The Ottumwa Courier

January 22, 2014

Test scores up at Van Buren schools

By Rusty Ebert
Courier correspondent

---- — KEOSAUQUA — Scores on the Iowa Assessment tests soared this year for most of the classes taking them at Van Buren Community School District.

“We are very pleased,” said Mary Dawn Schuck, curriculum coordinator. “We’re kind of speechless.” The number of students proficient in reading jumped as high as 34 percent in one class, she stated.

“Normally, we can expect growth from one year to the next around 10 percent,” she said. “We had kids with 50-point growth. We’re thrilled.”

The school has been emphasizing better reading proficiency in their curriculum the past couple of years. Schuck said it is starting to pay dividends in improved achievement, citing the fifth grade.

“Of the 43 students who took the test, there are more (18) students who are regarded as advanced proficient than proficient (16). That’s wonderful.”

Scores in math and science proficiency also showed increases. “The kids really stepped up,” said secondary principal Chuck Banks. “We’re very happy with the effort of staff, parents and students.”

Schuck said the results had just been released this week and she hadn’t had time to “dig into the individual data too much and will do that in the coming days.”

In other action and discussion:

• Superintendent Dr. Pam Ewell updated the board on the new school calendar, which could be for 180 days or 1,080 hours. She will bring a proposal to the March meeting.

• Ewell suggested the board look at leasing buses instead of purchasing them.

Leasing involves a three-year term and then a balloon payment at the end and selling it back.

“It keeps our fleet newer and there are less repairs,” Ewell said. “Money for the lease comes out of the PPEL and money from the sale goes into the general fund. I haven’t analyzed every piece, but I think it’s worth looking at.” She said the company which leases the buses would pay Van Buren personnel to do maintenance.

Ewell would like to replace two buses and said the cost would be around $190,000. She said leasing would cost around $20,000 per year per bus, plus the balloon payment.

Specs that were presented at Wednesday’s meeting called for two 65-passenger buses.

Board member Andrew Lydolph asked how many kids were on the buses and about purchasing smaller buses. Hervey said it depended on the routes. Elementary principal Bret Moews said every child except for two in the elementary rides the bus.

Board president Stan Whitten said the board had considered getting a smaller bus a few years ago. “We found out that the savings were small.”

Hervey said, “you still have the cost of the driver, insurance and repairs.” He also said the needs vary from route to route and it was much easier to plan using 65-passenger buses since they were interchangable with any route.

However, Lydolph said there would be some savings for fuel.

The district puts on 18,000 miles per bus per year.

• Ewell reported that the access points are done for the KUNO tablets.

• Activity director Greg Jones reported on a new sign proposed for the baseball field. It would have a photo of the 2013 baseball team, a listing of the conference and district championship and a recognition of the baseball team’s runner-up finish last year. Total cost was estimated at $742. Money for the sign would be raised by the baseball team with help from parents. The sign would be made by Ottumwa Tent and Awning Co., and Cobler Sign and Graphics.

• Board decided not to offer an early retirement incentive this year.

• Financial report was approved. Balances for December 2013, were: general, $1,803,610; student activity, $152,080; management, $83,788; PPEL, $162,543; capital project, $1,318,624; debt service, $383,214; nutrition, $65,008.