Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Hudson 2020 and the PPEL: Make Your Voice Heard on September 10th

This is the last opportunity I will have to encourage you to vote on September 10th. Polls will be open from noon to 8:00 PM on Tuesday, September 10th. On that date, we will be asking voters of the Hudson Community School District to renew the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy. Please remember that this is not a property tax increase and that renewing this revenue stream will continue to be a valuable resource for the school district that enables us to provide top notch resources for our students. The last three weeks have really been a historical view of the PPEL. We first started out with an explanation of this funding source for our budget and then spent some time discussing some of the projects that have been funded through PPEL dollars. As the final article in a four-part series, I thought it prudent to take a look at the future. What do we plan to do going forward?

I would encourage you to take a look at the vision, which can be found on our website at Approximately a year ago, the Board of Directors commissioned the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) to conduct a study that culminated with the release of Hudson 2020, which was adopted by the Board on  July 22, 2013. The study included feedback and data collection from all stakeholders in the district. Included were parents, students, community members, and staff. The analysis of the data resulted in the SIAC making six separate recommendations to the Board of Directors. Among those recommendations were statements of support in relationship to the size of classes in the elementary school, the importance of rigorous courses at the high school including concurrent enrollment and AP courses, and a significant investment in capital projects such as investments in 21st Century Technologies and upgrades to facilities.

However, the first recommendation recognizes the importance of the PPEL election on September 10th with the statement, "Before making any significant expenditure in capital outlay, it will be important to consider the outcome of the PPEL issue that will be on the ballot in September of 2013." Without a successful renewal of the PPEL, it will undoubtedly result in the delay or elimination of some of the projects that are in the planning stages. Some of those projects include the following:

  • Upgrades and renovation of the high school auditorium
  • 1:1 Computer initiative
  • Elementary school upgrades
  • Renovations to athletic facilities
  • Replacement of fleet vehicles
There is no doubt that this is an exciting time for the Hudson Community School District! After two years of enrollment growth and an improved financial position the time is right to make significant investments in our school district. Please remember to vote on September 10th. The polls will be open from noon to 8:00 PM a the Hudson Community Center.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Local Impact of Renewing the PPEL

Over the last couple of weeks, the efforts of this column have been to draw your attention to the upcoming election on September 10th. While we will be electing new members to the Board of Directors, we will also be asking voters to consider renewing the PPEL. As a reminder, the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy is not an increase in property tax. Renewing this revenue stream will continue to be a valuable resource for the school district that enables us to provide top notch learning resources for our students.

However, it does more than just provide for the school district. There is undoubtedly a local connection and it is significant. It is true that our new school buses are built out of state and the computers that our students use everyday are not homegrown, but to look only at those examples of PPEL expenditures is to see only a fraction of the picture. There are a number of ways that PPEL dollars have a local connection.

When a capital project is conceptualized, the first consideration is typically an estimation of overall cost. Iowa law requires competitive bidding for any project in excess of $100,000. It is kind of tricky to estimate the cost of some of these projects so we rely on the expertise of local firms to help us out. For example, Kapaun Consulting has been a critical partner for the district as we work through some of these complicated electrical estimations.

We have been fortunate the last couple of years to utilize local contractors for a number of our projects. For example, the entire electrical system in the elementary school was recently upgraded. During this renovation, all of the wiring was replaced and new circuits were installed. This project was completed over the course of two summers by Chapman Electric, a firm located right here in Hudson.

You have probably also noticed that we have done quite a bit of work to our parking lots over the last three years. The first phase of the high school parking lot required a lot of sub-grade work to lay new pipe and tiling to ensure proper drainage, and that we are moving water off the property without flooding our neighbors. This phase of the project was completed with the help of Hudson Hardware Plumbing and Heating, right here in Hudson. Next summer we will be paving the north parking lot, which is adjacent to the middle school. This summer we started that work with another sub-grade project with piping and tiling. The work on this project was completed by Whole Excavation, a firm located here in Hudson.

