School board learns more about iJAG

Proposed new class for 2021-22 would help seniors graduate, set careers


Learning more about a proposed new iJAG (Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates) program for West Liberty High School students, the School Board of Education put questions to Daryle Wright, the director of the program.

Wright, who attended the Monday, April 19 meeting, says he works with each individual school in the program “to help them get it right,” pointing out the high success rate of the program that offers new opportunities and education for students that may not be on track for a college degree.

Although the program has three levels, it would start in West Liberty with incoming juniors and seniors, many simply looking for trade skill training or real-world experience. Wright said the program offers 37 core competencies that help at-risk students land positions, from participating in mock interviews to filling out an application to proper dress and landing interships. He said students would be required to take an iJAG class and would have five to 10 employee engagements a year.

He said some students may choose to attend a technical or trade school while others might figure on a career with the U.S. armed forces. He said 91 percent of the students who take the class either go into higher education or become part of the workforce and 98 percent of the students get their high school diploma.

He said many students may have family problems or personal barriers holding them back, noting the class helps them find success after graduation, noting he wants no student to feel like they’ve been “abandoned.” He said students with personal problems or language barriers are identified and aided.

He said the program would recommend a bilingual instructor for the program, calling the hiring process a “collaborative effort” between the school and the iJAG program. He said West Liberty would have a $22,500 annual investment in the program. He said the instructor is a year-round employee, having responsibilities even in the off months to find employment opportunities along with other duties. Abby Ortiz, the district’s business manager, said those funds could be paid for through At Risk funds.

The board did not act on approving the program at the meeting, but asked that the program be put on the agenda for the next school board meeting on Monday, May 3, beginning at 6 p.m. at the District Office.

The board did approve the hiring of a District Wellness Resource Navigator, a need in the school system that the wellness committee has been working on for more than a year, put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The program is held in a partnership ith Unity Point Health of Muscatine.

The new hire for the 2021-22 school year would typically work with middle school parents to help them find the resources to obtain the necessary needs for their families. Again, a bilingual hire is being preferred for the year-round position.

Ortiz said the district would use ESSER (Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds to provide the service. The program would benefit families with students in pre-school through eighth grade. The program is designed to maintain the youth’s enrollment in school while making progress toward successful graduation. It also includes providing resources to support the overall health and well-being of the youth, serving as a link and bridge builder for resources for families. It was reported that for the 2019-20 school year, there were 13 chronically absent students while there were an additional 42 at the elementary school, 24 at the middle school and 92 at the high school.

High school principal Brenda Arthur-Miller said school counselors who should be working on responsive services and career planning are supposed to spend 80 percent of their time on direct student interactions Instead, the majority of nurses and counselors time is spent on responsive services and mental health, noting their should be more time spent on prevention.

She pointed out that in the Muscatine School District, over 10 percent of students are being served by resource navigators.

The district also approved a fundraiser for the West Liberty High School baseball program, selling renewable sign advertising that hopes to make the organization up to $4,000. Coach Troy Wulf is leading the effort.

In the meanwhile, the high school wrestling team and coach Ian Alke are promoting the painting of Comet logos on personal and commercial driveways and sidewalks,

Stencils put together by coach Kevin Mueller will help the coaches and athletes paint the logos, hoping to raise $2,000 with 100 logo paintings. Profits from the event will help the team pay for wrestling equipment, camp dues, supplies, uniforms and other things.

The district also approved spending nearly $92,000 annually for an equipment maintenance program which will cover classroom equipment, communications equipment, coputers, security equipment and mailing machines as well as facilities and office equipment. The program would be purchased through SUIC Equipment Maintenance Insurance.

The board also approved a resolution to consider continued participation in the Instructional Support Program.

In making personnel decisions, the board approved the resignations of Konrad Moore as the Middle School girls assistant track coach as well as Caleb Studebaker as the Middle School PE teacher, seventh grade football coach and middle school wrestling coach as well as the high school assistant wrestling coach. Eve Doyle is also resigning as the middle school and high school English as a second language teacher

Teacher leadership positions approved included Kara Belk, Ashley Shimmin, Mekenzey Manley, Kristen Evans as elementary model teachers.

New hires in the district approved by the board include Konrad Moore as the Middle School boys head track coach, while Matt Hoeppner was named Middle School girls assistant track coach and Dorianne Rees was appointed the fall musical director while Brandy Vidmar was hired as an afternoon bus monitor.