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January 2017

This newsletter is coming a bit late as we typically would have it out before Christmas Break.  My apologies, I will let you know that both Vicki and Carole have been reminding me of this deadline I just missed.  They just must have been too nice!  ANyway I have a new Google App for keeping reminders fresh on my phone, iPad, and both computers (Home and work), now all I have to do is remember to put the newsletter deadlines on that!

On with the important stuff.  The Reorganization Election is coming on Tuesday February 7, 2017.  Early Voting is already available at the Fayette County Auditor’s office and absentee ballots can also be requested.  On the 7th Polls will be open at all the usual school election sites from noon to 8:00 p.m.  There are two questions on the ballot, one is to approve creation of the North Fayette Valley Community School District by reorganizing North Fayette and Valley, effective July 1, 2018.  The other is approval of the Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) for expenditure of the one cent sales tax or SILO revenues.  This RPS is the same that both districts have been functioning on, it is just a necessary move to provide a new RPS for a new district.  If you are interested in more information about this election, and what it will mean to NFV students check out this Reorganization Information  web page I’ve developed

It’s legislative sessions time!  One of my biggest concerns coming for legislation is the voucher movement.  We know many states including Iowa have strong private school advocates who campaign for state dollars to follow students to schools of choice, either the privates or charters.  It’s not that I think those schools don’t do a great job and I am not afraid to compete with them when working under the same conditions.  However, money for school choice will only decrease the amount of funding public schools can receive in the current state economy.  A good pace to see the negative impact of school choice is Michigan, home of Betsy DeVos the appointee to be Director of the US Department of Education.  She is a private and charter school advocate, has had a huge negative impact on Michigan Schools and their results are dropping precipitously.  See

Last year we started working on eliminating the inequity in school expenditures in Iowa.  These include differences in state allocations or District Cost Per Pupil, often called the DCPP and in transportation costs, which are paid from the Per pupil cost in the formula. Although legislation was introduced to correct these two inequalities, no change was made during the 2016 Legislative Session.  For the 2016-2017 school year, 164 districts are at the state minimum per pupil of $6,591.  The maximum is $6,766, which is $175 higher.  The average is $6,623.  School transportation costs per student vary from a low of $58 to a high of $1,143 (according to the Iowa Department of Education Annual Transportation Report 2014-15.)  School districts in the Upper Iowa Conference are impacted by both as follows (2014-15 data):
School District
District Cost per pupil
Budget Enrollment
Total Annual Shortfall
Transportation Cost per pupil
Total Annual Cost above the State Average
$    78,400
$   159,936
Clayton Ridge
$  48,804
$   239,240
Eastern Allamakee
$    60,550
$    150,510
Edgewood Co.
$   70,000
$    130,400
MFV-Mar Mac
$  115,884
$   129,195
North Fayette
$    42,294
$   129,276
$  109,188
$    0
South Winneshiek
$   95,550
$   130,494
$   99,820
$     36,580
Turkey Valley
$      2,728
$    129,921
$   57,912
$       77,724
West Central
$    48,475
$       27,977
State Average
If you are so inclined please use this data to contact your legislators and stand up for Public Education.  You can also get more information for
Find your legislators and their contact information at

Have a great new year!

Proud to be NFV!

Duane Willhite, Supt.

December 1, 2016

This year has been flying by.  Obviously the great fall weather has made it tough to think this is December already.  As we come to the conclusion of another year already identified as the warmest globally since record keeping began, it does make one wonder what the future holds.  According to NASA’s Global Ice Viewer, ( Greenland’s ice mass loses 287 billion metric tons of ice annually, shipping lanes seasonally opened north of Hudson Bay for the first time in recorded history, 100’s of square kilometers of the Antarctic Ice Shelf has disappeared, along with rapid retreat of many Arctic Glaciers.  This is not a political statement, just a look at some factual data from an old science teacher!

Thanksgiving Meal Project
One of the good things around these Holidays is how people step up and help their friends and neighbors.  The NFV staff and students have banded together to provide 25 families in the NFV District with Thanksgiving meals.  Students paid $1.00 to wear hats on Thursday, October 27 and November 3rd. While staff members paid $5.00 to wear jeans on those same dates. This money was used toward making this an enjoyable Thanksgiving for many families.
Volunteers cooked the meals on the Wednesday evening prior to Thanksgiving at North Fayette Valley High School.  The meals were delivered the same evening for the families to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day.  The meals included turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, fruit salad, green beans, dinner rolls and pumpkin pie.
Special thanks go to all of the NFV teachers and staff who have participated in this event.  The turkeys and chickens were raised by NFV students at the high school. Carol Stanbrough provided the green beans and Karlee Ihde provided eight-dozen eggs for the project. FFA students purchased the potatoes and pumpkin pie ingredients while Sara Lee and Quillin’s provided dinner rolls.  We hope we can continue this project in the coming years as a way to give back to our communities.

