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Board welcomes new members, says farewell to Benson and Ebert

School board secretary Gayle Isaac swears in the new members of Newton's school board during Monday 
night's meeting.
School board secretary Gayle Isaac swears in the new members of Newton's school board during Monday night's meeting.

It was out with the old, and in with the new as the Newton Community School District board welcomed two new members on Monday night. Board members Shari Benson and Andy Ebert were honored for their service to the board as the district welcomed new members Cody Muhs and Graham Sullivan to board during Monday night’s meeting.

As she cut into her farewell cake with Ebert, Benson said she’ll miss serving on the board. A member since 2006, she’s seen been part of some big moments on the board.

“It’s been a pleasure to work with you and serve you,” Benson told the audience.

As part of Monday’s meeting the board also elected officers, who will each serve a two-year term. Board president Travis Padget was re-elected as board president, and the board chose Ann Leonard as vice president, filling the role previously occupied by Robyn Friedman. Christine Dawson and Gayle Isaac were both retained in the current roles as board secretary and treasurer.

Superintendent Bob Callaghan also presented the board with an update on current construction projects. Both the softball complex and the new Berg building are on schedule and progressing nicely, Callaghan said. Initial grading of the softball field, which is being handled by members of the Iowa Cubs turf crew has already begun.

Callaghan also presented the board with updated enrollment numbers for each of the district’s schools. The state of Iowa will conduct its official enrollment count on Oct. 2, which will determine the amount of funding the district receives. For the 2017-2018 school year, the district will receive $6,664 for each student who is enrolled on that date. Currently, there are 3,093 students enrolled in the district, representing a steady increase over previous years according to district administrators.

Board members also approved a request from the district to push last year’s special education deficit forward onto the 2018 fiscal year. The deficit, which amounts to $389,147.62 represents a gap between the district’s spending and state funding in special education. Addressing Muhs and Sullivan, the board’s newest members, Friedman stressed the importance of understanding the financial issues the district is facing.

“I want to make sure that you guys understand this, this what Travis [Padget] and I walked into four years ago,” Friedman said.

New board members face a learning curve, and it’ll take time for them to get up to speed, Padget said. For Muhs, who’s been regularly attending board meetings for the past year, there’s a lot to learn, but no major surprises so far.

“It was pretty much what I expected, there’s a lot of learning on the job to do,” Muhs said.

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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