School board gets back to work

Board discusses school bus, service animals, wrestling, ELL, snow, the athletic complex and teachers union


The West Liberty Community School District Board of Education has met twice since the new year, on Jan. 15 and Feb. 5. The usual business included the Superintendent’s report and the purchase of a new school bus.

The meeting Jan. 15 was brief and mostly took place in closed session. Closed sessions can occur when the board needs to discuss more private matters, such as hiring or firing personnel.

Board members in attendance included President Jacob Burroughs, Kira Achen, Audra Daufeldt, and Becky Vargas.

Secretary Abby Ortiz and Superintendent Shaun Kruger were also present. There were no visitors or others in attendance. 

During the meeting one retirement was announced, that of bus driver Jay Meyer. Meyer will be retiring at the end of March.

More Recently

On Feb. 5, the board met again. All members were present, as well as Superintendent Kruger and Secretary Ortiz.

ELC/Elementary Principal Kirk Ryan and High School Assistant Principal Andrew Genz were also present at the meeting. The agenda included a policy reading and the Superintendent's report.

The board discussed the purchase of a new school bus. There is one bus in the budget each year, and three different companies gave offers.

The district chose a gas-powered bus because it was the most appropriate price. This is the third bus in the fleet to run on gas, while all the rest run on diesel fuel.

“Any trends towards electric?” Board member Ed Moreno wanted to know.

Superintendent Kruger responded by saying he wants to hold off on going electric until some of the kinks are worked out.

Going electric right now would mean a big shift in how things work for the school’s transportation department, which is moving in the direction of gas over diesel.

Moreno agreed that it was wise to wait, and Vargas pointed out that electric buses are very expensive right now, but the price will likely drop in the next few years.

They noted there may also be grant money available to help offset the cost of electric buses. As for now, the district is content to move toward gas.

Service Animals and Comet Pride

The board looked over some policies on open enrollment and service animals. There was a lively discussion over the distinction between service animals and assistive animals.

There are currently very few service animals in the district, but there is a Saint Bernard who visits the elementary school at times.

“The kids love her,” Principal Kirk Ryan said. Although the dog is quite large, Ryan said “it’s a big baby.”

The Superintendent’s report began with Comet pride. The Girls Wrestling team has been performing spectacularly, with the Garcia-Vasquez sisters making news alongside teammates Alissa Sanchez and Amerie Alvarado. 

“Kudos to the five of those girls for their accomplishments,” Superintendent Kruger said, “I’m sure all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears they put in…paid off.”

ELL and Snow

Another commendation was requested by Principal Ryan, who is very happy with his ELL (English Language Learners) team. They’ve been very busy conducting a complicated set of tests, and they’ve done a great job.

“It took a month and a half last year because we only had two ELL teachers,” Ryan said, “so it took a lot less time now that we have full staff, which is great.”

High School Assistant Principal Andrew Genz was also thanked for taking on the role of Freshman Math Teacher. 

“That is huge, that’s really helping us out there,” Kruger said. 

Supt. Kruger took a moment to thank everyone involved in rescheduling all the events that had to be canceled for inclement weather.

He acknowledged that the bus drivers continue to get students to and from events on evenings and weekends, it’s very kind of them to be so flexible.

“Also, a big thank you to our custodians and maintenance staff for their extra work just making sure the sidewalks were clear,” Kruger said.

When the storms ended and it was time to go back to school, the schools were ready thanks to their hard work.

Athletic Complex

The new athletic complex will require a new transformer. The weather hasn’t been entirely cooperative, and the mud has been causing delays with the installation of the new transformer. 

There are plans at work to mitigate future mud problems at the new complex, with special thought given to high traffic areas.

The Superintendent’s Report also included mention of changes in the Iowa legislature, some of which may impact teachers unions, or AEA’s.

House Study Bill 542 would dismantle the unions. Kruger intends to slow down and make no changes this year, as parts of the new laws are still in progress and may not pass.

Ed Moreno attended a forum on the new legislation. He said it was very well attended and that the majority of attendees wanted to know more about how the AEA will be impacted.

“It was clear that our legislators that were there,” Moreno began, “were caught unprepared for this initiative and were not happy about that.”

Moreno also warned that other bills are being proposed that he feels would be unhealthy for the district. Moreno is especially worried about proposed restrictions on immigration into Iowa and the management of undocumented people. 

“I think it’s important for us to stand for our community and for our students,” Moreno said.

Other board members agreed, but President Burroughs questioned the potential repercussions of the board taking sides on any political actions.

“My only hesitation might be that we’ve never really made a statement towards any of the legislation,” Burroughs said, and questioned what precedent it will set. Moreno agreed that it was worth considering.

The next board meeting will be held on Monday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m.