Biodiesel experiment nets district state grant

The Vinton-Shellsburg Community School District recently received a $2,500 grant through the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association’s Biodiesel Backer Award Program.

It is one of three districts in the state to receive this grant.

Eligibility required schools to educate their community about biodiesel and incorporate biodiesel and renewable fuels into their school programming.

 The transportation director at Vinton-Shellsburg Community School district used biodiesel in its 18 buses on a trial basis and found that the buses ran better and the biodiesel seemed to have a better lubricating effect on the engines.

The school district also involved their science club in educating other students and the community on the facts and benefits of biodiesel.  The students put together an informational PowerPoint presentation and delivered it to fellow classmates, the local lions club and are scheduled to appear at the next school board meeting.

The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association was formed in 2002 to represent the state’s ethanol and biodiesel producers.  The trade group fosters the development and growth of the renewable fuels industry in Iowa through education, promotion, legislation and infrastructure development.


Polk students back in school

While most Eastern Iowa schools still have another month of summer vacation, Polk Elementary School students go back to school tomorrow.

Polk is the Corridor’s only year-round school — a distinction that Polk once shared with Taylor. Last summer’s flood altered the schools’ modified calendars. Taylor was closed last year; Polk operated on a traditional school calendar last year.

The district will determine Taylor’s year-round future last this year. To read more about the benefits of the alternative schedule, check out Wednesday’s Gazette.

Let’s talk elections

School board elections are still eight weeks away, but already we know local boards will look different.

Eighteen seats are available in six schools districts — Cedar Rapids, Clear Creek Amana, College Community, Iowa City, Linn-Mar and Marion — and, to date, nine incumbents don’t plan to seek re-election.

Here’s a look at how things shake up so far. Those interested in running have until July 30 to file nomination petitions. The petitions and affidavits of candidacy are available from the school districts’ board of education secretaries and the county auditor’s offices.

Cedar Rapids
At-large: Judy Goldberg won’t seek re-election.
District 2: Lisa Kuzela will seek re-election.
District 3: Keith Westercamp will seek re-election.
Clear Creek Amana
At-large: Daniel Schaapveld won’t seek re-election.
District 2: Kathy Zimmerman could not be reached for comment.
District 4: Matthew Croco won’t seek re-election.
College Community
At-large: John Titler will seek re-election.
District 2: Lauri Hughes won’t seek re-election.
District 5: Dawn Tucker won’t seek re-election.
Iowa City
At-large: Mike Cooper is undecided.
At-large: Tim Krumm won’t seek re-election.
At-large: Jan Leff won’t seek re-election.
At-large: Robert Crawford will seek re-election.
At-large: Erik Miles won’t seek re-election.
At-large: Jim Green won’t seek re-election.
At-large: Alan Tribble could not be reached for comment.
At-large: Diane Bys will seek re-election.
At-large: Bill Huntoon will seek re-election.

For more details, read today’s Gazette.

Hey Teachers, Are You Working This Summer?

When you hear the words summer job, you think of teenage lifeguards at the pool or college-aged camp counselors. But what about educators? Do you seek summertime employment? And if you do, is it teaching or another occupation? Are you having a harder time finding summer employment?

This is a story I’m working on — let me know what you do during the summer months to make ends meet! or (319) 398-8434.

Welcome Back Taylor!

Taylor Elementary School will open its doors to the community tonight.

Taylor’s open house, to be held from 5 to 6:30 p.m., is the public’s first peek at the school in more than a year.

Flood waters closed the school for the 2008-09 school year. Taylor will reopen this year.

“It’s such a beautiful facility,” Principal Brian Christoffersen said. “I can’t wait to show it to the public.”

Christoffersen calls the open house a celebration, closure from the school’s renovations following the flood, but said he’s grounded in the fact that there’s still work to be done.

“We’re very much a work-in-progress,” he said.

Furniture and instructional materials are still arriving, each delivery one more step in Taylor’s journey.

Christoffersen doesn’t know how many people will show up tonight — he’s prepared for crowds of all sizes.

“We’re ready,” he said.

TAYLOR OPEN HOUSE: 5 to 6:30 p.m. at 720 7th Ave. SW. Guided tours will be given every 15 minutes.

CR Preschool Earns National Accreditation

The Shared Visions Preschool Classrooms have earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) – the nation’s leading organization of early childhood professionals.

“We’re proud to have earned the mark of quality from NAEYC, and to be recognized for our commitment to reaching the highest professional standards,” said Kim Hazlett, early childhood coordinator for the Cedar school district. “NAEYC Accreditation lets families in our community know that children in our program are getting the best care and early learning experiences possible.”

To earn NAEYC Accreditation, the preschool classrooms went through an extensive Self-Study process, measuring the program and its services against the 10 NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and more than 400 related Accreditation Criteria. The program received NAEYC Accreditation after a site visit by NAEYC Assessors to ensure that the program meets each of the ten program standards. NAEYC-accredited programs are also subject to unannounced visits during their accreditation, which lasts for five years.

In the 23 years since NAEYC Accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. Almost 8,000 programs, serving one million young children, are currently accredited by NAEYC – approximately 8 percent of all preschools and other early childhood programs.

CR District Hosts First Forum

CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids school board members could vote on a plan for the district’s flooded facilities in November.

A projected timeline of the district’s process was among placards of information on display Tuesday at Jefferson High School. The information was presented to the public as part of the school district’s efforts to gather input for its facilities planning and flood recovery.

Entitled “Back and Better Get-Togethers,” the forums are modeled after the city’s public participation process.

“The public spoke strongly for Taylor, but they haven’t spoken for these buildings,” said Dave Dvorak, the district’s manager of buildings and grounds. “We want to know what they are thinking.”

The first forum provided information on the district’s needs, existing building conditions, the forum process, and flood recovery work to date.

Five district buildings were damaged in the June 2008 flood, including the administrative and warehouse facilities. Buildings have been cleaned and is maintained, but remain empty.

Administrative offices relocated to a temporary modular building campus at Kingston Stadium.

Options presented to the public include a return existing facilities to pre-flood state with or without improvements; to build some new support facilities and repair some existing facilities; or construct all new facilities.

“We’re a district of the community, of the people, so we want to know what will serve them best,” said Melissa Kiliper-Ernst, school board president.

Attendees shared opinions, anonymously if desired, on notecards. Christi Smeed, whose children attend the Cedar Rapids schools, appreciated the opportunity to give her thoughts.

“Not being a native to Cedar Rapids, I thought it was very informative,” Smeed said. “I learned more about the buildings — their location, use and ages.”

The next forum will be held Aug. 27 at Kennedy High School. The final forum is schedule for Oct. 20 at Washington High School. Information provided at these meetings is available on the district’s Website at Click on the “Back and Better Get-Togethers” logo.