By Katie Dahlstrom
Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton School District continues to excel in the face of declining enrollment, shifting demographics and pending legal and financial issues, according to Superintendent Deb Olson.
During the annual “State of the District” event Tuesday morning, Olson applauded teachers and district staff for improving test results, facilities and other accomplishments.
“In the Clinton School District we believe that every child will learn at high levels where collaboration is expected, honored and valued and as a district we move forward today based on results,” Olson said. “We have our challenges, but it is always important to remember the reason why our school district is so important. It is because we believe in the power of our district and of our community to change the lives of our children here in Clinton.”
The presentation was held at Rastrelli’s Tuscany room Tuesday morning. Olson began by addressing the district’s enrollment, which has declined by 10 percent in the past 10 years.
In 2012, the district lost 90 students. She detailed the loss, stating the district saw an increase in students who open enroll out of the district.
Most of those students, Olson said, attend school in the Camanche or Northeast school districts. The financial impact of the student decline will be $868,629.
“This year will be a challenging one with our budget. However I’m confident we can maintain our opportunities for students and live within our means,” Olson said.
Olson cited the loss of services such as social security, workforce development and possibly mental health and victims’ services to regionalization, as factors in the declining enrollment.
“In my opinion, I believe, with services going to a regional delivery system that many people will live in the community where they can seek assistance,” Olson said. “Also, recently the economy has not grown significianly with jobs in our local area so it is not easy to predict where enrollment will be in the next year.”
Olson added the live birth rate isn’t a viable predictor of enrollment anymore because of the population’s mobility. The district’s mobility rate is between 15 and 20 percent, she said.
Of the students who are enrolled in Clinton, 59.5 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch compared to the 38 percent statewide average. Olson said she believes for many students the breakfasts and lunches they receive at school may be the only meals they receive during the week. Olson also noted the decreasing financial disparity between different areas of the community evidenced by the free and reduced lunch population.
The percentage of special education students enrolled in the district is down slightly from 18.3 percent to 18.1 percent.
The gap is also closing on how students that qualify for free and reduced lunch perform on federal tests mandated by No Child Left Behind compared to the entire student population.
“It shows the tremendous job teachers are doing to close that gap,” Olson said.
The district has seen improvements on test scores in reading and math Olson said, with the exception of middle school scores. However, Olson said, these scores were down statewide and special education scores on the middle school level improved. Clinton High School has made strides in the past year. It was removed from being a School In Need of Assistance. More than half of the freshman class is taking an honors class, and 75 percent of CHS graduates will attend a two- or four-year college or university within two years of graduating, Olson said.
The district also been removed from the District In Need of Assistance status for reading. Jefferson was removed from the SINA list.
Olson also gave an update on district facilities projects. The Clinton High School athletic addition was completed in January and the transformation of the former Harding Elementary School into the district administration center was completed in June.
Still on the horizon for the district is the new middle school, which is now anticipated to hold sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. The middle school will cost $21 million and will likely go to bid in the next month. It is expected to open for the 2014-2015 school year.
The district will also construct an innovation classroom at the high school, which will be the first in an Iowa high school.
Olson concluded the presentation by urging the audience to take interest in a child’s life.
“My wish in the coming year is that our community truly believes, will believe in the work of our school system that by working together we will continue to do great things for our children,” she said. “The best kids in the entire world live here in Clinton, Iowa. And so it’s up to us. We are their greatest hope. We are the difference makers for them in making their dreams.”