Aiming to focus on increased communication and improving the perception of public schools, the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District (CSD) school board and its newly elected members have high hopes for this year.
Elections took place Tuesday, Sept. 8. The four board members, three of whom are new to the school board, are Jeff Knobloch, Helen Redmond, Meg Jones Blair and Dustin Smith. Superintendent Todd Abrahamson is preparing to begin work with the new board on improving the environment for both students and educators.
“It’s always exciting to begin working with a new board,” Abrahamson said. “Being a board member is important work. The members see the happenings in the district and get to work on these challenges and how to solve them together.”
The Grinnell-Newburg CSD school board plays a large part in the financial, curricular and policy aspects of the district. They plan budgets and advocate for students and teachers in the district to make sure the schools are operating in the most beneficial manner. Each board member undergoes new board orientation to introduce them to their basic financial and educational responsibilities.
During a candidate forum on Sept. 2, many of the school board candidates, including the elected Redmond and Smith, cited communication as one of the district’s biggest issues to address. Many felt that communication outward from the district and involvement from parents and the community needed to be addressed. Abrahamson and the board took these comments seriously and have already begun to make changes to improve their communication.
“Communication is always the bullseye,” Abrahamson said. “We are putting together, for the first time, a detailed communication plan. We are taking positive steps and designing a plan to identify our external and internal audiences.”
The communications plan will aim to address how the district reaches out to the community and parents. It also targets media and legislature outreach as well as a new crisis plan.
“We need to do better at communicating and promoting our successes,” Abrahamson said. “Right now public education is seen as unfavorable across America. We need to promote and brand what is going well in our districts and show we are very good at what we do. It is something we probably should’ve done a lot sooner.”
The board also faces challenges of building budgets without knowing the allocated state aid. They must create a budget with enough resources without being sure of its plausibility. The Teacher Leadership and Compensation Grant will also go into effect this year, requiring a lot of additional paperwork and planning on the side of the school board. The grant is aimed at hiring promising new teachers amd strengthening methods of instruction.
“This is a tough but rewarding job,” Abrahamson said. “You don’t get paid [to be on the board], but it is something truly special. It truly is all about the kids.”