Annual Progress Report
At the November 21 joint Board meeting, curriculum director Betsy Nefzger presented the boards with our FY16 Annual Progress Report.  This report is available on our web site and can be picked up at either central office.  As an additional effort to report to our public, Mrs. Nefzger also created a simple brochure with some of the more relevant data so patrons can quickly and easily get a snapshot of some of our key data.  That brochure is attached with this newsletter and we will make it available in our offices, community libraries and a few other locations.   If that piques your interest, please call Carol Nading 563-426-5501 or Vicki Gamm 563-422-3851 ext. 5 for a copy of the full report.

Legislative Session
Every year I encourage our patrons to become advocates for your school and public schools in general through contacting your legislators.  Advocacy this year is especially important as many impactful decisions will be proposed.  We’ve come to the end of the three year increases of $50 million per year to start our teacher leadership programs.  With that money spent on this one categorical item we have had historically low growth rates in our designated state aid.  Rural schools have many issues that need to be addressed, one being the high cost of transportation compared to the more populous areas, especially with rural districts getting larger and larger as we well know!  We also have a continuing decline in enrollments, often exacerbated by the loss of good jobs in our small communities.  

Rural areas are falling more and more into larger pockets of poverty.  As is well documented, students from low income families have significantly fewer opportunities to learn than their neighbors with higher incomes.  So many of us have the means to take kids to museums, vacations and historically interesting sites.  We can buy more reading materials, have more time to read with our kids and can provide opportunities to get involved in sports, music and drama activities.  Parents without good paying jobs struggle to do this, and their children need more help to keep up in school.  We use special funds provided to help address these gaps, through summer school, after school programs and special interventions during the school day.  This puts stress on the staff to stretch their time out more and more.  It’s not enough.  We need to find a way to increase the categorical and the general funding of our rural districts.

Iowa Policy Project Data
Typically, when schools go to the hill asking for increased funding we are told there is no money available.  That’s probably true, but only because our legislators have CHOSEN TO GIVE THE MONEY TO OTHERS.  Check out the following info from the Iowa Fiscal Policy Project.  This table shows the amount our state spends on Research and Development Tax Credits.  Corporations such as Monsanto, John Deere, Rockwell Collins and Dupont are benefiting with not just reduced taxes, but payments to them after their tax burden is $0.  These credits are refundable and as you can see up to 95% of these credits are paid to the companies.  That’s $42 Million dollars, worth just a bit more than 1% allowable growth in our school’s budgets.
I present this data just as one example of how citizens can make a statement with legislators.  If they were honest about how they prioritize spending I believe they could find the dollars to fund our schools better.  If you would like more information on school funding please let me know, I will gladly help anyone become a stronger advocate for all public school students.

Have a great Christmas and New Years!  Go TigerHawks!

Duane Willhite, Superintendent


September 25, 2015

Talking to your students about A.L.I.C.E.
A.L.I.C.E. is an acronym that I hope you are familiar with.  We’ve discussed it before in this newsletter and at school.  It is a very important topic when we talk about safety of students at our schools.  A.L.I.C.E. stands for Alert. Lockdown. Inform. Counter. and Escape.  These are the highly recommend steps to take in the possibility of violent intruders in our building.   Building staff at NFV have been prepared to take these steps should it be necessary.   We don’t take this responsibility lightly, but we also do not want to cause undue concern or fear among students.  

However, the statistics are real, according to the A.L.I.C.E. training institute; In a study of 84 active shooter events that occurred between 2000 and 2010, 34 percent involved schools and most last just a few minutes.” And, from the US Department of Justice, Criminal Victimization in the United States, March 2010:  “Making sure staff and students know how to respond and instruct their students can help prevent and reduce the loss of life. The national law enforcement response time to aggravated assaults is:  20.9% of time within 5 minutes; 32.6% of time between 6-10 minutes; and 36.4% of time more than 11 minutes”

We need to make certain staff and students know how to respond in the unthinkable chance that violence comes to our buildings.  The only people we haven’t yet prepared for an A.L.I.C.E. event are the students.  Obviously, we will take great care in approaching the subject at an age appropriate level for everyone.  It also is suggested we do this in all buildings in the same day, that way your students can talk to each other and talk at home with questions concerning this subject together.  For more information and assistance to answer some questions at home please refer to this website:  We’ve had experts train staff, answer questions for us and run through drills.  We now plan to do the same for students.

On Thursday, October 1, there are plans for each building to have conversations with students about strangers and intruders at school.  After those discussions or during the next week, each building or age group will have a practice A.L.I.C.E. drill.  These drills WILL NOT be live action or involve toy weapons and make believe victims.  Depending on age they will involve running to a safe place when asked to, barricading doors when necessary, or maybe even thinking of ways to deter an active intruder.

