Friday, August 17, 2018

1,080 Hours to Make a Difference

Superintendent News & Views
1,080 Hours to Make a Difference
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent

The school year is about to begin. The excitement and enthusiasm has been evident among our students as they’ve been in our school buildings for registration, athletic camps, and practices. Our teachers are ready to get started, and along with the tried-and-true methods that they have implemented for many years, they will also be using some new strategies to engage our students and maximize learning in the coming school year.  I’m expecting GREAT things to happen in the 2018-2019 school year, and I hope you are, too!  
Back when most of us were in school, Iowa’s school districts offered 180 days of instruction each year. A few years ago, Iowa law was changed to allow schools to base their calendar year on either 180 days or a minimum of 1,080 hours of instruction per year.  Given that option, North Tama (and over 90 percent of Iowa’s school districts) switched to hours-based calendars to allow for greater flexibility.  North Tama’s planned calendar for the coming year exceeds the required minimum, offering just over 1,204 hours of instruction – of course, this will likely be reduced due to a few weather-related late starts and early dismissals. 
Regardless of the type of unit used to count instructional time, the new school year provides each student with a “fresh start,” and a new opportunity to use this time to their advantage to further increase his or her skills, and to grow and develop as an individual and as a member of our community.  It is my sincere hope that the 1,080+ hours that will be invested in each student this year will truly make a positive difference in each of their lives. 
I want to challenge all North Tama students to make the most of every one of the 1,080+ hours this school year.  By being an active participant in your own learning, you can get the most out of the time that you invest in school.  Perhaps you’ve heard the saying “You can’t win if you don’t play.”  Often this phrase is used in advertisements for the lottery.  While I don’t want to promote gambling, I do think this phrase makes a good point about participation. While your odds of winning a jackpot are very slim, I guarantee you that there is a 100% chance that those people who DON’T buy a lottery ticket WON’T win a jackpot. It’s true that you can’t win if you don’t play. 
The same thing is true of our learning...You can’t win if you don’t play. What does that mean?  To me, it means two things: 1) ATTENDANCE IS IMPORTANT. Students need to be at school - every day, on time, so they won’t miss out on important opportunities for learning; and, 2) PARTICIPATE!  At North Tama, we have so many wonderful ways for students to extend their learning beyond the classroom.  I challenge every 7-12 student to participate in in at least one sport, at least one club or organization, and at least one fine arts activity. Students that participate in activities are more likely to have higher academic achievement, less likely to drop out of school, and more likely to become involved members of their communities as adults.
Parents can make a big difference in a child’s education by doing their part to encourage good attendance and participation. They can encourage their children to participate in extracurricular activities, and provide the necessary transportation, resources, and support. While all students may need to be absent from school on occasion, parents can also play a critical role in ensuring good attendance. Here are some tips for good attendance provided by the National Association of Elementary School Principals:

1.     Plan ahead when scheduling vacations. Take a look at the school calendar (you can find it on the school website). There are several three-day weekends and even longer breaks during the year that will allow family fun without having to miss school. Also, plan ahead when it comes to parents and siblings’ appointments – does every child in the family need to go if the appointment is just for one family member?
2.     Prioritize your schedule. Many times, doctor appointments can be scheduled to take place in the hours immediately following school or on Saturdays. At minimum, appointments can usually be made so that a student misses a half-day of school rather than a full day.
3.     Have a regular bedtime. Establish an evening routine that includes time for reading and other activities that help your child to become calm and relaxed before bed.
4.     Teach organizational skills so your child can get out the door with the proper materials, homework, etc.
5.     Encourage healthy habits. Make sure your child has breakfast and nutritious snacks. Emphasize hand washing and cleanliness each and every day.

I hope you will find these tips to be helpful. Do you have another tip to share, or a comment about this article? You are welcome to visit my blog at where you can read all of my columns from the Star Clipper and leave comments if you wish. I also occasionally post pictures and other content that is not submitted to the paper or additional information that expands upon what was submitted to the paper. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill.  We at North Tama truly appreciate parents’ efforts in teaching their children the importance of good attendance and participation. The school year is upon us…Let’s make each and every hour of the 2018-2019 school year count!  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

North Tama Board Agenda for Monday, August 20, 2018

The Board of Education's regular monthly meeting will be held on August 20, 2018, in the North Tama ICN Room.  The tentative agenda can be viewed here.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Save $10 if you ACT NOW

Superintendent News & Views
Save $10 if you ACT NOW
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent

