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School district discusses possible agenda items for future board meetings

Monday night served two purposes for the Newton Community School District Board of Education. The first was to establish a bond with new Superintendent Bob Callaghan during a special work session with Gaylord Tryon and Associates, the firm who found Callaghan for the district.

The second purpose was to establish a list of discussion items for future board meetings and to serve as a general work session for the board.

One heavily discussed item, suggested by Callaghan, was that the district consider doing a complete staff study from bus drivers up to superintendent.

Callaghan said this study wouldn’t be done to evaluate people, but to evaluate the duties and responsibilities of every job in the district. He noted not every job in the district had a clear job description.

“Our responsibility is to make sure all tax dollars are being used efficiently,” board member Sherri Benson said.

Various aspects of classroom learning were also discussed, including standardized tests.

“We should be able to track the curriculum of students without relying on tests,” board member Nat Clark said.

“Most people don’t think those tests work,” Board member Don Poynter said.

Callaghan suggested the district start tracking students annually to see if a teacher adds values to what a student had previously learned. He also offered a unique take on standardized testing.

“It’s like a Friday night football game and whether you like what you see or not, we have to look up at that scoreboard. It’s the same thing with testing,” Callaghan said.

A heavily discussed item in both meetings was communication.  Several board members said the district needs to work on ways to improve communication with parents and the district needs to find a way to reach out to them whether it’s via social media or coffee at Burger King with Callaghan.

Team building and getting district employees to buy-in to the new regime was also discussed. Board member Bill Perrenoud suggested having teachers and administrators meet outside of a school setting, but still discuss school business.

Board member Donna Cook also asked about progress on the technology plan, which has been something she has pushed the board on for awhile. Board president Andy Elbert said the plan is underway and that a new communication plan was being considered, as well.

Callaghan also announced his intentions for the Aug. 16 professional development day, which is expected to involve all district staff.

“I would like to have everyone pledge commitment to the district’s mission statement,” Callaghan said. “Whatever it takes to have every child learn, innovate and succeed.”

The district’s mission statement reads:

“The Newton Community School District believes individuals should become life-long learners and productive citizens and accepts as its mission the responsibility of challenging all students with an equitable, quality education.”

Callaghan said, after the pledge, all employees would sign a card with the statement on it, receive a pin, and the cards would be put on display in every district building. He also wants the board to participate, and it was suggested the board’s cards hang in the District Office conference room.

“To publicly embrace the mission statement shows we mean what we say and are not just saying it,” Clark said.

“We need to set a culture to do whatever it takes for kids to learn,” Callaghan said.

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

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