Ah, yes, the final days of the 2018-19 school year have come and gone. It’s summer and kids are home with weeks of relaxation ahead of them. But that isn’t the case for the administration and many staff at Clarke Community Schools.
While the students’ school year may be over, administrative duties and planning continues. From coordination of summer school programs and construction continuing at the middle and high school campus, to working with parents and the community to create a better learning environment for the students, the summer is full of activities and actions to make the 2019-20 school year and the future of Clarke Schools even better.
“We had a lot of amazing things happen this year,” said Steve Seid, Clarke Schools Superintendent. “Our students keep reaching for higher levels of achievement and we’re seeing successes. That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done, though. And we’re tackling it head on.”
The “work” Seid refers to includes the hot topic amongst district superintendents all over Iowa. With well-publicized events in local and regional media documenting class violence and bullying as well as ongoing budget challenges, staff shortages and more, the Clarke administration and staff find themselves regularly pressed to create and maintain environments in which students will flourish.
To directly address the student safety and bullying issues, Mr. Seid invited the group “Clarke Concerned Parents” to a regularly scheduled “Tuesday Talk” meeting at the school. Each Tuesday Talk will be centered around an agreed-upon agenda and co-facilitated by parents from the group and Mr. Seid. At the initial June meeting, a dozen parents and Mr. Seid met and discussed their vision moving forward and the plan to work together to achieve the mutual goal of keeping Clarke a safe and productive learning environment. Meetings will initially take place in the Clarke elementary cafeteria on the first Tuesday of each month. The next “Tuesday Talk” will be July 2nd at 6:00pm.
“This is a great opportunity to establish collaborative relationships in the school,” Seid pointed out. “Getting this ongoing dialog integrated as part of the upcoming school year will enhance lines of communication and make things much more effective and efficient.”
The Superintendent is also reaching out to the Clarke community with the purpose of bringing people together to have discussions centered around relevant educational topics in the school district and community. A new platform called “Clarke Schools Community Network,” has been formed by Seid. Starting in September, the Superintendent will hold open hours at 7:30am and again at 5:00pm on the first Wednesday of each month at the Clarke Community Schools District Office. His intention for these “open hour” sessions is to share information, hear ideas, and gather information from community members to help make the district a better place for the students, teachers and all involved.
Jean Bahls, Clarke Schools Director of Curriculum has been tirelessly working to make sure that the Clarke Summer School program is ready for students. She and the administration have coordinated with some dedicated teachers and substitutes and the summer program is on and has been communicated to parents and students.
There was some question about the funding for summer school programming. Early in the 2018-19 school year, the Clarke school board and administrators took measures to bring in additional staff using money from the Title 1 Funding program. While this funding is often earmarked for summer school programming, supplies and materials, the administration saw a greater need for a full-time teacher during the school year. So, through some grant money, reallocation of funds, as well as the commitment of some very hard-working instructional coaches, pulling together lesson plans, staffers and some substitutes making time, the summer school programs are still available. Over 100 student candidates and their parents have been notified, and so far a handful have signed up.
“We wanted to make sure the programs were going to be properly staffed and structured to benefit the students who need it most,” said Bahls.
The summer school programs are being offered to qualifying elementary students and will take place in both June and August to make sure the kids are ready and on pace for the start of the school year.
With these measures, in addition to the construction of a new bus barn, the remodeling and construction of the secondary campus to make room for seven 6th grade classrooms, and the new road from Highway 69 to the secondary school parking area to provide much needed bus parking and traffic safety improvements, the Clarke Schools Superintendent, Director of Curriculum, building administration and staff have their hands full this summer.
“It’s not really work when we see the kids growing and thriving in the environment around us,” said Seid. “I can’t wait to see what these improvements and changes have in store for our school and community.”