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AT&T seeking to renew talks with district over cell phone tower

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 11:22 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, April 25, 2014 11:24 a.m. CDT

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“No” doesn’t mean “no,” apparently. AT&T is asking the Newton Community School District’s Board of Education to once again consider a proposal to place a cell phone tower on district property near Newton Senior High School.

At its Feb. 10 meeting, the board voted unanimously to end talks with AT&T after the company asked the board to delay its vote on the contract in back to back meetings. Under the original terms of the deal, AT&T would have paid the district $12,000 annually for a period of 25 years and if it rented out space to another provider, the district would have received 25 percent of that amount.

Board president Andy Elbert said the district has been going back and forth with the company for three years during the Feb. 10 meeting and he asked was this deal really the best for the district at even earlier meeting.

“What it comes down to basically is, is $12,000 a year enough for us to give up the land and control of the tower?” Elbert asked the board during the Jan. 27 meeting.

Superintendent Bob Callaghan also questioned the value of the deal during the Feb. 10 meeting.

“As an old sage of mine used to say, ‘They are asking for a lot of sugar for a dime.’” Callaghan said.

The AT&T deal won’t be the only bit of old business the district will be discussing at Monday’s meeting.

During the April 14 board meeting, Robert Schwarz, owner of RSP & Associates, presented a report on the demographic study the district hired his firm to conduct. RSP’s report is 72 pages long and features statistics that compare Newton to Jasper County and the State of Iowa as a whole, various maps of the district’s boundaries and statistics on everything from future enrollment to building capacity.

A synopsis of the demographic study may be found at www.newtondailynews.com/2014/04/17/newtons-school-enrollment-steady-has-potential-to-grow/aytut5r/

The board will be further discussing the report and deciding what direction it should take from it. One item featured prominently in that report, was the facilities study the district had conducted through Des Moines-based FRK Architects and Engineers.

That study showcased the maximum and minimum student capacity for each of the district’s buildings and the agenda states there will be an update on other aspects from FRK’s study.

Another prominent update will focus on the district’s transition from a Title I Targeted Assistance Program to a school-wide assistance program. In order to meet the requirements, the district will only be able to use “highly qualified” paraprofessionals.

A more thorough breakdown of why the district is undergoing the change can be found at www.newtondailynews.com/2014/03/27/newton-schools-planning-to-use-only-highly-qualified-paraprofessionals-next-year/akdx9xu/

Essentially, the district has to make the change in order to continue receiving funding from the No Child Left Behind Act and in past talks, said it will help its current paras attain highly qualified status. The way this change will effect curriculum is still being discussed, but Elementary Education Services Director Jim Gilbert foresees it as a positive change.

“The nuance is this, no longer do we have to have a population of kids that we are just targeting — every kid qualifies,” Gilbert said at a March 31 board meeting. “Every kid can receive services no matter what, and we have the flexibility of using our Title I teaching staff in much more creative ways, and we’re still working on what those creative ways are.”

In other business, the board will hold a vote on changing the date of the May 12 budget amendment hearing, which was approved at the April 14 meeting, to May 27. The hearing would be to amend the current 2013-14 fiscal year budget.

There also will be campus update reports from Woodrow Wilson Elementary School and the preschool program at Emerson Hough.

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

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