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WATCH: Ottumwa Schools Break Ground on New Preschool Building

By Ellis Codjoe, September 02, 2017

Officials with the Ottumwa Community School District celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday.

The district is building a new pre-school facility on Williams Street, at the site of the now demolished Pickwick Elementary School.

Ottumwa School Board member Mike Dalbey commented that it is an exciting time for the district.

“We analyzed up front and found that we really needed to fill this gap in our educational process,” Dalbey said. “We felt that the students coming in needed a good opportunity for a good start in the preschool area. So we’re real happy this facility is being built.”

School Superintendent Nicole Kooiker says the nearly $9 Million Dollar Project will allow the district to expand the pre-school program to include 3 year old students.

“It creates a great jump start for students to get education when they are 3 and 4,” Kooiker told Ottumwa Radio News. “We’re also providing opportunities and trying to eliminate barriers. For example, we’re gonna have transportation, we’re gonna provide full day care and before and after school services. So parents can actually have their students attend while they are at work. Hopfully we’re removing all the barriers and helping students get a jump start on their educational career in Ottumwa.”

She says the district will likely sell the Agassiz building which currently houses the pre-school program.

“Obviously we’re utilizing it this year for our preschool services,” Kooiker said. “In the future, it would be a facility that we plan on selling and hopfully having someone utalize in the future.”

The district has launched a program to have the community help name the new school. A form for submitting nominations can be found on the district’s website. The School Board will have the final say in picking the new building’s name.

In other school news, Kooiker says the district has not yet hired a new Chief Financial Officer to oversee the approximately $80 million dollar budget.

“So it ended up that when our search started wasn’t the opportune time to start looking for that position, most people are already under contract. We have done two openings. We’ve held interviews two different times, but we haven’t gotten the candidate that we’re looking for that has that school experience. We’re a large enough district, 20th largest in the state, we really want someone who has some school finance experience.”

She says several staff members and community leaders have stepped up to help fill the void until a replacement can be hired.

“We’ve actually had quite a few different individuals who have stepped up. Our partnership with the [Area Education Agency] has been helpful. They have a CFO there that has school experience. We also have a few local CFOs that have stepped in to do a few tasks. We also have three staff that are fabulous in that office. We have Kelly Coulter, Nikki Francis and Roberta Davenport that have experience and have really stepped up to help cover things. It’s not an ideal situation, but we’ve been getting through it. We really think it is important to hire the best person long term that can manage finances in the appropriate way.”

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