I showed you a picture of our new school bus last week; now obviously we don't buy our buses here in Hudson, but was about our smaller vehicles like vans and cars? If you take a look at the parking lot where they are kept you should notice that they are all Fords, bought right here at Colwell Ford.

The items mentioned above quite literally account for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business, and that is just in the last couple of years. But that relationship doesn't stop with just those projects! We continue to call on these businesses long after the original project has been completed. From servicing our fleet vehicles, installing a new electrical outlet, or fixing a broken water main-the relationships that we have with our local businesses in one that we take great pride in!

You can vote on September 10th from noon to 8:00 PM at the Hudson Community Center.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

What Has the PPEL Funded in the Past?

Replacing computer hardware and adding new equipment is
an ongoing expense. Without the PPEL Fund, maintaining
this equipment would not be possible. 
Last week I reminded you about the upcoming PPEL renewal on September 10th and encouraged you to make sure your voice is heard when it comes to  renewing this important district resource. As a brief recap, the PPEL is a revenue stream that is part of a larger fund commonly referred to as the Capital Projects Funds. But what specifically are PPEL funds used for?

These funds are primarily used for building repairs or upgrades, technological equipment such as computers and servers, and replacement of our fleet vehicles. These projects and equipment go a long way toward making improvements to our facilities and without this revenue stream most of these expenditures would not be possible. If you are like me, you are probably wondering, "Okay, projects and what?" Fair question.

This afternoon I asked our accounting specialist for a report detailing what types of things we have purchased with PPEL dollars over the last five years. I probably could have gone back even further, but ended up with a ten page report! However, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the items with you. This is not an exhaustive list and only includes some of the highlights. If you are interested in seeing more, please let me know!

As I stated above this is not an exhaustive list. My intention was to merely give you an example of what some of those projects and expenditures are. You can see that our investment in technology is heavy, and will continue to be as we move to an environment that relies more and more on the infusion of technology and 21st Century Skills. Hopefully you recognized that this list is very diverse. Everything from facilities upgrades to transportation requests-these are all items that are purchased through the PPEL. 

In addition, we use PPEL funds to replace carpet, remodel bathrooms, and purchase musical instruments. PPEL funds become critical during emergency situations as well. In the event a boiler goes down in the middle of the winter, or the air handling units crash the week before graduation, PPEL funds are used to handle these type of emergency repairs. Copy equipment? Classroom furniture? Athletic facility upgrades? You bet.

It is important to remember that renewing this revenue stream will not result in increased taxes. As you can hopefully see from my examples above, this will continue a valuable resource for the district. These funds allow us to keep Hudson facilities in excellent condition and provide top notch learning resources for our students.

Please remember to vote on  September 10th.

This new 78 passenger school bus joined the fleet in
July of 2013. It was purchased using PPEL funds
at a cost of approximately $97,000.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

School Funding: What's a PPEL?

On September 10, voters of the Hudson Community School District will have the opportunity to go to the polls to renew the PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy). The fact that this is a renewal is a very important distinction. The district has had the PPEL in place for a long time and it continues to be a critical component of our budget. State law requires renewal of the PPEL every decade, and that renewal is upon us. A vote to renew the PPEL will not increase your property taxes. Without the PPEL, many facility upgrades and the purchase of equipment would not be possible.

So how does the PPEL fit into the whole budget picture? It is sometimes helpful to imagine the budget as several 'buckets' that are categorized for different types of expenditures. The PPEL is a revenue stream that is part of a larger fund know as the Capital Projects Fund.

The Hudson Community School District published a budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, 2013 (FY 14) of $11,317,264. The sum of multiple funds (think buckets) make up that total. The largest piece of the budget is know as the General Fund (or Operating Fund) and is around $7,000,000. This fund is used primarily for the instructional program. Items such as teachers salaries and textbooks are great examples of appropriate expenditures for this fund.

