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Progress

Colfax-Mingo CSD uses sharing operations to push district forward

COLFAX – Nearly one year ago, Colfax-Mingo Community School District introduced Jim Verlengia, the director of leadership support of Heartland Area Education Agency as its newest superintendent.

Since then, the district has been hard at work looking for various opportunities to team up with organizations around the community to push the school forward. From the local governments to other school districts, the superintendent said the efforts have the same goal – make things better for the kids.

"When I talk about, 'all kids, all the time,' those kids, regardless of who they are and how well I know them, are those I represent," Verlengia said back in July. "Whether it is a student who is the valedictorian of the class or captain of the football team, I want to make sure we represent all kids. We want to make sure they have a voice that represents them."

According to the superintendent, he started this effort as soon as the school year started Aug. 23. He met with Colfax Mayor David Mast. He began having informal conversations with other districts about potential sharing. He spoke with other community leaders looking for ways the school can better the overall community and attract people to the area.

On Dec. 6, those conversations grew into something a little more tangible when the district and the City of Colfax held their first joint meeting at Colfax-Mingo High School.

A shared mowing agreement between the district and the city was one idea that grew from the Dec. 6 discussion.

Under this agreement, the City of Colfax will provide mowing and trimming services to three district properties in city limits – the C-M Administrative Building, C-M Elementary School and C-M Jr/Sr High School. The properties cover about 10.5 acres of land, according to city documents.

According to the agreement, the district will be charged by the city for costs associated with mowing the properties, such as the hourly rate of the mower, hours used in mow preparation, fuel and other materials used to perform the service. This does not include indirect costs, such as overhead expenses. The district and city will also split the expense of new equipment, such as a mower and weed eater. City and district officials confirmed a mower will be purchased if the agreement is finalized.

While the agreement is still in need of approval of the Colfax City Council, the district and city officials said this partnership presents a unique opportunity to save some dollars, purchase new equipment and begin to develop more collaboration with the district and the government entities.

Talks on shared mowing did not end the City of Colfax. As the district is responsible for mowing about seven acres at its Mingo properties, the district leaders met with the March 13 to propose a similar proposition to the city of 300.

Although both parties have not yet voted on an agreement, conversations at that meeting indicated that both parties are eager to work together again.

“There was a blow when the (C-M Middle) school closed, first off. Second off, the way it closed didn’t sit well with me at all ... Mingo people don’t feel like they are part of the Colfax-Mingo group anymore,” Mingo Mayor Gary Bartels said. “(Former superintendent) Tracy Hook opened up the dialogue. I appreciated the conversations we had. This is the first time I met (Verlengia) and it appears he is willing to take on that same concept as Hook of including Mingo. That is pretty much what all of us would like.”

Mingo City Council also spoke on other potential opportunities to get the district's presence back into town, from repurposing the old middle school building to moving more sports activities to Mingo.

At the initial Dec. 6 meeting, joint-marketing was another topic the City of Colfax discussed with the district leaders.

Colfax Park and Auxiliary Board, the city of Colfax and the district have been working together to design a brochure that will be given out to realtors to better advertise the area. The auxiliary board was awarded the Iowa Tourism Grant to create promotional materials in connection to this venture.

At the joint meeting, the group discussed consistently updating their websites and pamphlets to showcase the area and keep potential residents informed. They also said they have been in discussion with the City of Mingo to join their joint-marketing campaign.

According to the district, the collaboration did not end with community entities inside district lines.

In February, district leaders of both C-M and Baxter entered a 28E agreement to share the position of curriculum director for the 2018-19 school year. Baxter school board unanimously approved the sharing contract Feb. 19 in a 5-0 vote. C-M then followed suit in their rescheduled regular board meeting, voting 6-1.On C-M school board approves curriculum director sharing agreement with Baxter CSD.

This move will place Baxter CSD's current curriculum director, Josh Russell in a shared role with Colfax-Mingo. Come July 1, C-M will fill a position it has not had in several years.

The Tigerhawks agreed to pay Baxter $47,343.42 per year as part of the agreement – half of Russell's estimated overall salary. Russell will spend an equal amount of time in both districts, at a 0.5 full-time equivalent. The shared position will bring in $20,193 per year in state funding to each district every year.

Although the board unanimously approved a one-year contract extension with Heartland AEA March 19, retaining Verlengia for the 2018-19 school year, the district said they will be exploring various different options to find their long-term answer for the superintendent spot. This may include operational sharing the superintendent position with another district.

Sharing the superintendent position would generate about $53,312 in state money to help fill the position, the equivalent funding of eight full-time students.

Colfax-Mingo was considering a sharing superintendent services with the Colo-NESCO CSD, but those talks stopped early this year.

C-M officials also said C-M is currently looking into filling a shared position in human resources.

Contact Anthony Victor Reyes at areyes@newtondailynews.com.

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