The North Fayette Valley Community Coalition (NFVCC)
The Valley Community Coalition, also known as VCC is an organization of volunteers that does great work on behalf of the students of our school district.  I am proud to announce that this group has now expanded and incorporated North Fayette parents and students into their activities.  These activities include operating a youth center for student gathering spot on weekends, supporting the Valley and North Fayette Mentoring program and the SODA organization (Students Opposed to Drugs and Alcohol).  Look for a newsletter to come from NVFCC on a regular basis and watch for what the organization can do.

School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC)
The districts’ SIAC committees will continue to meet jointly this year.  Three meetings have been scheduled, they are at 6:00 pm on October 14, January 20 and April 13.  The meetings alternate between the NFV HS library and the NFV MS library, with October being at the HS.  This committee is designed and required for public input and involvement in your school district. Our SIAC has been providing feedback on issues such as: school calendars, student achievement goals, one-to-one computing, Common Core implementation and the Early Reading Initiative to name a few.  We are always looking for interested parties to participate in this committee.  If anyone is interested, call the district office and volunteer, we’ll never have too many interested volunteers providing public input!

North Fayette Facilities Update
The North Fayette CSD facilities committee has been discussing improvements in West Union that could impact all NFV students at the HS, and those attending West Union Elementary.  At a committee meeting on Thursday, September 17, we reviewed conceptual drawings of tornado safe rooms for each building and a secondary gym for the HS.  The tornado safe rooms would hopefully qualify for FEMA funding and could provide spaces that will replace portable buildings at both sites.  Our goal is to fund 100% of these three improvements through Local Option Sales Tax funds and NOT ask for a property tax levy from the public.

The secondary gym in the HS would not be eligible for FEMA funding, however we find the extra practice space would be beneficial to all our sports teams and could possibly improve our academic schedules as well.  This gym would provide for less congestion in the mornings when athletes, dance squads and early bird P.E. are competing for gym space.   It would provide for more after school practices and practice opportunities on game nights,  and it could become a second game venue if we can build it to fit a few rows of bleachers.  This would allow for JV and varsity contests to occur simultaneously, thus eliminating 4:00 start times for some basketball games.

Our next step in this project is to determine the funding stream available in future years’ SILO revenues to make sure we can afford this is within this budget.  We will also be interviewing architectural firms who will be working on design elements and estimated costs.  They will be instrumental in guiding the district for meeting the requirements for federal funding through FEMA.  The fiscal responsibilities of this project are entirely North Fayette’s, but the benefits will be enjoyed by all.  The NF facilities committee will be meeting regularly as we continue to develop plans for this project and will act as the building committee to work with the architects on the final project.

Winter Driver’s Education Reminder
The NFV Winter Driver’s Education class will begin in January and classes will occur from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m.  Registration will open on December 1 and the fee is $349, payable with registration.
As always, any comments or questions about all that is going on at NFV can be directed at either of my offices.  I keep hours in West Union on Monday and Wednesday, and in Valley on Tuesday and Thursday, with alternating sites on Fridays.

Thanks for all you do for NFV.  Go TigerHawks!

Duane Willhite, Supt.

May 1, 2015

For those of you who don’t know, I AM a fan of the Chicago Cubs!  Did you know in the movie Back to the Future II  the Cubbies win the World Series in 2015.  That was released in 1989, and in October when Marty McFly meets Dr. Brown the billboards outside Wrigley proudly congratulate the Cubbies on their world series win.  Look out, there’s a young group of apparently very talented Cubbies that are making it look like there is a chance.

I’m not a big enough gambler to bet on them yet.  It’s a long season and they are very young.  Just like our NFV partnership, they’ll have some growing pains and tough times.  NFV will have some tough times too.   We’ve hired 11 new people for our districts in the past few months.  They all look young and talented just like those Cubbies.  I’m very glad we’ll have the Teacher Leadership program in place next year so we can provide the mentoring and induction program they need to become successful.  

We’ll have 20 extremely talented teachers that, because of the TLC program, will have the time to take these folks under their wing and get them started on an NFV career that soars.  These folks will be serving as coaches, models and mentors for all of our staff, their colleagues, friends and co-workers.  That can be a fragile relationship, but I believe we have the folks who will pull it off.  They are professional and motivated to be the best they can be.  And they want the best for our school districts and the students we serve.  Our TLC program will be referred to as the Instructional Services Staff at NFV.  They are:

         Instructional Coaches           Model Teachers Mentor Teachers
Kathy Hageman                      Neal Bentley                Tim Feldman
           Sheri Imoehl                           Peggy Bentley              Cassie Gruman
           Jeannie Krambeer                  Angie Boehm             Molly J. Holthaus
           Jessica White                         Tina Halverson               Shelly Seick
 Darrin Johnston                   Mandy Smith
 Kelli Kovarik                            
 Kim Lau                          Model/Mentor Teacher
                                                          Carol Reierson                         Amy Ihde
                                                          Tracy Nuss
                                                          Molli Steffens
The Instructional coaches are full-time positions for the program.  Model Teachers and Mentor Teachers are mostly full-time teachers, but they will be granted some significant release time to  offer their services for the rest of the staff.  According to the state guidelines for this program, we should have three more people in leadership positions, so we will try to fill those spots as we go through the 2015-16 school year.

