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School Board forced to delay approval on sale of former Maytag home/district office

“It’s just frustrating to me that we have to wait another month to close the deal,” Newton Community School Board of Education President Andy Elbert said.

The feeling seemed to be universal at Monday’s meeting, as the board passed a 5-2 vote to postpone the final sale of the former Maytag home/district office for a yet to be determined date. Nat Clark served as acting president, due to Elbert’s late arrival, and presented the matter to the board.

“We held the public hearing, so that we would adhere to the letter and intent of the law,” Clark said. “We need to defer action for a resolution specific to Iowa Code 279 to comply with all statutes. Then, follow with a final public hearing and sale of specific property and abstract.”

Clark had originally suggested a Sept. 23 date for the next public hearing and to finalize the sale, however, most of the board agreed with Elbert’s assessment of the matter and wanted to try and resolve the situation sooner rather than later.

Superintendent Bob Callaghan clarified why the need for the abstract was important for the board to have. A property abstract is a legal document which chronicles the history of activities that have taken place on a parcel of land.

“Board members, we have followed the intent of the law, however, so that there is no repercussions, we want to make sure we do the letter of the law,” Callaghan said. “One of the things that has been missing, since we first started this process, has been a specific resolution with a specific abstract to the property.

“In Newton, everybody knows where the Maytag house is,” he continued. “Everybody has been by it. But, way back when, we didn’t give the specific abstract as it is held by the law. I guess, it’s the plot, the geosynchronous coordinates and everything else. To make sure that no one can come back and say, ‘Well, that’s not the house we held a public hearing about,’ even though it was on KCCI-TV and it was in the RFP.”

Callaghan cited the district’s attorneys for wanting the abstract to be placed in a specific resolution. He also said the postponement stemmed from the fact both he and Business Services Director/Board Secretary Gayle Isaac were each talking to different attorneys at the firm, who failed to communicate amongst themselves.

“I’m not really interested in blame. I’m just interested in how we move forward to get this resolved and sold,” board member Donna Cook said.

Board member Sherri Benson asked if this delay would allow Steve and Laura Jochems to back out on their $57,311 bid, however, she was reassured they couldn’t back out and the abstract and resolution would benefit both parties.

Isaac assured the board he would contact the district’s firm, Des Moines-based Alhers & Cooney law firm, to get an abstract and resolution done. Once the process is complete, Isaac will place an ad in the Newton Daily News for a minimum of 10 days.

Board member Bill Perrenoud was selected to be the district’s representative for the 2013-14 Iowa School Board Association legislative session.  After his appointment, the board voted and debated about which five issues to submit to the ISBA and preschool was the main focal point.

Some board members wanted to pitch the idea of a universally funded preschool to the ISBA; however, board member Dennis Combs was adamant against the measure. Combs cited the success of the current preschool formula in Newton and how universal preschool would harm private business.

“We should be pushing for fully-funded preschool for everybody,” board member Don Poynter said.

“I fully disagree. There is no reason for government to wipe out a whole sector of business,” Combs said. “Right now, we got some families that are dependant upon the privately offered preschool situation. They’re getting preschool. We set it up perfectly. We are not taking out businesses, and children that weren’t getting it are being served.

“For us to step in, and to take taxpayer money to squeeze out private business, is a dangerous place to go, and I fully disagree,” Combs continued. “We’ve done everything we can not to. We’re only helping those we help on the daily basis. Those folks, we’ve stepped in and moved resources to help relieve some of that pressure on their income. That I can stand with, but to end up and say listen, ‘We think we can take out Kindercare,’ that’s just wrong.”

Combs’ pointed out Newton’s preschool model has been an example for the state and going for universal funding would undermine the premise the district used to get the program started. He was adamant the district’s preschool, which is income-based, was serving those who need it most.

“We assume that somebody — who seems to have an adequate income — will invest in their child, but (they) still may chose not to (provide) them an early education,” Cook said. “It does become our problem when they come to school not ready to learn.”

During the debate, Clark pointed to the district’s mission statement, of doing whatever it takes to ensure all students learn to think, innovate and succeed.

“Then why aren’t we offering free babysitting from birth?” Combs said.

In the end, the board agreed universal preschool shouldn’t be one of the five issues and selected the following, which are in numerical order.

1. Maintaining current preschool funding.

2. Aligning Iowa assessments students take with the Iowa Core.

3. Funding for teachers’ professional development.

4. Ensuring state revenues are adequately funding education.

5. Allowable growth.

The board also approved allowing IASB to aid the district in the review of policies 500 and 600. Five-hundred focuses on students, while 600 addresses a variety of issues and contains the district’s mission statement.

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

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