August 28, 2017

Amazing First Week

The anticipation of the first week of school paid off!  Everyone was dressed in their school best, and it seemed as if everyone took pictures on the first day of school.  My wife and I were no exception as the kids grew up.  On the first day of school each year, we took pictures by a “welcome to school” flag at our house.  We also had pictures, either before or after school, in front of the main sign of the school.  It’s neat to look back and watch the kids grow up.  (It’s also fun now that they can tell Lynn and I the year faster/better than we can!)

I’m not sure who was really more excited to be back at school, the students or the staff members.  I saw hugs aplenty with Mrs. Motto’s kindergarten class, and Mrs. Whelchel was “catching up” with the 8th graders, whom she also taught as 7th graders.  Mrs. Bauer was dazzling staff and then students with even more technology uses.  Mrs. Tilkens cannot wait to have students try the new heart rate monitors.  Mrs. Brownell has her schedule on the back of her id badge to keep her going from 2nd – 5th grade classrooms this year.  Students in 4th grade and 7th grade were introducing themselves to their teachers and sharing with their classmates about themselves through their “five things in a bag” project.  I was able to participate in this project too with 4L and with the whole school at Mass.  In my bag, I had an old Gatorade  container that I continue to reuse as my water bottle, a granola bar to represent my eating at school being more of refueling than lunch time, a bible from my grandfather, a book (and it doesn’t matter which one as I’m always reading something), and my Marquette University watch.  Even my bag had meaning as it was a Menard’s bag.

Principal’s Post and Facebook

The Principal’s Post is written each weekend.  It is posted on our website, available off the front page, and I will send a link via email, once we have a family email group ready.  Hard copies are also sent home in “backpack mail” with the “youngest or only child” in a family at the beginning of each week.  I use the Principal’s Post to reach the whole school community and sometimes highlight happenings in particular grades.  Please note that it does not replace the many grade level and homeroom specific communications you will receive from your children’s teachers.

We also utilize a JFK Facebook page, and there is a closed group JFK Moms & Dads, where people can post to others in the group.  JFK’s Facebook page can be accessed from the front page of our website as well.  Make sure you “like” us there!  Highlighted Events and Headlines on our website are also updated each weekend.

A Bit About Me

My wife, Lynn, and I have four children.  My youngest of four children, Caitlin, just started at the University of Kansas.  Academically, she was well ahead, having earned 34 college credit hours while at Assumption.  My next daughter, Kirsten, will be a junior at St. Ambrose and is pursuing a degree in education.  Tom is in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area where he manages two mattress stores, and Colleen, our oldest daughter, works full-time as the head cheerleading coach at the University of Dubuque.

Summers are always busy, wrapping up one school year and preparing for the next.  My mantra is that “we don’t work on Fridays during the summer.”  It should really mean that we don’t work from school on Fridays as I tend to do plenty at home, and summer really means mid-June through July.  The best parts about summer are probably that evening meetings/events slow down.  As August comes around though we start to feel the excitement of a new school year.  This year was no different.

What’s New Around the School?

As well as sparkling floors and some freshly painted walls, students may find some other new things around the school.  Using restricted funds, the cafeteria tables and most chairs have been or still will be replaced.  We are switching to folding tables with attached stools and other folding tables with wheels so we can more easily and quickly “flip” the cafeteria from one use to another with little labor.

New K-8 social studies materials should arrive this week, and we were able to replace 68 student computers, several teachers’ laptops, and our router using restricted and donated funds.  Our technology plan calls for about 50 student machines to be replaced each year, but we are also trying to replace most of our Windows 7 machines before support for them ends in two years.  Replacing batteries, interactive whiteboard projectors, and the like are other challenges each year.  Being a leader in implementing technology in schools also means we are a leader in having to replace worn equipment!

Major Summer Work on Boiler and Heating System

Our summer heating project is winding down.  We replaced the boiler, water heater, and fan units in the cafeteria and north stairwell.  We also replaced controls in 17 classrooms and various other rooms.  Budgeted at $172,000 project, we have, so far, been able to work within this amount without too many unforeseen circumstances.  Just like remodeling at home, however, you never really know what you are going to find until you start tearing into it.  The Scott County Regional Authority (Bettendorf riverboat) grant for nearly $20,000 to pay for the electronic controls, and several Mid-American rebates totaling over $20,000 will be helpful to reduce our final costs.  Every bit of savings that we have in these projects puts us that much closer to a doable timeline for air conditioning and ventilation!

