TRAER – The K-12 vocal music position at North Tama has finally been filled.
The position – which was vacant following the late Terry Shay’s retirement last May after more than 30 years in the role – remained empty at the start of the 2023-24 school year due to a lack of suitable candidates.
During the Dec. 18 North Tama school board meeting, Tama County resident Laura Ridout was appointed to the position by the board as part of the consent agenda.
Ridout – currently an assistant coach (alongside her husband) of the Redhawk boys basketball team – will assume the vocal music position on Jan. 12.
Prior to Ridout, retired North Tama kindergarten teacher/piano instructor Sharon Owens had been serving as the elementary music teacher as a long term substitute.
Ridout, a UNI graduate, currently holds a Master Educator license with endorsements in art and special education. Her most recent teaching assignment was with the Belle Plaine Community School District where she taught special education for 17 years as well as elective courses including study skills, 21st Century Skills, and art history. She also co-taught in English, history, and science classrooms.
For the last four-and-a-half years, Ridout has worked for the Iowa Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division as a training specialist.
“Though I have really loved working for the DOT,” Ridout told the EuroJournal in an email, “I missed teaching. I was checking out the employment opportunities on North Tama’s website and it got me thinking, so I contacted the Iowa BOEE [Board of Educational Examiners] about possibly teaching vocal music.”
As she is lacking a music degree/endorsement, Ridout was issued a temporary, non-renewable Executive Director Decision license by the Iowa BOEE on Dec. 21, 2023, with K-8 and 5-12 music endorsements. After completing additional coursework, Ridout said she will apply for a two-year conditional license while working toward her music endorsements.
“I really have no experience in vocal music education,” Ridout said before adding, “I have experience in piano, clarinet, and guitar, and I love singing at home, in my car, and at church. My two older daughters are musically inclined, so I’d like to think they got it from me.”
Ridout and her husband Ryan Ridout have five daughters including two in college and three at North Tama.
As part of Superintendent David Hill’s report to the board, an update was given on the district’s Phase 1 construction project following the Nov. 2023 passage of the district’s bond referendum.
Phase 1 includes a new high school, secure entry upgrades campus-wide, a new, ADA-accessible locker room/weight room, paving of the back parking lot, and selective other maintenance.
Hill said he recently attended two meetings with the district’s design team which included both architects and construction managers. Meetings were also being held between the architects and high school department staff in order to determine how best to design the new school’s classrooms.
Hill also said he had been working with Matthew Gillaspie from the public finance group Piper Sandler on a timeline for the bond sale. The district hopes to put the Phase 1 project out for bid in late 2024 with completion of the project in early 2026.
Discussion also centered around the new tax rate property owners in the North Tama district would be facing beginning on July 1, 2024, as a result of the bond referendum.
Hill said Tama County is in a “unique situation” heading into 2024.
“Everyone knows that assessed valuations increased significantly statewide,” he stated while also pointing out property assessments “didn’t increase as much in Tama County.”
As a result, North Tama’s school levy will increase by the full $4.05, Hill said.
“We didn’t make a lot of promises that it would be lower than that – we didn’t do that, which I thought was honest. … Good news is we communicated properly.”
The Dec. 18 meeting began with public comments by Traer resident Kennan Seda who addressed the board regarding the state of the sidewalks around the district’s PK-12 campus in the winter, particularly along Walnut Street to the west.
Seda asked that the district shovel the snow this winter season in a way that if the snow melts and refreezes, ice doesn’t form.
Following the meeting, Seda texted the EuroJournal a photo taken in February 2023 of a massive pile of snow located on the public sidewalk at Walnut and Sixth streets.
“It took a long time to melt,” Seda said. “The school needs to be a better neighbor to those that live nearby.”
A motion was made by board member David Calderwood to move approval of three district fundraisers – North Tama softball’s 50/50 raffle, North Tama youth boys basketball’s 3-point shooting/free throw game, and the junior class’s chocolate sales – from the consent agenda to the agenda. The motion was approved.
During discussion about the fundraisers, Calderwood said he felt there were “too many” fundraisers taking place in the high school gym lobby during basketball games this season.
Following discussion regarding the voluntary fundraisers, a motion was approved to keep the junior class fundraiser at every game, while the remaining two fundraisers could be held opposite one another (every other game or two games in a row).
The board approved two candidates for mid-year graduation pending completion of all requirements as certified by Principal Howard. A question was asked as to how many students would graduate in May 2024. Howard said 32.
Three bids for school safety improvement using grant funding were reviewed. The bids were for upgrades to the district’s security camera system. The low bid of $14,979.88 from American Business Phone was approved by the board.
As part of the superintendent’s report, Hill said the owners of the home located at 606 South Main Street along the campus’s east side have expressed further interest in selling their property to the district. An appraisal was to be conducted on the property in the next two weeks, Hill said, to establish a fair selling price.
The board ended the meeting by entering into closed session for a mid-year superintendent evaluation.