Saturday News, December 13
Gehlen Catholic Awarded $25,000 From "Celebrate My Drive"
(Le Mars) -- Santa Claus delivered a special gift to Gehlen Catholic School Friday evening between the girls and boys basketball games. With the help of his elf Michael Crank, a local State Farm Insurance agent, and several community leaders to witness the event, Gehlen school officials unwrapped a check for the amount of $25,000. Lisa Niebuhr, Development Director for Gehlen Catholic school says Gehlan finished among the top 50 schools nationwide in the "Celebrate My Drive" campaign in order to qualify for the grant.
This marks the second year Gehlen has qualified for the grant, and Niebuhr says the award was perhaps more special the second time.
Niebhur says the school won't know until Monday as to how many votes Gehlen received, or the exact placing. Ten percent of the $25,000 grant is to be shared with Floyd Valley Hospital. Father Kevin Richter, president of Gehlen Catholic School explains why the school selected Floyd Valley Hospital.
Richter indicated he is not certain how the grant will be utilized. He says Gehlen has a list of possible projects, and a committee will help determine how the grant will best be used.
Schools Told No Waivers To Be Given For Early Start
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The Iowa Department of Education says it will stop granting automatic waivers to school districts seeking to start classes earlier in the summer.
Department director Brad Buck sent a letter Friday to state education leaders saying the change is effective immediately.
The announcement came shortly after Gov. Terry Branstad sent a letter to Buck asking that officials only grant a waiver if a school district demonstrates a "significant negative educational impact" of beginning classes on time, as required by law.
Districts must start school no earlier than the calendar week that includes Sept. 1. But nearly all of them obtain waivers allowing them to begin classes earlier.
Branstad's letter says starting earlier "unnecessarily interferes" with families' summer plans, seasonal hiring and the Iowa State Fair.
Le Mars Community School Superintendent Dr. Todd Wendt says the issue has been discussed several times in the past. He believes the letter from the Iowa Department of Education will start additional conversations, and the issue may be far from being resolved.
Wendt says the Le Mars Community School District hasn't yet established the school calendar for next year. He says that process will begin next week.
Wendt says the Le Mars schools finishes the first semester after the Christmas break, but he says there are some schools that prefer to begin classes early in mid-August in order to complete the first semester before the Christmas vacation break. Wendt says even if classes begin in September, some sports and other extra curriculum activities will still need to begin in August, which he says doesn't follow Governor Branstad's wishes.
Iowa Revenue Slowing Down
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A panel of state budget experts says state revenue continues to grow but at a slower pace than recent years which means lawmakers may need to show spending restraint in next year's state budget.
The Revenue Estimating Conference met Friday and estimated state revenue for fiscal year 2016 at $7.19 billion, a 4.9 percent increase over the current year. The fiscal year begins in July.
State law requires Gov. Terry Branstad and lawmakers to use December estimates to draft the budget.
Department of Management director David Roederer, one of the three members of the panel, says the figure shows Iowa's economy is showing strength but there are signs of slowing down which means closely watching spending.
For the current year revenue is estimated at $6.86 billion, a 5.7 percent increase.
Inmate Leaves Work Release
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa officials are looking for an inmate accused of leaving his work release facility.
The state Department of Corrections says 54-year-old Robert Lee Garrett was placed on escape status Friday after he failed to return to a Fort Des Moines work release facility from an authorized appointment. Additional information was not released.
Garret is serving a 54-year sentence on various convictions, including first-degree robbery and domestic assault. He began his sentence in 1990 and was transferred to work release in November.