When the Newton Community School Board meets Monday night they’ll kick off their meeting with a special work session to tour the construction progress at Berg Middle School, as well as review an update to the certified enrollment numbers. On Thursday NCSD superintendent Bob Callaghan said while he isn’t sure of the final numbers, he’s expecting a “double digit” increase in enrollment this year.
“After a decade of losing students, we’re seeing gains,” Callaghan said.
That increase would represent a third consecutive year of slow, yet steady gains after a 10 years of shrinking enrollment within the district. About 3,352 students were on the rolls at NCSD in 2001, but those numbers started to fall in the early 2000s dropping all the way to 2,954 students during the 2014-15 school year. Enrollment numbers rose slightly in the following years, with a total of 2,956 students during the 2015-2016 school year, and 2,965 students in 2016-2017, but Callaghan said he’s expecting enrollment to rise substantially this year.
“We’ll have at least a double-digit increase in students,” Callaghan said.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to declining enrollment in Newton, including the closure of Maytag, but Callaghan said the district has been projecting modest growth for years, and he’s pleased the district’s projections are nearing reality. Final enrollment numbers for this school year won’t be available until Monday night’s meeting, but Callaghan said he expected enrollment to rise over 3,000 students for the first time since the 2013-14 school year.
“We believe that we have great opportunities for the kids here,” Callaghan said. “The district has been a good partner with the city and community leaders, when we went out for a bond we had a 76 percent majority, there’s excitement about the school in the community.”
Increasing enrollment numbers means adding staff to meet the needs of students as well. Callaghan said the district is making good progress towards hiring the educational associates that special education teachers have been clamoring for. Five positions for educational associates have been posted online, and Callaghan said the board will consider hiring three candidates during Monday night’s meeting.
Principals at Aurora Heights, Emerson Hough, Thomas Jefferson and Berg all identified a need for an additional education associate, with Lisa Sharp, the principal at Berg requesting two additional educational associates. During the last board meeting Callaghan said the district would consider hiring a total of six educational associates, to include Woodrow Wilson Elementary, but on Thursday he said only five positions had been posted, which may be subject to change.
“Our needs are fluid, these are the five we posted,” Callaghan said.
The hiring process at the district requires candidates to be confirmed by the school board, but candidates awaiting approval are typically already working as substitute teachers in the schools. Laura Selover, the director of human resources at NCSD said the district usually brings candidates on board once they’ve completed the background check.
“They’re working with kids already, some have been working since Monday,” Selover said.
Prior to Monday night’s meeting, the NCSD board will meet at Berg Middle School to review construction progress. Callaghan said the project is still on target and under budget, and district officials are confident they’ll be moving students into the new building over spring break week of 2019. Board members will decide on interior color schemes during Monday night’s meeting. While furniture, fixtures, and equipment needs have yet to be determined Callaghan said he’s in favor of installing interactive projectors in every classroom at the new building. Currently, the district has 40 of these projectors, with 10 located in each of the four elementary schools, but Callaghan would like to see their use extend beyond that.
“That’s my plan right now,” Callaghan said.
Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or firstname.lastname@example.org