School board talks Supt., music and wellness

Jacob Lane · Wednesday, May 10, 2017
The West Liberty School Board met Monday, May 1, where it discussed the new superintendent search, 5th grade music and its Wellness Policy.

To begin, with Superintendent Steve Hanson planning to retire at the end of the school year the board began putting the hiring pieces into place for a new superintendent.

Superintendent searches can be a lengthy process, so it looks like the board is leaning towards bringing in an interim superintendent for the next school year.

“Given that it’s already May I like the idea of an interim,” said Board Member Emily Geertz. “That gives a lot of time to be thorough and thoughtful.”

Apparently using interims is common practice in order to find the perfect fit, plus there’s a pool of temporary superintendents, often retired and looking for short term work.

The board is also discussing using a search firm that specializes in superintendent searches, though no final decisions have been made as of yet.

However, they were concerned about the effect this would have on the transitioning school district.

Elementary School Principal Nancy Gardner is retiring, to be replaced by Jeni Laughlin. Meanwhile, High School Principal Jim Hamilton has made it known his intention to resign/retire this year.

Then there’s the several teacher retirements within the buildings including the elementary and new Activities Director Brittney Boffeli. Frankly, there’s a lot of position changes happening next year.

“Knowing that there are other administrators I’ve got comfort in an interim,” said Jeni Laughlin. “Taking that time and looking for a good fit to me is a good idea.”

The next step will be hiring a superintendent firm to begin the search as well as aid in finding a temporary fill-in for the district leading role.

Next, the right time for a student to begin learning an instrument is proving to be difficult to find for the West Liberty Community School District.

Typically, a student begins the process in fifth grade with lessons. This sets him/her up for middle school band the following year and then high school band beyond that.

However, time constraints and availability are taking a toll on students. There’s loose talk of revamping the entire program, because there’s just too much going on.

“If there’s no time in the day and we can’t make a summer program work, are there other options?” asked School Board President Chris Martin.

Superintendent Hanson and several music teachers recommended a pilot program for the month of June, but even that runs up against students free time, simply because several non-school activities occur during that month.

In short, scheduling is proving to be difficult.

“It’s honestly near impossible,” said Jeni Laughlin, “Because of the demands of the standards and state requirements, it’s near impossible to get any of the ‘extras’ quality time to make it successful.”

The school board decided to put the question to band parents in the form of a questionnaire at the middle school concert. Perhaps the public will have some good input on the situation.

Finally, the board is in the middle of making several revisions to the district’s Wellness, Health and Nutrition Policy, it approved the first of three readings at its last meeting.

First off, it’s scrapping the current Wellness Policy for a model policy provided by the Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB)

“We propose a full on trade rather than trying to revise ours,” said Superintendent Steve Hanson. “By the time you start striking things out and putting things in it seems to be a cleaner solution to just outright trade.”

The Wellness Policy lays out overall goals regarding nutrition, physical activity and other school based activities in wellness. It states:

“The entire school environment, not just the classroom, shall be aligned with healthy school district goals to positively influence a student's understanding, beliefs and habits as they relate to good nutrition and regular physical activity.”

Some of the requirements:

-Meals served for lunch and breakfast by the school must meet nutrition requirements set by state and federal law.

-Foods served outside of those designated meal times will follow the United States Department of Agriculture’s Smart Snacks guidelines.

-The district will provide parents with a list of approved foods and beverages for special occasions such as class parties and celebrations.

Several changes have been made to the Nutrition and Education Promotion policy, around 17 pages of rules regarding the specifics of the district’s wellness policy.

By far, the most changes occur in Appendix D, entitled “Nutrition requirements for all foods available on campus.” On that note, a lot of the changes are putting into word the current practices of the school.

For instance, the school provides a veggie bar. However, new wording specially states lunch menus for grades 1-12 will provide a choice of 6 to 8 fruits and vegetables every day, while Pre-K and Kindergarten students will be served one fruit and one vegetable a day.

Water is readily available for all students, but the new policy will now read that free drinking water must be available during all school meals.

Also, it states any food items sold in schools will meet medically-documented dietary needs, and a summary of the nutrition guidelines for the school breakfast and lunch will be posted on the district website.

While foods service employees have continued professional development, new wording in the policy reads:

“At a minimum, require all food service employees to meet the required Professional Standards for School Nutrition Program Employees as established by USDA.”

In a way the new changes to the policy are merely dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s for the West Liberty Community School District.

A lot of the revisions came to be thanks to Wellness Consultant Diane Duncan-Goldsmith, who combed through the district’s entire policy.

A big part of her changes to the code was to make a la carte items and meals fall in line with the USDA’s Smart Snack requirements.

Smart Snacks is a series of guidelines proposed during the 2014/15 school year that measure everything from sodium intake to whole-grain richness. It’s a hefty set of rules available at usda.gov.

In fact, a good portion of the foods that were once available from the district have been struck from the code in favor for snacks and entrees with limited calories, sodium, fat and sugar.

Snacks are limited to 200 calories, entrees to 350 calories. Snacks are limited to 200 mg of sodium, entrees to 480 mg of sodium.

Meanwhile, food is limited to a total fat of 35 percent, saturated fat of 10 percent and zero grams of trans fat. Also, food is limited to being 35 percent of its weight being total sugar.

So what is available? Plain water, low fat and fat fee milk, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice when it comes to beverages. Obviously calorie counting will be a big part of the food served.

The changes to the West Liberty School District’s various wellness, health and nutrition policies reflects a much larger movement around the United States in the last decade.
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