In addition to the General Fund, there are several other funds that make up the budget including the Activity Fund, Management Fund, Capital Projects Fund, Debt Service Fund, Enterprise Fund, Health/Dental Fund, and Nutrition Fund. The revenue in these funds are restricted and categorical, meaning that the money can only be used for very specific purposes. An easy example is the Nutrition Fund: the revenue generated for this Fund must be used only for the operation of the Hot Lunch Program.

Another important fund is the Capital Projects Fund, and within that fund there are two separate sources of revenue. One is the Sales Tax, which generates approximately $500,000 a year. The other is the PPEL (Physical Plant and Equipment Levy), which generates approximately $250,000 a year. All of the revenue generated for the Capital Projects Fund is categorical in nature and can only be used for very specific purposes. As a general rule, most projects that are related to the repair or replacement of buildings and equipment can be paid for out of this fund, while items related to instruction and salary cannot be paid through the Capital Projects Fund.

As you can probably imagine with an operation the size of a school district, we are constantly replacing equipment, completing facilities upgrades, or purchasing new vehicles. Without the Capital Projects Fund, those items would have to be funded through the General Fund. So while instructional materials can't be funded through the Capital Project Fund, repair and replacement of equipment can be funded through the General Fund.

A few years back, the district went through a pretty significant budget reduction. That reduction was isolated to the General Fund and our budget challenge was centered around a concept known as 'Spending Authority'. The priority was to reduce General Fund expenditures, and to this day we continue to closely monitor the General Fund. Our General Fund is in a lot better shape today because of the discipline we continue to exhibit when it comes to spending habits.

However if the Capital Projects Fund were to disappear or if the funding were to dry up, many of those projects would either be eliminated, delayed, or shifted to the General Fund. None of which seem to be a very good option considering the fiscal progress that we have made the last several years. Replacing school buses and computers can only be delayed for so long before they become just too costly to maintain or too outdated to function properly (stop in sometime and I will tell you the story about bus #3).

If you have done the math in this article, then you know that the Capital Projects Fund generates approximately $750,000 annually. Without the PPEL, we can expect that fund to be cut by about one-third. This would have a negative effect on our strategic plan (Hudson 2020) for facilities upgrades, the purchase of computers, and the replacement of fleet vehicles.

Please remember to vote September 10.

Meet The School Board Candidates

September 10th is an important day for the Hudson Community School District. On that day we will elect new members to the Board of Directors. Long time Directors Julie Marsch and Jeff Cory have decided not seek re-election while Jerry Griffith, incumbent and current Board President will be running for a new term. Joining Jerry on the ballot are Dave Ball, Jason Carter, Liz Folladori, and Traci Trunck. All have filed paperwork for the election and we thought it would be a good idea for you to learn a little more about each candidate. You will be impressed with the passion they share for education and the enthusiasm they have for board service.  To help you learn more about our candidates, I posed a few general questions to each of them.

Jerry Griffith, Incumbent Board President, Candidate for School Board
Where did you grow up, go to school, college (degrees earned), and where do you work?
Jerry Griffith
I grew up on a farm near Wellman, Iowa, and graduated from Mid-Prairie High School. I attended the University of Northern Iowa, graduating with a B.A. in Business Management.  I also went to graduate school at Drake University, receiving a Master of Business Administration degree.  I have worked for John Deere for 32 years, and am currently the Division Marketing Manager for 9 Family Tractors, Continuous Improvement, and Product Information.    

Tell us about your family.
Susan and I have been happily married for 31 years.  Our two sons, Ian and Zach, are graduates of Hudson Schools, currently attending the University of Northern Iowa and University of Wisconsin respectively, and Olivia is a junior at Hudson High School.

What drew you to Board service?
I have served as a Hudson Community Schools school board member for the past seven years, the past two as president.  My goal seven years ago was to have a better understanding of what was happening at our schools and to have a positive impact on the education for all of our students. Today, that continues to be my goal.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Iowa?
There are many challenges facing education in Iowa, but if I must pick one, it would be raising the academic progress performance of Iowa students to a preeminent position.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Hudson?
We must continue to meet the challenge of providing a comprehensive offering of academic courses and activities to meet the needs of all of our students while remaining fiscally responsible.