Speaking of next year, the legislature has decided when we can start school, which is now August 24, a Monday.  With that start date, the adopted calendar will run through May 25 (plus snow days!), but the board has not yet established the graduation date, as they want to see how the Friday night Graduation goes this year.  Registration for 15-16 has been set for July 29 - 30, 2015 in the Valley building and August 3 - 4, 2015 at NFV HS.  This is different from last year as we see the Fayette County Fair is scheduled for the week of the August 3.  I’d like to remind everyone to look for their summer newsletter the third week of July which will have all of your registration information.  Residents of both districts can again register on any of these days. We will have secretaries from both districts in attendance and our registration procedures and policies are now aligned so all students can be registered at any time.  Please honor these registration days, either with your mail in or face to face registrations.  Once those days are done, the secretaries will be very busy preparing for the school year.

As we come to the end of our school year we also want to thank those who have served us so well and are either retiring or moving on from our teaching ranks to others.  Retirees are Lois McElvania and Cheryl Gade, with 20 and 33 years of service respectively.  We also say
good-bye to Susan Brackett (9 yrs), Elizabeth Hill (3 yrs), Meredith Murray (2 yrs)  and Charlyn Boyle, who is completing her second teaching career after retiring from NF and now graciously helping out for a year at Valley.
Before I sign off, I want to say that even though this legislative year was so very frustrating, we still want to thank the fine men and women who serve us in Des Moines.  Legislating is a tough task, dealing with the politics and the special interests, and never with adequate time or money for all the requests that are made of them.  At times I think I’ve been a thorn in the side of our local Senators and representatives.  But we do have a great group down there working hard for what they believe is right and I know eventually an outcome that will serve Iowans well.  When you see Brian Shoenjahn, Patty Ruff, Mike Breitbach, Darrell Branhagen, Mary Jo Wilhelm or Bruce Bearinger around this summer, thank them for their service.

My secretaries have been waiting patiently for me to get this letter done.  If it’s late it is totally my fault.  But these Cub games thus far are just too exciting! I won’t be surprised if we don’t see ‘em playing in October!  Go Cubs Go!

Everyone, have a great spring and summer.  And most of all, It’s great to be a TigerHawk!

Proud to be NFV

Duane Willhite

April 2015

I love spring!  Even though this winter was really easy after the previous two, it still held its share of challenges and, as always, lasted too long.  Aside from the weather, spring is also exciting because we get to start rolling into plans for next year.  2015-16 will be a year of transition for NFV as we begin our implementation of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation program.  Adding to our transition issues is a few retirements and resignations which means saying good bye to some of our long term employees.  In all, it adds up to 11 positions that we are trying to fill.  Hiring season is always fun for me as we meet those applicants interested and excited to come to NFV.   I covered a little of my hiring philosophies in my blog if you’re interested (

The TLC program is an Iowa DE funded program for providing instructional coaches, model teachers and mentor teachers to work with our teaching staff in efforts to improve instructional practices in all classrooms.  We have our four Instructional Coaches designated.  They are Kathy Hageman, Jeannie Krambeer, Sherri Imoehl and Jessica White.  I congratulate them for stepping into these new roles and sharing their vast expertise with all of their colleagues.  They will be working over the summer to pick up new teacher leadership skills as well as more effective instructional practices. These coaches will also be guiding model and mentor teachers who can offer a classroom environment for teachers to observe and reflect on some strategies or skills they wish to learn.  These leadership roles will enable us to make continuous improvements over time and will make NFV better and stronger.

Another big transition we’ll have at NFV is the 21st Century Learning Center Grant that we have received.  These funds are for districts that qualify through free and reduced lunch rates and they provide before and after school programming for all students in the qualifying districts.   This grant was written by Stacie Schroeder in her position through the Valley Community Coalition.  This is a wonderful opportunity for NFV students and we are very pleased that Stacie was able to secure this grant funding for us.  

