Members of the Oskaloosa School Board met in special session Tuesday to discuss certified tax levies for the 2016-17 school year. Much of the conversation centered upon the number of students who have and are requesting enrollment out, and the amount of money the district is spending on those students.
The meeting came as a result of board member Carl Drosts’s concern of payment of $194,163 to neighboring districts during the March 22 board meeting. He requested a meeting to gather more information and discuss the issue before passing it as business as usual.
The certified budget will go to the School Board Review Committee once it is certified by April 15. The budget items in question amount to $919,488.
Superintendent Russ Reiter opened the meeting providing board members with information regarding a requested survey similar to one sent out to open enrollees’ families. He said he has been working with staffer Lisa Brown to develop another survey. Brown works with students and their families on requests in and out. The survey will be done by telephone and will contain four to five questions.
Among the discussion was what types of information should be gathered. Board member Sharma Parlett suggested it would be good to find out what steps was taken by the parent or parents before the decision to open enroll out was made. Erik Edgren said he would like to know when they made the decision. Board members agreed that a deeper conversation may pull that information out.
Speculation was made by different board members on the reasons ranging from class size to discipline to academic concerns.
Drost said he felt part of the blame was on the board itself.
“I believe we are causing the problem,” said Drost. “The public should not have to pay for these students going out.”
Drost cited third grade reading scores from 2006 through 2015 that showed Oskaloosa had trended downward while Pella’s third graders moved up based on data from Iowa Assessments.
“We (the board) haven’t even talked about student achievement this year,” said Drost. I am totally opposed to putting $191,000 on the public. I think we are selling the students short.”
Board president Tom Richardson said, “We have instituted the Wonders Reading program and we don’t have data on that yet.”
At the end of the hour and 10 minutes meeting, the board approved the budget items in tact. Drost voted against and Nicholas Hansen was not present.
The next meeting of the board will be on Tuesday, April 12.