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Newton school district completes sale of former Maytag home/district office

New camera system already paying dividends for district

“Woo hoo, finally,” was how board member Donna Cook  responded during Monday’s Newton Community School District Board of Education meeting.

The board was finally able to approve the sale of the former Maytag home/district office to Steve and Laura Jochems for $57,311. Final approval was originally scheduled to take place at the Aug. 27 meeting but had to be delayed due to miscommunications with the district’s legal counsel.

During his report, Superintendent Bob Callaghan explained that the new district-wide surveillance system was working well.

“Our surveillance system has begun to pay dividends,” he said. “We would like the board to continue considering expanding this, as we change out cameras. It has worked extremely well in two very recent situations. And we are planning on upgrading the outside cameras and taking the present cameras and moving them to other locations. We have plenty of room for growth.”

The situation Callaghan alluded to was the cameras catching two acts of vandalism at two of the district’s facilities. He also said signage was heavily present in all of the district’s buildings to let people know they are being recorded.

“I also want you to note that all our staff are wearing security badges with our pictures (and) job,” Callaghan said. “It’s got our names on them so that people can recognize them and we believe that is helping with our security.”

Callaghan also noted the district is investigating an incident that took place outside of Thomas Jefferson Elementary School on Thursday morning in front of students, staff and parents. Apparently an attack dog was being trained and biting a man wearing protective gear. He said they are trying to track down who was behind the training maneuver and that it was not approved by the district.

The district is also testing out its newly implanted time management system from Time Clock Plus. Maintenance Supervisor Jack Suttek said the program was being tested out with his custodial staff and estimated only three mistakes have taken place in the last week with his staff of 30, who check-in and out four times a day.

Callaghan said the next phase of the rollout would involve bus drivers and secretaries.

He also provided an early count of how many students are enrolled in the district this year. Currently, there are 3,011 students in the district; which is 40 students lower than last year’s figure of 3,051, according to the Iowa Department of Education. Preschoolers are counted as half-students. Final figures aren’t due until Oct. 15, but Callaghan said they are getting an early jump.

“I can tell you right now we’re working on this,” Callaghan said. “We are going to do a preliminary count. When October the first rolls around, we expect October the first to match what we already have in our system. So when we get to October first, we feel like we can certify, although, we then have two more weeks. But we want to start now with the numbers.”

The board approved the first reading of Board Policy 1004.1, which concerns the use of school facilities by the community. Under the new reading, programs that are considered feeder programs to the district wouldn’t have to pay a rental fee. However, if an event takes place on a Saturday or Sunday, they would have to pay a custodial fee.

“Our recommendation is that we are going to make it much more easily understandable to the community,” Callaghan said. “We are going to put out a specific rental fee, if the facility must be rented.”

He estimated the custodial fee would be no more than $80.

In Business Services Director/Board Secretary Gayle Isaac’s annual treasurer report, he listed the fund balance of several district accounts.

The general fund balance end balance was $3,426,278. Student activity balance was $372,820, the management fund was $1,123,839, capitol projects fund was $1,634,515, the physical plant and levy fund was $703,520, the debt service fund was $350,864 and the food service fund was $888,446.

In other business:

• Isaac was re-appointed Board Secretary/Treasurer and also appointed the School Business Official.

• The board approved Des Moines-based Alhers & Cooney law firm as the district’s only legal counsel. Previously, the district would hire two firms.

• The board approved the contract between the district and the Drake University Head Start program.

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

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