With all of the heating work being done this summer and our shorthand discussions about HVAC being referred to as replacing the boiler and adding air conditioning, I am almost afraid there is a misconception regarding the HVAC needs of the school.  While replacing the boiler was essential for all our needs, it did not resolve all of the potential heating issues we have.  The large pipes that circulate the hot water around the 1963 section of the building had a life expectancy of 20 – 50 years, and we are now into borrowed time.  The HVAC committee’s recommendation to meet our needs was a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heating and air conditioning system, which operates like a heating/cooling exchanger, the boiler replacement, and mechanical ventilation.  Adding the VRF system allows us to begin cooling the building and transition away from the need for the hot water circulating pipes as they continue to wear out.  The total cost of the HVAC committee’s recommendations is about $836,000.  We have about another $664,000 to go.

It is a misconception to think that the cost effective solution to our HVAC needs now that the boiler has been replaced is to just add in window air conditioning units.  Looking out over  the next 20 years, the cost to replace the boiler and add window units and mechanical ventilation was projected to be about $425,000.  Having to replace the pipes could cost another $800,000.   The total of $1.2 million is well over what the HVAC committee is recommending.  The HVAC committee’s recommendations with the VRF system are a prudent way to utilize the financial resources of the OLV/JFK community.

Other Construction Work this Summer

You could not miss other construction work at the church this summer.  Due to hail damage, the entire church roof was replaced, and other building roof’s will still have some work done to them.  There was also some water damage from storms while the church roof was being replaced so there is some interior work being done in a couple of locations as well.  The rusted-through stained glass window frames are being replaced, and some mortar work is being done as some bricks were discovered to be loose once the frames were removed.  Once again, it has been a busy summer on campus!

Charlie Brown Tree Taken Down

On Friday, there were three trees taken down on campus, including a small one by the soccer field.  This tree, or what was left of it, reminded me of the Christmas tree in the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Staff Changes

Each year begins with some staff changes or changes in assignments.  Jodi Weiser assumes a 5th grade position after filling in as a long-term substitute last spring and will also be working in our CART after school tutoring program.  Noelle Myers has been added to our lunch staff, and Kerri Nykoluk is working in a part-time position split between the parish and school offices.  Dawn Henning will be assuming more of the financial work that deals with school families as we try to reduce the number of staff involved; one shouldn’t have to talk to three or four different people to find out what one owes in tuition, registration fees, child care fees, lunch program fees, etc.  Alicia Turnquist will be working often in both four year old preschool rooms.  Bea Creech will spend most of her day in Mrs. Youngerman’s first grade room, and Julie Brownell will be about the building in grades 2-5 and ECLC.  Vicki Saxton will also have some time with older students when her duties are completed in Ms. Epping’s first grade room.  Jennifer Wemhoff will be teaching a section of 8th grade religion, and Elisha Kubalsky will switch to a 6th grade religion class.  Finally, if I didn’t forget anyone, Barb Rolf, with Title I funding, will be working with a few students on their math skills.

Overall, we’re down about 1.64 FTE instructional or other aide positions.  The biggest change was in preschool where we went from two teachers and an aide in each room  to two teachers and an aide that will split her time between the two rooms.  When the state only increases its funding for education by 1% – 1.5% for several years in a row, it eventually catches up.  On the other hand, our federal Title I funds increased significantly, and we were able to increase FTE staff to work with eligible students.

John Deere Employees Can Double Their Giving

Did you know that effective 5/1/2017, all full-time & part-time employees of John Deere can now have their monetary gifts to JFK school matched 100% from as little as $50 to a maximum of $1000 annually. For more information regarding the John Deere Foundation, simply log into doublethedonation.com/matching-gifts/john-deere-company. Your link then to register your gift is powerforgood.deere.com for all guidelines, forms and corporate contact questions.

What a simple way to DOUBLE your giving and help OLV sustain a model learning & growing Catholic school!

Permanent Memorial for Peg Gooder

Several individuals and groups have inquired about installing a permanent memorial for Peg Gooder out by the playground equipment.  We are now accepting donations for a memorial bench to be purchased and installed in her memory.  If you or your organization would like to make a donation for such a memorial, please send it to the school office in an envelope labeled, “Peg Gooder memorial.”  Checks can be written to Our Lady of Victory.

 

Chad