter was not formally on the agenda, and after a bit more discussion, it was shelved for the next meeting.

Superintendent Bob Callaghan touched on several items during his report.

He stated the nature of the July 29 meeting with Gaylord Tryon and Associates would be used to work on board and superintendent relations and responsibility and team building. He also touched very heavily on the elementary school handbooks that were up for approval that night, which is something the district hadn’t done in the past.

“Basically if there is ever a discrepancy between board policy and the handbook — and the handbook is kind of the Bible for the community — it will allow us to utilize the handbook which is what the parents and the students read,” Callaghan said.

Callaghan also discussed postponing the next session of ALICE training, continuing the district’s trend of holding the second board meeting at different buildings and creating a board policy committee.

The committee he said would consist of himself and the district’s administrators, and they would review board policies 500 and 600 to start.

Elementary Educational Service Director Jim Gilbert joked that the length of those pages was “three gazillion.”

“I love policy,” Callaghan said.

The board itself currently has no active committees, which is something Benson pointed out.

In other business:

• All four elementary school handbooks were approved.  Most of the changes reflected the new building surveillance cameras, the head lice policy and child abuse guidelines.

• The second reading of Board Policy 702.11, which is with regard to the district’s new surveillance cameras, was approved.

• The second reading of the updated Digital Learning Agreement and Acceptable Use Policy, which was updated in anticipation of the district’s new iPads, was approved.

Callaghan created a list of items that were discussed in the meeting that he felt should be added to the agenda for the next meeting, including:

• Further discussion and vote on proposed topics for the Iowa Association of School Boards’ next legislative session.

• Developing a district technology plan.

• Further discussion of the 2013-14 board calendar, in regards to selecting a building rotation.

• The Berg Elementary School driveway.

During the meeting, board member Don Poynter said that a citizen expressed concern with him over the district’s plans to sell the former administration building/Maytag home. Poynter said that the citizen told he felt that Walt Smith, an interested bidder, was receiving preferential treatment.

“Anybody that wants to do that, can,” board president Andy Elbert said of Smith’s open house/proposal.

The board will have an open house for the property on Saturday, July 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the property located at 807 S. Sixth Ave. W. is currently valued at $167,357 by the real estate website

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

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