Did the headline of this column get your attention?  Did it sound more like a television infomercial than the headline of the superintendent’s newspaper column?   Well, the truth is, I was trying to get your attention and if you’ve read this much of the column, I guess it worked! 
Yes, the headline was designed to get your attention – but, if you are the parent of a North Tama student, it’s absolutely TRUE – North Tama’s back-to-school student registration process is taking place right NOW, and parents who take care of their fees online no later than July 31 will automatically receive a discount of $10 per child!  July 31 is approaching quickly – it’s this coming Tuesday – so don’t delay. 
From August 1 to August 6, registration fees will be automatically discounted by $5 per student.  Those who register late (after August 6) will miss out on the discounted rates. 
Once again this year, our registration process is streamlined through an online option.  Parents can visit anytime day or night to take care of their child’s back-to-school registration.  The online registration process worked quite well in 2017 and it is back by popular demand.  It’s a great way to avoid waiting in line and to take care of student registration on your own terms and your own timeline. 
The Traer Public Library has computers available for those who do not have access to a computer at home. Another option is to come to the main office at school during our regular daily business hours of 8 to 4. We have a computer set up for parents to use for online registration.
We will hold a single in-person registration day once again this year on August 6, from 3:00 to 7:00pm in the Main Office. We are not able to take walk-in registrations prior to this date.
If you have questions or need to fill out an application for free or reduced-price lunches and a possible partial waiver of registration fees, please visit for more information.  We’re looking forward to a great school year! 
I encourage your feedback on this column, along with any questions you may have. These SUPERINTENDENT NEWS & VIEWS columns, in addition to my blog and Twitter postings, are part of my plan for open communication with the community as a part-time superintendent with duties in another area school district. If you’ve missed any of my columns or would like to re-read or share them with your friends and family, you are welcome to visit my blog at where they are all posted. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter (@DavidRobertHill) where I will occasionally post updates or other information not found on the blog.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

North Tama Board Agenda for Monday, July 16, 2018

Monday's school board meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the ICN room.  The agenda is posted at the link below:

North Tama is a PK-12 school district located in Traer, Iowa. Our district strives to empower every student to become a life-long learner who is a productive, responsible, and engaged citizen of our society.  We envision a school where all students achieve a degree of academic success which will equip them to adapt to our rapidly changing society.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

North Tama’s Financial Future

Superintendent News & Views
North Tama’s Financial Future
By David Hill,
North Tama Superintendent

I’ve recently had a few North Tama district patrons inquire about the school district’s financial stability. These people are asking because they care about North Tama, and they are concerned because they’ve heard about the financial troubles that many of Iowa’s smaller school districts are going through.  They’ve heard that most Iowa districts are experiencing a decline in enrollment, and they know that Iowa’s schools have had several consecutive years of low supplemental state aid.
Since these folks have taken the time to contact me due to their concern about the future of North Tama, I figured there are probably others that have had the same questions but haven’t taken time to inquire.  That’s why I decided to address the topic in this week’s column. 
I want to make it perfectly clear: North Tama’s current major financial indicators are POSITIVE.  Our cash balance is healthy, and our spending authority is even greater than the level recommended by the Iowa Association of School Boards.  I believe that North Tama can and will remain a financially viable school district for many years to come as long as your school leaders – including myself – manage resources appropriately.
That’s a very basic analysis, in “layman's terms” as they say. Now, I’ll explain the reasoning behind that assessment. The number one indicator of a school district’s long-term financial viability is the Unspent Authorized Budget, abbreviated as UAB.  UAB represents the district's legal authority to spend. Districts with a negative UAB may be dissolved by the state; or, the state may give these districts a two or three-year extension if they can come up with an approved financial “work-out plan.”
For optimum financial health, the IASB recommends districts maintain a UAB ratio (calculated by taking the UAB divided by the Maximum Authorized budget) between 5% and 15%.  North Tama’s UAB ratio at the end of fiscal year 2017 was 22.9%, well above the recommended range
Even with several years of declining enrollment and low supplemental state aid, North Tama’s financial health (as indicated by the UAB ratio) has continued to improve.  Your school board’s careful decision making and outside-the-box thinking are the primary reasons for this. We have implemented three shared administrative positions (including my own) and two shared teaching positions in recent years.  This provides savings as well as additional revenues through state incentives.  We’ve realized significant savings by reducing a bus route. North Tama has joined a health insurance consortium to get a better deal on employee insurance. To the extent legally possible, we have used sources of revenue other than the general fund to pay expenditures.  Some teaching and support staff positions have been reduced to part-time and others have been eliminated completely.  Our general goal is to look for opportunities to reduce staff without layoffs, so we look for opportunities to reduce through attrition whenever possible. We also carefully consider all general fund expenditures. All of these measures have contributed to an improved UAB ratio. 
North Tama uses an approved financial model to project the UAB ratio five years into the future.  Our model predicts an average decline in enrollment of ten students per year and supplemental state aid increases of 1% per year.  Using these assumptions, our projections show the UAB ratio declining to about 10.9% by the end of fiscal year 2022. While this declining ratio is a concern, the projected ratio still falls within the recommended range.
Keep in mind that the whole purpose of these projections is NOT to tell us when the district will be in financial trouble; rather, it is to PREVENT that from happening by providing a warning to the district – along with time to adjust. Knowing that our spending authority is likely to decline will help the school board make informed decisions to secure the long-term financial viability of the district.  Looking ahead 5 years gives us time to make adjustments now to ensure the district's viability. This means we can implement cost-saving measures and take other actions this year, next year, and in the following years which will positively affect the district’s outlook well into the future.
For the past 13 years, I have served as an administrator in schools with declining enrollment. Based on my experience as well as the information provided by noted school finance experts, it is my honest belief that as long as there is a collective desire among the school board and school community to make it happen, the North Tama County Community School District will be able to maintain its financial viability for the long term
I'm proud to be North Tama’s superintendent, and excited to have the opportunity to provide leadership as we work together to ensure a quality education for students in the North Tama district – now, and for many years to come.
I welcome any questions you may have about the district’s financial status. Feel free to visit my blog at where you can leave comments or ask a question about the information in this column. You can also refer back to other blog posts and Star-Clipper articles that I’ve written over the past few years.  Also feel free to reach out or follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Keep Kids Learning During the Summer