Legislative Update  Our dysfunctional Iowa legislature is apparently incapable of forming compromises.  Iowa law requires them to set education funding levels 18 months before the affected school year starts.  We are four months from ‘15-16 and they still have not decided what our funding will be.  They haven’t even settled the school start date debate, for which Governor Branstad has proposed a compromise of August 23 as the earliest date.  It is looking more likely that they will not compromise on funding, which will be disastrous as that results in 0% growth.  As a result all districts without growing enrollment will fall on the budget guarantee, which increases tax rates and just puts off till next year the funding cuts that should occur.  NFV is in luck because of the sharing incentive dollars that will temporarily keep us whole.  However any inadequate funding this year cost us programs or positions in the near future.  Please encourage any lawmaker you know to settle this childish argument.

Preschool Registration for TigerHawk, Hippity Hop, Rainbowland, Kaleidoscope and Head Start will be held on Tuesday, May 12 from 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. in the West Union Elementary gym.  Parents with children 4 years and under who are ready for preschool programming are invited to come and discover what NF Preschools have to offer.  Kids are welcome. Valley Preschool parents who have not yet registered for 2015-16 can still do so by calling the Valley Elementary office at 563-426-5891 or by stopping in.

If your child will be 4 years old on Sept. 15, 2015 this is the ONLY year they qualify for the FREE Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program (SWVPP).  Kids who attend preschool programming get a great start for school and research shows higher rates of academic growth and positive school relationships for those who have a preschool experience.   We are eager to meet and get to know these future TigerHawks!

What do you know about the Valley Community Coalition?  The Valley Community Coalition (VCC) is a resource for families and youth in the NFV community. We are currently in the process of becoming the North Fayette Valley Community Coalition and would like your feedback to help us develop programs, events, and campaigns that meet your needs.
We are conducting a survey to help us understand what people know about the VCC and our work. Please take a few minutes to answer these 10 questions. Your answers are confidential and you will be contacted only if you provide your name and contact information. One random respondent will be chosen to win a $50 gas card!

Paper copies of the survey will be made available at each school office or VCC Office located at 505 Larrabee Street in Clermont. Or you can visit the survey online at: THANK YOU!

February 2015

Facilities Improvement Committees. Both of our districts have just completed some major improvements to our facilities.  At Valley the Tornado Safe Room has been a great addition to our building, providing space for wrestling practice and other activities as well as the security of a tornado safe room.  At North Fayette, we’ve expanded and improved parking lots, put a new roof on the Fayette building and are taking bids to replace the roof on the High School.

Its time to look ahead to our new needs.  I have scheduled a Valley Facilities Improvement committee meeting for Thursday, February 12, at 7:00 pm in the school library.  An optional brief walk through of the building including the new safe room, will be held at 6:30.  The agenda for the meeting will include a review of previous priorities and discussion of needs and new issues that come up. Current members of that committee have received an invitation, however we are open to more volunteers, please contact Carole Nading at 563-426-5501 if you’d like to participate in this committee.  

Once we receive the bids for the NFV High School roof, we will have a North Fayette Facilities committee meeting on Monday, March 9, at 7:00 pm or immediately after the board meeting in the NFV High School Library.  The same agenda will be followed, but one topic we know will be opportunities for tornado safe room or rooms in West Union.  Current members will be invited and of course anyone else who would like to be involved can volunteer by contacting Vicki Gamm at 563-422-3851.

It’s Legislation season!  Our Iowa Legislature convened a couple weeks ago and that means they will be dealing with decisions about bullying, school calendar start dates, and funding education for next year and 2016-17.  We know the Governor is putting a major emphasis on some kind of anti-bullying bill.  Everyone agrees bullying can have a terrible impact on students and we need to address it.  Hopefully any legislation on the topic will make identifying, investigating and enforcing bullying more consistent and effective.  Programs we employ such as Olweus, Positive Behavior Supports and Character Counts can impact student behavior but they never seem to reach everyone.  We look forward to seeing what the legislature can do for us there.

Calendar start dates have been what I would call a major distraction this fall.  When NF had a calendar that ended a semester before Christmas, there were at least two consecutive years where the December test dates were snowed out. With the movement towards standards based grading, we have eliminated those test dates and stopped trying to get a semester done in December.  I think the public is happy with our current start date but the Governor’s directive to the Department of Education will force us to change that date.  

This year NFV started the Monday before Labor Day (August 25), and one of our proposed calendars does the same for next year (August 24).  If we are forced to follow the start date law, that will move back to August 31.  Of course that takes the last day of school back a week, from May 25 to June 1 (before snow make up days).  That’s a zero benefit move to me, if we don’t go to school in August we go into June.  The one concern that will be a problem for everyone with the mandated start date are the concurrent enrollment classes though our community colleges that will start on August 20.  They are not being forced to change, so high school students in those classes will have some time to make up if school actually starts on August 31.  I like local control, but not going to enter this argument.