What do you hope to accomplish by serving on the Board?
I would like Hudson to come to mind first when people think of a vibrant, thriving mid-sized school.  We have exceptional students, outstanding faculty and staff and a forward thinking administration.  I plan to work cooperatively with fellow school board members, administration, faculty, staff, and other stakeholders in the community to continue building on the positive momentum we have at Hudson Schools.

Dave Ball, Candidate for School Board
Where did you grow up, go to school, college (degrees earned), and where do you work?
Dave Ball
I Grew up in Dubuque, Iowa where I graduated from Wahlert Catholic High School. After graduation I served as an M.P. in the U.S Army. I attended Kirkwood Community College and earned an Associate of Arts degree, Mount Mercy University and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Socioloyg/Political Science, and  Master of Arts in Educational Leadership and Public Policy. I am a Certified Prevention Specialist for Drug and Alcohol Awareness and a certified ALICE Instructor (Critical Incident Training). I am currently working at Hawkeye Commnity College as the Director of Admisssions, Recruitment, and Student Life. Prior to that I worked at Kirkwood Community College for eleven years as the Associate Director of Admissions and Student Life.

Tell us about your family.
I am married to Lisa Bell and have three adult children. Ryan is a consultant for the Humana Insurance Corporation, Emily is a graphic artist for RuffaloCody, and Drew is a third year law student at the University of St. Thomas in Miami, Florida.

What drew you to Board service?
I served on a school board for several years at a school district much the same size as Hudson. I enjoyed the experience and believe my children thrived in an educational setting that allows for active and engaging participation inside and outside the classroom. My background in community college administration coupled with a degree in education will provide the District with a unique insight and point of view.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Iowa?
One of the most obvious in my mind is an equitable funding formula for rural schools such as Hudson. Many schools the size of Hudson are a viable source of culture for the community at large as well as students  that choose to live and thrive in a town the size of Hudson. Schools the size of Hudson offer many opportunities that are unique and we need to find ways to preserve that uniqueness

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Hudson?
In the short term, how to preserve classrooms with the most efficient students to teacher ratio in the face of overall declining numbers.

What do you hope to accomplish by serving on the Board?
I hope to offer an objective and unique point of view. I have insight into how well students are prepared for higher education beyond high school, what affects their success at the next level and what we can do as a school board to prepare them for the journey beyond their K-12 educational experience.

Traci Trunck, Candidate for School Board
Where did you grow up, go to school, college (degrees earned), and where do you work?
Traci Trunk
I grew up in Reinbeck, Iowa; graduating from Gladbrook-Reinbeck High School.  My maiden name is Traci Thede.  I went to college at the University of Northern Iowa and graduated with a Degree in Business Management with an emphasis in Human Resources.  I started working at John Deere in the student program my freshman year of college and have worked for John Deere for 15 years.  My current position is the Manager of Cost Management, Tractor Platform for the Agriculture & Turf Division.   I enjoy working for John Deere and especially enjoy having a global team in which I am constantly exposed to other cultures and global experiences.  

Tell us about your family.
I am married to Charlie and have two children.  Charlie and I have been married for almost 13 years.  We live out in the country, north of Hudson, on Butterfield Road.  Charlie is self employed as a contractor and enjoys building houses, working on anything home improvement related and in his spare time, golfing.   I have enjoyed volunteering in the Hudson classrooms teaching Junior Achievement, coaching Hudson summer softball and in my spare time spending time with my family, friends and the occasional golf game.   Elyse is 9 years old and will be in 4th grade this year and Ansley is 6 years old and will be in 1st grade this year.   We moved to Hudson in 2007, just in time for Elyse to start Kindergarten at Hudson Elementary.  Both girls enjoy playing in the Hudson summer softball league, learning to play piano and look forward to school starting again.  