Superintendent News & Views
Keep Kids Learning During the Summer
By David Hill, North Tama Superintendent

Summer is a great time to seek out opportunities to extend a child’s learning. There are many opportunities to learn during the summer – story hour at the public library, swimming lessons, vacation Bible school, scouting and 4-H activities, summer camp, volunteer activities, and summer sports are just a few examples.

Over the summer months, children can lose a shocking amount of what they’ve already learned unless there is an intentional effort to keep their brains engaged. That means the kids who put forth just a little bit of effort are going to be ahead come fall. Parents, you owe it to your kids—and to their futures—to incorporate learning activities into their summer.

Reading and learning activities can be an important part of your child’s summer experience while still allowing plenty of time for play and relaxation. Here are a few suggestions, courtesy of the National Association of Elementary Principals.

FIND ACTIVITY BOOKS TO EXERCISE THEIR MINDS. There is a huge variety of activity books available, usually catered to specific age groups. Give your children their own activity book and let them work at their own pace to finish it. (Set a “due by” date to keep them on track.) Crossword puzzles, math activity books, and number puzzles all keep children’s brains in motion.

INCORPORATE “THINKING” INTO TRAVELING. If your family takes a vacation during the summer, include stops at a few places that will incorporate learning along with fun. Zoos, children’s museums, and historic sites are educational as well as entertaining. For bonus learning, have your children help you plot out the trip using an atlas or online mapping software. Older children can tally up the miles, keep track of expenses, or figure out gas mileage.

SET A READING TIME EVERY DAY. Set aside a certain time every day where everyone puts away their smartphones and turns off the computer, TV, music, and video games. Spends 15 minutes or more reading. Parents can set an example by participating in this reading time along with your child.

GET BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS FOR YOUR CHILD. Check out the American Library Association’s recommended Summer Reading lists for kids at Be sure to sign your kids up for summer reading programs at the local library, too!

BE “INTERNATIONAL.” Set aside one or two nights during the summer to have an international evening. Together, find recipes from a different nation and put together a special meal. Learn a few basic words in that country’s language and find a children’s book or online information on what life is like in that country. Get out a world map or a globe and show them where the country is and talk about what you’d want to visit if you could go there.

PARTICIPATE IN SPORTS AND EXERCISE. T-Ball, little league, dance, and other organized activities offered in the community are a great way to build foundational skills and squeeze in some physical activity. Even if your child can’t participate in a local sports league or community-based team, there are plenty of ways to get exercise—family trips to area swimming pools, jumping rope, taking family walks around your neighborhood, or visiting the playground equipment at an area park.

While it does take some effort and planning to keep kids engaged in learning during the summer, the benefit to a child’s education is beyond measure.

I hope parents, grandparents, and others who have an influence on the lives of young people will find these suggestions to be helpful. Do you have another tip to share, or a comment about this article? You are welcome to visit my blog at at where you can read all of my columns from the Star Clipper and leave comments if you wish. I also occasionally post pictures and other content that is not submitted to the paper or additional information that expands upon what was submitted to the paper. You are also welcome to follow me on Twitter, where my handle is @DavidRobertHill. Have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018


North Tama Patrons:
We are seeking a qualified individual to fill a vacancy on the school board until the next school board election in November 2019. To qualify, an individual must be a registered voter whose residence is located in Director District 5. A detailed description of Director District 5, along with other requirements, can be found in the "PUBLIC NOTICE" below. The accompanying photo shows a visual description of Director District 5.

The North Tama County Community School District’s Board of Education publishes this notice to inform district patrons of a vacancy on the Board of Education. Pursuant to Iowa Code 279.6, the Board intends to appoint a person within 30 days to fill this vacancy on the Board. Any eligible persons residing within Director District 5 who may be interested in filling this vacancy are asked to contact Superintendent David Hill at 605 Walnut Street, Traer, Iowa 50675. Telephone (319) 478-2265. Potential candidates may be asked to fill out a questionnaire or complete an interview with the board.
Director District 5 includes areas within the city limits of Traer that are south of 2nd Street (Highway 8) and east of Main Street (Highway 63). The Superintendent can provide a map of the director district or answer any questions about specific addresses.
Eligible electors of the North Tama County Community School District have the right to file a petition requiring that this vacancy be filled by special election. Petitions must be received by the board secretary within 14 days after the publication of this notice. For signatory requirements, contact Board Secretary Terrill Karr at 605 Walnut Street, Traer, Iowa 50675. Telephone (319) 478-2265.