School Funding is a fight we need to fight.  The Governor has recommended an increase in Supplemental State Aid (SSA) at 1.25% for 2015-16.  This increase used to be known as the Allowable Growth Rate, but has now been changed to be Supplemental State Aid.  This only changes where it comes from not what it does. An increase of 1.25% represents $80 dollars more per student enrolled.  Because of declining enrollment, neither North Fayette or Valley will receive $80 x their enrollment.  If enrollment is going down faster than funding is increased then we get what we call “negative new money” because our net payments from the state actually go down.  With current enrollments I’ve figured North Fayette’s 1.25% total increase at $54,000 and Valley’s is actually -$7,800 due to having a large budget guarantee last year.  

This is not adequate funding to support significant improvements in our schools.   Iowa is falling behind in education funding with such small allowable growth increases.  Last month I reported that Iowa is $1,600 below the national average for state spending per pupil.  The state is in fiscally superlative shape, our mandatory reserve funds are full. Current revenue trends are solid, with the conservative Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) increasing the 2015 estimate to 5.7% growth rate and set the FY 2016 estimate at 4.9% (December 2014).   State revenues has outpaced expenditures for several years now putting us in position to make a solid investment in schools.  

When Iowa was suffering from the recession, like everyone else, schools got low SSA growth rates.  We haven’t caught up to those losses and with this proposal we will not.  We need to advocate for more than 1.25%.  All state education associations are supporting a 6% growth rate for schools to help make up for those low growth rates during bad times.  While we may not cut any positions this year because of sharing incentive dollars, if we don’t get adequate allowable growth in the next two years we will need to make cuts to staff, programs and any discretionary expenditures. This becomes lost opportunities for students. Advocacy by parents and patrons is a very powerful tool to help our schools move forward.  Please contact your local legislators and let them know you support adequate funding for public schools.  

As always, if you have questions or comments about our schools, please call me. Thank You.

Proud to be NFV!

Duane Willhite, Superintendent

January 2015 Newsletter

Big changes are coming to education in North Fayette Valley in the 2015-16 school year.  Many of you parents and patrons may not notice the changes that are coming, but within our buildings there will be a new program we call TLC, or Teacher Leadership and Compensation. We were informed last week that our grant application to be involved in this Department of Education program has been approved.

This grant is one of the largest education reform movements we’ve had in Iowa. Its premise is to provide teachers the opportunity to hold leadership positions so they may work with other teachers purely for the improvement of their instructional practices. The stated goals of the program are to:
1. Reward professional growth and professional development through increased recognition and leadership opportunities with increased compensation
2. Recruit new teachers to the profession and strengthen their entry into the profession
3. Retain the best teachers through enhanced career opportunities with leadership roles that expand their influence across more classrooms
4. Promote collaboration for teachers by supporting collegial relationships to increase effective teaching and learning
5. Improve student achievement through better instruction

This program will achieve these goals through a new structure of leadership positions that will provide for a career ladder for all teachers. It will pay for teachers to work in new roles within the district to help all teachers improve their skills. Their roles will be that of Instructional Coaches, a Technology Coach, Model Teachers and Mentor Teachers. The Model and Mentor teachers will be available for others to visit their classroom and observe, or to get into other classrooms. Through their collaboration with others, they will be sharing their knowledge and skills in order for veteran teachers or new teachers, to become more effective. 

Instructional Coaches will be moved to a full time leadership position where they work with all teachers in their professional development activities. They will be available to help create individual improvement goals, provide, training in new skills, coach other teachers in the implementation of these skills, and provide feedback and support as needed. These teachers will be removed from their classrooms and replaced with new hires, (paid for with grant funds), so they may have the time necessary to work with any teacher at any time. In addition to paying for replacement teachers, the grant will also provide extended contract days for all leadership positions and a stipend for these teachers in light of their increased responsibilities. 

Last year 39 districts in Iowa initiated this program and they along with districts in several other states are seeing improvements in their approach to teaching. NFV will be hiring teachers for leadership roles for next year in the coming weeks. Its an exciting opportunity and will improve instructional practices so that students can be more successful.

Kaleidoscope Kids Childcare Center to open January 5.
Its finally time for the new KKCC building to open. After many weather related delays the building was finally approved last week. With the pre-school and child care center adjacent to the schools in West Union, this facility will provide important services to our parents and staff.  Much like Rainbowland in Fayette, this facility will partner with the North Fayette 4 year old program as it will be hosting Hippity Hop Preschool.  Both facilities offer wrap around day care, providing the opportunity for parents to have day care services in the same location as their childrens’ 3 and 4 year old pre-schools.  This also represents a positive recruiting tool for the district, as we can provide a very convenient location for childcare services for the young parents that may be looking at working for NFV.

With the opening of KKCC on Monday January 5, there will be a change in traffic patterns near the high school. KKCC parents will be entering the high school drive and turning left onto the former Swimming Pool drive that crosses over to KKCC on the west end of the parking lot.  They will be dropping or picking up their children in the KKCC lot immediately north of the building and joining the traffic exiting the high school drive.  I want to make sure all visitors, students and staff are aware of this new traffic pattern so you can be aware and patient with these vehicles and everyone can be safe.

