West Liberty School Board tackles serious business at April meeting

E-sports, budget talks, and technology upgrades top agenda as board discusses future plans


April Fool’s Day was no joke for the school board. April 1 was their first meeting of the month, and the agenda was all business, featuring the Superintendent Report and plenty of budget talk.

Board members present at the meeting included President Jacob Burroughs, Vice President Rebecca Vargas, and Directors Kira Achen, Audra Daufeldt, and Edward Moreno. 

Superintendent Shaun Kruger and Secretary Abby Ortiz were also present.

Nick Frenz, high school social studies teacher as well as golf and cross-country coach, presented an update on E-sports to the board. E-sports is a competition using video games.

“We think it’s important to get across that it’s not just an after-school video game session,” Frenz said. “There’s actually organization to it, there’s practices, there’s strategy involved. Then we put those things to the test.”

Frenz pointed out that E-sports has been around for a while now, but during the pandemic it really took off.

Now, even school districts are using it as a way to keep students engaged. The Iowa E-sports Association creates the rules and guidelines for how Iowa high schools manage their E-sports departments.

“We like to think of it as any other sport in the high school,” Frenz said. “E-sports provides students with opportunities in team building, communication and critical thinking.”

Next, the board agreed to renew the contract for the shared college and career counselor for next year. This position is shared with Wilton and Eastern Iowa Community College.

Next, the Superintendent Report looked briefly at the weather and noted how it impacted sports schedules.

As for construction on the new sports complex, measures are being taken to guard against the strong prairie winds as landscapers finish seeding.

“I want to give a shout out to all the coaches and activities sponsors for all the work they’ve done to encourage students to get involved,” Superintendent Kruger said.

At the middle school, this year’s golf and track teams are significantly larger than last year’s, and both soccer teams have full rosters.

A quick look at the calendars will demonstrate how busy West Liberty students really are at the middle school and the high school.

“The spring play rehearsals are going on right now, and improv as well,” Kruger said, “so there’s a lot of activities and a lot of West Liberty Comets participating in those activities, which is just awesome to see.”

Next, there were multiple budget items on the agenda, including a proposed property tax hearing for the FY 2025 budget and a public hearing on an amendment for the 2023/24 budget.

The board had already discussed much of it during the last meeting, and some of the legislation that was waiting has now been settled, such as the SSA, which is now set at 2.5 percent.

This causes minimal changes to the budget, as several models were already examined. The next meeting will include the second public hearing with the finalized budget.

Finally, the board also held a special meeting on March 22 at 9:30 a.m. The purpose of this meeting was to approve technology upgrades.

Members present at this meeting were President Burroughs, Vice President Vargas, Directors Daufeldt and Achen, as well as Superintendent Kruger, Secretary Ortiz, and Technology Director Brian Rance.

“This is going to replace all of our network switches and access points in the district,” Rance said, “providing better wireless coverage in all of our buildings as well as more enhanced security and features providing a better end-user experience in our district.”

The new network is funded in large part through the government E-rate program, so the district will get a $200,000 system for only $40,000, a discount of 80 percent.

The next regular board meeting will take place in the boardroom on Elm Street on Monday, April 15, at 6 p.m. The agenda includes a second public hearing concerning the budget.