Interim superintendent begins work

Chris Bergman

Activities and projects to enhance the well-being of students and staff in the Clarinda School District will be undertaken during the coming school year.

  That information was conveyed by Chris Bergman at her first meeting with the Clarinda Board of Education Wednesday, July 10.

  On June 25, Bergman accepted the interim superintendent’s job offered by the board. She will formally begin her duties as soon as her license is issued by the State of Iowa, and will continue in the position for the 2019-2020 term while district officials begin the search for a permanent superintendent.

  At the July 10 meeting, Bergman told board directors that she planned to schedule a training session that would address issues impacting the “age 12 to 18 learner,” and how educators can identify problems so that help can be made available.

  Covered will be mental health needs, addiction risks and other challenges facing students in middle school and high school.

  Bergman said “teachers and people closest to kids on a daily basis might see those behaviors, but maybe not always understand what the communication is telling us.”

  For the training, she said, “we’re going to talk about who we might want to start with, such as counselors, and then go from there.”

  As an example of that, she mentioned athletic coaches, because, she said, students may “feel comfortable talking and sharing feelings with them.”

  Another component of the effort to support students’ well-being will be the establishment of what Bergman called a “take a break room” in the high school building.

  “It will be a room where kids can learn self-regulation skills,” she said. “If they are having a hard time coping, or if there are challenges in their classroom, they can make that choice to come and sit down.”

  The function of the room will be to provide a safe, comfortable environment for students.

  “It would just be a nice room for them to be in, and not a place with closets and books and desks, and that kind of thing,” Bergman said. “So we’re going to work on that.”

  She noted that arrangements have been made for a social worker to provide services in the Clarinda district for one day per school week, starting with the new school year. In May, the school board approved an operational sharing agreement to that effect with the Green Hills Area Education Agency. The individual will work with district counselors, staff and administrators to offer support and guidance to students and families who need assistance.

  The social worker is expected to supply additional expertise regarding student well-being issues. “I’m really glad that you have already taken steps in that direction,” Bergman said.

  Regarding efforts to improve the well-being of district staff members, she said one of the first measures would be the installation of at least two “stand-up” desks in selected office areas. The design of these pieces of furniture allows computer monitors and keyboards, and related items, to be placed in positions where workers can use them without sitting.

  Studies have shown that people who spend prolonged periods seated can develop higher risks for health problems, including obesity.

  Bergman said that by putting in the “stand-up” desk models, the district hoped to reduce stress and increase productivity for the staff members who use them.

  In an action related to Bergman’s position with the Clarinda school system, the board approved the transfer of the acting superintendent’s role from Dr. Lolli Haws to Dr. Lou Howell until Bergman receives her license from the state.

  “This is just a formality,” said board president Greg Jones.

  In June, the Clarinda board appointed Haws, who is Green Hills AEA director, as the acting superintendent. Howell recently has been interim superintendent in the Treynor School District.

  Bergman, who most recently was a central office administrator with the Johnston School District, told board members that she has been meeting with Clarinda residents and attending community events.

  “I have felt welcomed here,” she said. She is already planning to be involved with the Page County Fair by serving as a judge in the pet contest.

  Bergman also intends to meet with Clarinda district building principals and individually with board members.

  In other business at the July 10 meeting, the board:

  Approved a bid of $6,481.63 from Wallin Plumbing and Heating to replace an air conditioning unit at Garfield Elementary School with a dual unit in the art room and adjacent classroom.

  Approved the second and final reading of the updated policy primers from the Iowa Association of School Boards that have been reviewed. Subjects include employee travel compensation; employee use of cell phones; student activities fund procedures; provisions regarding internal financial controls; and use of unmanned aircraft such as drones on school property.

  Approved hirings of: Jennifer Cole as high school social studies/middle school exploratory teacher; Jaedra Moses as middle school girls’ basketball coach; Haley Weis as assistant middle school volleyball coach; and Risa Graham as food service assistant.

  Approved the resignation of Annie Sump as high school paraprofessional.

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