Legislative Session
With January comes another session of the Iowa Legislature.  We are waiting patiently for an approval of our funding formula rate for next year.  The annual approval of what we call allowable growth would have been determined last year by law, however last year’s legislature did not take up this bill and so we still wait for this amount.  Its time to plan for the 15-16 budget, determine staffing levels and negotiate staff salaries, so we need them to carry out their duties on this bill as quickly as possible. One thing we need to remind legislators of is that Iowa’s spending on education per pupil is $1600 below the national average. To move forward with little or no allowable growth is not consistent with the needs of districts who are working to improve while also experiencing inflationary expenses in supplies, equipment, and health insurance rates.

Calendar Start Date
Recently the Iowa Department of Education informed all schools that a waiver for early start date will not be considered the same for 2015-16 as it has in the past.  What this means is that district are not to expect to start school before August 31, 2015.  While NFV has started discussing its new calendar, we have planned on an August 24 start date, which would result in a final day right around Memorial Day.  If we need to go a week later, we will most definitely have to go later into the spring.  Current models would have the end of school as late as June 3.

Because of the Teacher Leadership Program, the NFV leadership team has also been looking for more time for teacher collaboration in our calendar.  A model that could do this stretches the year out to June 3 with an August 24th start.  We will still be calculating what we can do with an August 31 start date to avoid going longer than June 3, but that will hamper our opportunities with Teacher Leadership.  As we work through these calendar models we will be reviewing proposals in our leadership teams, to SIAC and at school board meetings.   If you are interested in our calendar proposals, we would like to hear from you.

So far its been a very mild winter.   We’re not too optimistic this will continue very long, but we just need to make the most of it.  Have a great New Year.

Proud to be NFV!

Duane Willhite, Superintendent

December 2014 Newsletter

STATE CHAMPS!  What a tremendous season and exciting State Championship the TigerHawks have just concluded.  Congratulations to the students, coaches and parents, who played, guided, cheered, encouraged and otherwise supported the 2014 TigerHawks to victory.  To reach this pinnacle of performance is every coaches’ and players’ dream.  Few actually achieve it, so when it does happen it is an historic event.

As a spectator and former coach I have seen so much from the football team and all NFV teams, that epitomizes the character building exercise that is high school sports.  There are many of the essential life skills that can be learned from athletics, and if we are doing them properly, all activities can be a motivator reinforcing both academic and behavioral good habits, such as work ethic, team work, perseverance, determination and self-discipline.
There are a couple concrete examples of that with this year’s football season. With arguably the best pair of running backs in the state, experience at many other positions, and big strong set of linemen, this team was expected to do well.  After dispatching a couple 3A schools in the first two weeks, they gave a disappointing performance at Center Point-Urbana, a 2 point loss marred with mistakes and turnovers.  When we see a team make that many mistakes and suffer an unexpected loss we agonize: Are they not really that good?  Was it injuries and illness? Or was it a lack of self-discipline?  Seven turnovers indicates a lack of mental preparedness, the kind of attitude that suggests “we should win” as opposed to “we can win” this game.  A loss like this can so easily be repeated if a lesson is not learned.  Fortunately, as the year went on this lesson was learned, and the wins piled up.
This team also showed us their determination and work ethic as they kept improving all season. Each week, we could see this team getting stronger and playing together as a cohesive unit.  When it came down to the last regular season game, a game where a loss to New Hampton could potentially drop the TigerHawks to 4th place in the district, a win would mean a championship and home field advantage for the playoffs.  This win they would earn in overtime, a hard fought, exhausting and punishing game, Had they not kept excelling over the season this would not have been possible.  They needed everybody for this win.  And then, two weeks later, they fell 17 points behind this same New Hampton team.  They persevered.  They made plays when they had to make plays, they picked each other up after mistakes and executed a huge comeback win against a very good team.
What can we say about the State Championship game.  What a game!  Sioux Center is a better team than any we had faced.  The TigerHawks trailed most of the way.  But they pulled together.  Lots of different individuals made big plays on offense and bigger plays on defense.  You could see the support and encouragement between players.  No one gave up, and in the end that teamwork and determination carried them to the ultimate victory.  They earned the big trophy with their work on the field, and along with it they’ve earned the respect and admiration of not just NFV fans but also football fans across the state.
I spotlight this football team for its great accomplishment, but also recognize these life skills and characteristics are reflected in all of our activities.  State meet appearances by Cross Country runners, wrestlers and tracksters have become commonplace for NFV.  Other teams are just as successful in teaching these life skills as these sports.  So are the thespians, musicians and FFA’ers.  The hours of work and “team” approach to the clubs and fine arts result in many of the same lessons that we see in every outstanding performance. Activities help make our students who they are.  We are thankful for all of their efforts.
Community Needs Assessment
I want to thank all the district patrons who have taken the time to complete the Community Needs Assessment this fall.  We have had nearly 300 responses, which is an outstanding response rate.  Over the coming month or so we will be analyzing data and summarizing all the comments in order to make a report to the public.  We will also be using this data to open discussions about future plans for both districts.  We plan to do this in January through March with community focus groups in each town.  A public discussion of responses will provide more enlightenment to our school leaders and boards, as well as set us up for some strategic future planning. 
To take a look at two of the most important questions on the survey, I will report that the only 10% of parents report negativity from their students about attending school.  And on the Whole Grade Sharing, only 7% of respondents report dissatisfaction with this arrangement, 48% report high satisfaction and 38% satisfaction, the other 7% had no opinion.  An 86% satisfaction rate is extremely positive for us as we plan forward.
The December newsletter is scheduled to be the last one we mail to all parents.  Beginning next month, newsletters will be posted on my blog site and if you subscribe to updates from that site, whenever I post a newsletter you will receive an email alert.  Of course printed newsletters will still be available, but only for those who request them through either office.  Just contact Vicki Gamm at North Fayette or Carole Nading at Valley to request to be on the mailing list for newsletters and we will provide them.
Happy Holidays!
Wow, how did we get to the holiday season so quickly?  I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, reflecting on all the greatness that living in Northeast Iowa provides us.  And also a very Merry Christmas Holiday season for all.  Even though not all may celebrate the same reason for this season, we all can enjoy the good will and Joy that it brings.  Make sure you take time from your busy life to enjoy your family and embrace the opportunities holidays bring for celebrating together.
Especially thankful and
Proud to be NFV!
Duane Willhite

