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School Improvment Advisory Committee helping guide Newton school district

Published: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 10:34 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 11:35 a.m. CST

In late 2013, the Newton Community School District’s Board of Education approved a measure to re-establish committees within the school district. One of those new committees was the School Improvement Advisory Committee.

Since its inception, the committee, which is made up of more than 20 community members, students and various district staff, has acted as an advisory tool for the board.

“The purpose of this was to meet the letter of intent of the law, which is to have a school improvement committee,” NCSD Superintendent Bob Callaghan said. “SIAC is intended as an outlet for people to participate in the educational process.”

SIAC has three subcommittees — facilities, staffing and budget — that meet separately and bring their collective thoughts to SIAC’s monthly meeting.

“The subcommittees really look in-depth at specific issues,” Callaghan said. “Then, they will come back and report to the entire committee. There is equal representation in each of the groups and individuals were given the opportunity to chose the committee that they gravitated towards.”

While SIAC may be a new group, it has played a major role in helping shape the future school calendar for the district. School districts all over Iowa have been debating between the 180 days vs. 1,080 instructional hours school calendar and SIAC recommend the district go with the later.

“The calendar is still a big one,” Callaghan said. “The state of Iowa wanted us to make a decision on the 180 days versus the 1,080 hours calendar. I believe that as long as people keep kids first, and when presented with factual and accurate information, building consensus can be kind of an easy thing.”

Just this week, the school board selected the 1,080 hours method to develop the school calendar based on the committee’s recommendations.

SIAC also has helped narrow the amount of committees the district utilized in previous years.

“In the past, we have used a large number of committees to complete these tasks,” Callaghan said. “My focus was to develop one committee (that is) committed to school improvement. The goal was to improve communication and increase participation. We take minutes, we produce those minutes and post them on our website, just like we would do a school board meeting.”

Several school board members, who also serve on SIAC, voiced their support for the committee in recent meetings.

“I thought it was productive meeting and we did accomplish a lot,” school board/SIAC member Bill Perrenoud said during a January board meeting. “There was a lot of different input from a lot of different venues and it was very open and transparent. I think this committee is going to be very successful.”

Callaghan also strongly supports SIAC and believes this committee will serve a valuable need to the district.

“There has been 100 percent attendance at each of the subcommittee meetings and there was 100 percent attendance at the large SIAC meeting,” Callaghan said. “I’ve been extremely impressed that everyone has dedicated themselves and committed themselves to the school improvement process.”

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