Maintenance and Operations director approved by Shen board

Instructional coaches with the Shenandoah Community School District Nicole Grindle, Teresa Hughes and Maria Blake give a presentation at the Jan. 13 school board meeting on WriteToLearn software designed to help students with writing skills.

The Shenandoah School Board approved 4-0 the contract of Robert Addy as director of maintenance and operations. Board member Adam Van Der Vliet expressed concern over Addy’s salary of $83,000 and abstained.

Van Der Vliet referred to his reaction over the $20,000 increase in pay over the past year in a half for this position as “sticker shock.” He said it was nothing against Addy as he said he was “overqualified” for the position. Van Der Vliet’s concern was the salary for this position is more than what one of the district’s administrators make and the number of items coming out of the district general fund.

“For me, working in small, local government, I have an idea of what maintenance and supervisors make. That’s a very healthy wage for a supervisor to make,” Van Der Vliet said.

Shenandoah Superintendent Dr. Kerri Nelson said Van Der Vliet’s questions were some she had asked herself. She acknowledged Dennis Rogers, who retired last year from this position, had an exceptionally low salary. The salary for the position did increase some for Steve Hielen, Addy’s predecessor.

“When we looked at the candidates in order to get the candidates that we needed, we had three that would have been in this range,” said Nelson. “We weren’t able to get someone with the skill set we felt that we needed for less than this amount. So it was based on the market demand this time to get somebody with certifications and experience.”

Nelson said Addy has construction experience and certification in diesel truck maintenance, which will help reduce the district’s overall cost of work.

In other business…

Three instructional coaches from the district gave a presentation on WriteToLearn software designed to help students with writing.

Teresa Hughes, elementary instructional coach, Maria Blake, middle school instructional coach and Nicole Grindle, high school instructional coach, said teachers would still be expected to provide instruction. The software provides a quicker way to see deficits in students’ writing.

Grindle described it as an automated online writing program scored with artificial intelligence.

“This program immediately provides feedback to students and teachers about the writing,” said Grindle. “This program uses the same standards to give students feedback that the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) does. The technology that scores writing in this program is the same technology that scores the writing on the ISASP.

The program scores on organization of writing which Grindle said is an area students all over the state of Iowa needs to improve. It would help with their word choice, style of writing and development of the topic.

Grindle said this program would be a time saver.

“Timely feedback is important as you move up in grades,” said Hughes. “It takes a lot of time for teachers to score and provide feedback to students.”

Grindle said if the district purchased the software, they would use it to benchmark students to help teachers know where to instruct them to prepare for the ISASP. She said it would also help students prepare for essay writing.

Nelson said the district has funding committed from the state through the TLC Grant to purchase the software. She said part of that grant allows for the purchase of software that has professional development included.

“We have funding this spring to pay for a trial of it to make sure it’s what we want to do,” said Nelson.

The cost per student for the software would be $13.50. With 730 students in grades 4th through 12th, the total cost annually would be $10,605. There would also be an initial training and implementation fee of $750.

Jean Fichter was appointed to the Page County Conference Board.

The board approved the contracts of Gaylen Terry as part-time custodian, Molly Roberts as a middle school track coach, and Trent Blackman as van driver. Also approved were the afterschool camp instructor contracts of Jennifer Chapa, Madison Beeck, Tahrae Bonnes and Tiffany Stanton, and office assistants Shari Pittman and Tamara Lauman.

The board approved the resignations of Holly Olson as a high school associate and half-time ninth-grade sponsor and Ryan Ruzek as a ninth-grade baseball coach. Board members set a public hearing at 5 p.m., Monday, Feb. 10 for the Shenandoah High School’s renovation project.

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