November 2014 Newsletter

Enclosed in this monthly mailing is a Community Needs Assessment.  Every 5 years our districts ask patrons for their opinions on any number of important qualities.  In my first year at North Fayette we created a Community Needs Assessment through the input of our SIAC advisory and used the feedback to learn more about your needs and wants from our school.   Well, its been five years and its time to do it again.  These topics are largely the same we asked you about five years ago, (other than the Whole Grade Sharing concept) and we are anxious to see how opinions have changed.

The Whole Grade Sharing concept is also a very important part of this survey.  Before we move ahead with any more planned votes to extend WGS or re-organize or even dissolve the partnership, we’d like to hear what you think. Your opinions matter!  This is my 20th year as an administrator and this will be my 5th needs assessment.  Each of them have been enlightening and important data for future decision making.  I want to hear from you all, whether its good or bad news.  If at all possible, please respond electronically through this link to the form:  We will have computers set up at all parent teacher conferences to allow everyone to complete the survey while you wait.

Its that time of year where we start monitoring weather and having potential delays or cancellations.   A couple of reminders, if we delay or cancel school we automatically cancel morning activities and meetings.  If a delay occurs on a Wednesday we will cancel the early dismissal that day, all students will be dismissed at regular time.   Because the weather can change over a few hours, a cancelled school day does NOT automatically cancel evening activities.  Decisions on activities will be announced midday.  

We notify all TV stations first, so sign up for the text message services from KWWL, KCRG or KGAN.  We also post on the @NFVtigerhawks twitter feed, which goes directly to the web page and to which will send out email notices and RSS feeds to subscribers.  All these services are free.  In urgent situations we also call local radio stations in Decorah (KVIK and KDEC), Oelwein (KOEL), and Elkader (KCTN).  

Our Standards Based Grading movement has so far had a positive impact on grades in the HS.  We are seeing fewer F’s and D’s than we had last year.  Its far to early to draw definite conclusions, but we believe that is at least partially a product of holding students to a higher expectation.  We know that there are a lot of questions about this change and we want to provide some answers.  To do that an upcoming Grading discussion is being scheduled with a panel of college professors and others who can put these grading changes into perspective for everyone.   Be watching for an announcement of the date for this discussion, we are working to have that before the end of first semester.

I am working on a way to post these newsletters on-line so that we can save significantly on printing and postage to everyone.  The December newsletter is scheduled to be the last one we mail to all parents.  Beginning this month, newsletters will be posted on my blog site and if you subscribe to updates from that site, whenever I post a newsletter you will receive an email alert.  Of course printed newsletters will still be available, but only for those who request them through either office.  Just contact Vicki Gamm at North Fayette or Carole Nading at Valley to request to be on the mailing list for newsletters and we will provide them.

Congratulations and good luck to our Cross Country and Football teams on their quest for statewide supremacy. We’ve had a great fall so far at NFV and are looking forward to a play on November 14-16, more outstanding concerts at Christmastime and a winter season a bit warmer than last years.
Go Tigerhawks!

Duane Willhite, Superintendent

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