What drew you to board service?
My father, Melvin Thede, was a very active member of the Reinbeck community and was on the G-R School board for many years.  He modeled to our family the importance of getting involved and trying to make a difference in your community.  I have had an interest since moving to Hudson of getting better integrated into the community and school system.  Since I am a working mom, I am not able to volunteer as much during the day in the girls’ classrooms but I would like to be able to be connected to their learning and education.  

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Iowa  and Hudson Schools?
Budgets, Technology & Learning Evaluation.  Of course school budgets always come to the top of my mind when thinking about challenges in Iowa’s schools.  How do we make the most with the budgets we have and being good stewards of those resources.  Technology in the classroom; understanding what is needed, how we can leverage it to help children learn and how to position children to be successful post-graduation.  Evaluation of learning; how to measure and make sure every child is making forward progress in learning and skill mastery.  

What do you hope to accomplish by serving on the Board?
I hope to be able to make a positive influence on the Hudson School district by using my business knowledge and experience to help keep the school district competitive and well positioned for the future needs of our children. Current school board members have children of high school age so I feel as though this population is well represented.  Since my children are younger, I hope to be able to bring a perspective to the school board representing the elementary school aged children.   

Jason Carter, Candidate for School Board
Where did you grow up, go to school, college (degrees earned), and where do you work?
Jason Carter
As the son of a corporate executive for multiple companies, my family, including 4 younger sisters, moved around a lot. I was born in California, lived in Austin, TX; Boston, MA; and Mobile, AL. I attended/graduated from private high schools in Mobile, AL before moving to Memphis, TN.  In 2000 I graduated from the University of Memphis with a Bachelor's degree in Communications. While in college, I was a pitcher on the baseball team. Upon graduation and marriage to my wife Danielle, I got my first job in TV at the ABC affiliate in Biloxi, MS. I was a sports reporter before moving to news. Our next stop was Jackson, covering capitol politics, local news and an international corporate scandal (Worldcom).  I also hosted a statewide football FM radio show. After a couple of years, we moved to Memphis where I was a news reporter, investigative reporter, and Anchor. More than 5 years ago, my wife and I decided to raise our family in Hudson for great schools, great community, and great opportunities.   I stepped out of TV for several years to work in the family business as an Executive Corporate Recruiter. However, my calling as a journalist called me back.  First as weekend anchor at CBS 2/Fox 28 and now as the the morning anchor at KWWL.   My job at KWWL is perfect because I'm home when my kids get home from school.

Tell us about your family.
My wife Daniellle and I have 3 children: Laurel Grace (9) will be a 4th grader at Hudson Elementary, Jackson (7) will be a 2nd grader at Hudson Elementary, and Knox Grey (3), enters his first year at Humpty Dumpty this year.

What drew you to board service?
My children are the most important thing in my life. Their success and future are my main focus. Hudson boasts a 100% graduation rate, 1 to 1 technology this coming year in High school, and incredibly talented teachers; however, we must be more. Our school system must be the example across the state, region and country. As a smaller district, we can maneuver and try things that can enhance our children's learning experience. I want to be part of the dialogue, the plan, and the installation of new and unique ideas.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Iowa?
I think too many school districts across the state focus on preparing students for standardized tests and not learning. I do not fault our school district for this. Standardized tests are important benchmarks but they can not be the end all be all. We need students who can learn facts and apply them, not just fill in the blanks. This is true for students who excel in the classroom and those that need additional help.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Hudson?
Applying curriculum to real life. While I do not think this is unique to Hudson, I want it to be a priority for the school district. Technology enhancements are only useful if they aid and improve the classroom/homework experience. Great teachers cannot do it by themselves but need parental involvement and professional partnerships to help connect the dots of curriculum and real life. Also we need to maintain small classroom sizes so teachers can be attentive and effective.  It's also important to keep students involved.  Balancing sports and other extra curriculur activities are important character-building lessons for students to learn time management and team work lessons. We need to be on the cutting edge of technology, maintain the strongest teachers in the state, and motivate kids to be involved, so our students will learn and better themselves their whole lives.

