North Tama school board installs new student member

Final report from Principal Bliss shows marked improvement in behavior

North Tama school board president Rod Zobel (left) shakes the hand of Olivia Ketter (right) on June 20 in the Nortj Tama Jr. High Commons following her official swearing-in as the board’s new student member for the 2022-2023 school year. –Photo by Ruby F. Bodeker

The North Tama Board of Education welcomed a new member during the regular meeting on June 20 – 2022-2023 student board member Olivia Ketter.

Following the call to order and public comments period, rising-senior Ketter was sworn in for her one-year term by board president Rod Zobel. Ketter replaces former student board member Camden Clausen who recently graduated.

North Tama’s student board member is selected each year by the student council to represent the interests of the North Tama student body.

Principal Bliss gives final report

As reported earlier this spring in the Telegraph, North Tama Secondary Principal Jeromiah Bliss resigned from his position effective at the end of the school year in order to take a job with the Clear Lake Community School District. Bliss was hired by North Tama as the high school principal only last summer.

In his final monthly report to the board – given on his last official day of work – Bliss was asked by board president Zobel to reflect on his year with North Tama.

Bliss pointed out that in total there were 677 referrals for behavior – major and minor combined – this past school year for the 7th through 12th grades which works out to roughly 17 referrals per week on average for the entire school year.

But in the last eight weeks of school, Bliss said, there was an average of 6 referrals total per week equating to 1 student referral per grade level – an achievement, Bliss said, made possible through the use of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports) preventative strategies and common expectations.

“We stayed the course,” Bliss said of the work he and his staff undertook this year to address behavior concerns at the secondary level.

In his report, Bliss wrote: “These numbers are numbers to celebrate with staff, students, and community. … The numbers that were achieved at the end of the year are the kinds of numbers that teachers want to be a part of and take pride in. … The last [eight] weeks represent the best of what North Tama can and should be.”

Bliss told the board that his hope for the future is that North Tama can now turn to building back academic rigor and improving test scores in the next year.

“Kids rise to the expectations,” Bliss said.

Superintendent David Hill then thanked Bliss for his year of service and the positive change he was able to make in the district during his tenure.

Align Architecture presentation, Donovan Group contract

Andrew Bell with Align Architecture – along with his colleague Devin Kack with Plunkett Raysich Architects who was in attendance virtually – provided the board an update on the results of the public input session that was held on May 4, as part of the district’s ongoing facility study.

Following months of work by the board narrowing what originally was a list of nine facility options down to one, the public was able to see for themselves with clarity what the future might hold for North Tama during the input session.

“We need the community to understand where we’ve been,” Kack told the board on June 20. ” A do-nothing solution still has a large dollar amount [due to maintenance needs].”

By leading the public on tours of the entire building during the May 4 session – from top to bottom including the 1917 building – Bell and Kack said the more than 50 members of the public in attendance were shown as much as possible from the good to the bad.

“What is really really important,” Kack said, “is to get the community beyond the public face of the building. A lot had not been in the 1917 building since they graduated.”

During the June 20 presentation to the board, Bell and Kack highlighted what rose to the surface as most important to those in attendance on May 4 using the written comments following the tour.

Of the 22 written responses received, 21 indicated that the North Tama school district was the most important asset for Traer and the surrounding area, not only for student development, Kack said, but for community sustainability.

Fifteen responses indicated that academics and the condition of the classroom spaces were the most important spaces and/or programs.

The next highest was the need to create a fully ADA-accessible building, followed by addressing mechanical and/or maintenance needs.

The fourth most important was addressing the district’s gymnasium needs as well as the safety and security of the building (three responses).

Addressing technology needs and paving the parking lot (two responses) rounded out the responses in order of importance.

Later in the meeting, the board approved a contract for communication and engagement-related services with Donovan Group, a firm founded in 2004 in Milwaukee that provides public relations services to schools and districts often ahead of bond referendums. Several districts in the area have contracted recently with Donovan Group and its Iowa partner Jerry Gallagher for services as part of their facility improvement projects including Gladbrook-Reinbeck and South Tama.

The motion to use Donovan Group was passed by all four members in attendance including Zobel, Haley Blaine, David Calderwood, and Cheryl Popelka. Val Bradley, David Boldt and Doug Dvorak were absent.

The next step in the district’s facility study process, Hill said, would involve a community survey managed by Donovan Group. It will be mailed to all postal patrons residing in the district. There will also be an option to complete the survey online. Hill said he anticipates placing reminders about the survey in the Tama County Shopper, making announcements at home football games, including reminders in Traer Municipal Utility mailings, and posting on the district’s social media channels in order to get as large and broad of a response as possible.

Construction manager

Just prior to approving the contract with Donovan Group, the board also approved using the new ‘Construction Manager at-Risk’ (CMaR) model for any future construction projects. On June 14 of this year, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a new law that includes rules for construction manager selection for schools, cities/counties, the Board of Regents, and other public entities. The law now allows the use of the CMaR project delivery model effective July 1.

With the law being so new, Andrew Bell has been working to draft a letter for the district in regards to their plans to use the new CMaR model.

Under this model, the construction manager would guarantee work for a maximum price and under a timetable set by the district. The CMaR model allows a construction manager to self-perform work but they must bid any work that they do perform. Bell told the board he felt this model would give the district the best value.

The board also approved a motion to publish a notice of intent – Bell’s letter – to enter into a guaranteed maximum price contract for construction and a request for qualifications from construction managers (under the CMaR model).

If all goes to plan, a construction manager should be chosen by August 15 and offered a contract, Hill said.

Supt. report

Under Supt. Hill’s report, the board was informed that the district – as of June 20 – was still in need of an early childhood special education teacher, a half-time preschool teacher due to the large number of four-year-old preschool students enrolled for the upcoming school year, a secondary special education teacher, and several paraeducators.

If the additional part-time preschool position for the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program cannot be filled, Hill said some students may need to be turned away.