What do you hope to accomplish by serving on the Board?
Three things:
  1. Increase the number of professional partnerships in order to illustrate education in the classroom's connection to real life.
  2. Enhance and/or develop a female student leadership program that breaks down glass ceilings for female achievement. (Why? Iowa and MISSISSIPPPI are the only states without a female Congresswoman, Senator, or Governor ever. Iowa ranks as one of the lowest states in female entrepreneurship and business ownership) This must change for my daughter, wife and 4 sisters.
  3. Continue to drive for technology based curriculum's that become the envy of all other school districts.
Liz Folladori, Candidate for School Board
Where did you grow up, go to school, college (degrees earned), and where do you work?
I grew up in Waterloo attending Kingsley Elementary School through my 4th grade year. My family then moved to Broomfield, CO ( located between Boulder and Denver). I graduated in 1977, from Broomfield High School and then attended Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, CO. I began my work career as a commodity broker, and until our department was dissolved at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, I was employed by Area Education Agency 267 for 11 years assigned to Hudson Elementary School.

Tell us about your family.
My husband, Dan Folladori, and I moved to Hudson 22 years ago from Aurora, CO. My parents, Don and Marilyn Shipanik, were already established here owning The Hudson House restaurant, so it was a very easy transition for us. Dan, a CPA, started his accounting practice in Cedar Falls shortly after we arrived. We have lived on the corner of 1st and Jefferson 22 years next month. It has been a wonderful neighborhood to raise our three children. Lauren, our oldest and a 2008 Hudson graduate, is a 5th grade teacher in the Carlisle school district. Ben, class of 2009, did his undergrad at Wartburg College in Waverly and is just getting ready to begin his first year of law school at Drake University. Lastly, there is Sam, class of 2012. He is getting ready for his sophomore year at UNI majoring in Business and Finance.

What drew you to Board service?
Since arriving in Hudson, I have always tried to stay connected to our community and give a little something back. It started with the Chamber of Commerce and some of my neighbors pulling together on the "Christmas Tree, Unite and Light" campaign. From there, I taught Sunday School for six years, was Lauren's Daisy and Brownie troop leader, and Tiger and Wolf Pack troop leader for both Ben and Sam's scouting groups. I co-coached Ben and Sam's soccer teams in their younger years, was Hudson High School's cheerleading coach for five years and served on the first PTO board followed by two terms as president, three years as vice-president and two years as treasurer. I happened to be on the board when we passed the funding for the sign in front of the elementary school, helped build the new playground and for many years organized a small group who would bring racks and clippers to clean up the front of our elementary building right before school began. I was part of the PTO group who, before this last re-do, spent spring break painting the commons, changing it from it's mono color to our proud Pirate colors. Lastly, I was one of the parents who was asked during the first, Every 15 Minutes, to stay with the high school students the evening of the event. 

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Iowa? 
First I believe "No Child Left Behind" has done more of a disservice to Iowa's children then any sort of support. Secondly, we can't continue to cut funding and still expect the nation to look toward Iowa as a leader in education. Numerous hard choices need to be made in Des Moines. If our state leaders want Iowa to continue to stand out educationally then doing it on a wish and a prayer is not going to get us there.

What do you believe is the greatest challenge facing education in Hudson? 
I don't feel that we have our students prepared as well as they could be for college or other career choices they pursue. We need a full time guidance councilor who can take the time needed to help educate and ready our students for life after high school.

What do you hope to accomplish by serving on the Board? 
I would like to see parents and faculty feel more comfortable  and positive with approaching the board. Not only the more ideas the better, but I so often hear, "I'm not happy with ______, but going to the board won't do any good" or "If I go to the board with this, they will just take it out on my child."  I would feel I had accomplished something if by the end of my term, those phrases were no longer heard.  By serving on the board, I would continue to strive for providing the best education and positive opportunities for each and every student at Hudson Community Schools.