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NEWS 1.19.23

Siouxland Public Media
Snow in Sioux City, IA - January 19, 2023

People in Sioux City are digging out from record-breaking snow. Just over 6 inches fell in a 24-hour period breaking the old record set in 1975 by more than double, according to the Sioux City Journal. Just over another inch fell after midnight. The National Weather service says the snowfall was the largest in five years. The storm did force the cancellation of schools all across the region.

The Sioux City Community School District announced the two finalists for superintendent, Interim Superintendent Dr. Rod Earleywine who previously served as a long-time administrator for Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community Schools and Dr. Geovanny Ponce, the assistant superintendent of high schools for the Houston Independent School District in Texas. The public is invited to hear from the candidates during two community forums on Wednesday, January 25th, at North High School.

* More on the two finalists can be found below.

A controversial plan to use taxpayer money for private schools is ready to head to the House floor for the first time.

On Wednesday, the House Education Reform Committee passed Gov. Kim Reynolds' school choice plan (HSB 1). The plan had previously stalled in the House for two years, and never made it to the floor.

The House is expected to vote on the bill (which is now HF 68) next week, according to KCCI Television in Des Moines.

In the plan, any family with a K-12 student who wants to switch from public to private school during the next school year would receive roughly $7,600 from the state. That’s the full amount of taxpayer money the state invests in every student.

The Senate Appropriations Committee will consider the Senate version, SF 94, of the governor's plan on Thursday.

Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen unveiled a package of proposed tax cuts on Wednesday that he labeled as “historic” and making Nebraska more competitive with other states.

The package includes a gradual reduction in state personal and corporate income tax rates to a flat, 3.99% and a shift in the funding of community colleges off property taxes.

One of the final bills introduced in the Nebraska Legislature would allow doctors and other medical providers to deny non-emergency health care to patients if they morally disagreed with it.

That brought the total for the session to 812 bills and 20 constitutional amendments, the most introduced since 2001.

South Dakota lawmakers are considering a number of tax cuts this year. Gov. Kristi Noem has promised to repeal the grocery tax as part of her reelection campaign. But many of the governor’s fellow Republicans have been resistant to that idea. GOP lawmakers are proposing alternative tax cuts, such as scaling back sales and property taxes. Other lawmakers also say the state has a long list of programs to fund this year, leaving little room in the surplus for tax cuts.

Prosecutors in northeastern Nebraska are seeking the death penalty for a man charged in the killings of four people last summer in the small town of Laurel. Assistant Nebraska Attorney General Corey O’Brien filed notice on Tuesday of aggravating circumstances that would justify a death sentence for 42-year-old Jason Jones if he's convicted. Jones is charged with arson, weapons counts and four counts of first-degree murder in the August killings of 53-year-old Michele Ebeling; 86-year-old Gene Twiford and his 85-year-old wife, Janet Twiford; and their 55-year-old daughter Dana Twiford. Jones has filed notice that he will not enter a plea at his arraignment set for Monday while his attorneys challenge the state's death penalty.

The Emerald Ash Borer has now been discovered in three more Siouxland Counties: Woodbury, Monona, and Osceola.

The insect from Asia that kills ash trees has now been confirmed in all but three of Iowa’s 99 counties.

The bug can kill an ash tree within two to four years after becoming infested due to the larvae feeds on the inner bark of the tree. There is a public meeting for homeowners and other concerned citizens on Feb. 2 with Woodbury County Extension.

News release from the SCCSD:

Sioux City, Iowa – The Sioux City Community School District has announced Dr. Rod Earleywine and Dr. Geovanny Ponce as the final two candidates for the District’s superintendent position.

Earleywine currently serves as the interim superintendent of Sioux City Community Schools, a role he assumed in July of 2022. Prior to that role, Earleywine served as superintendent of schools for Sergeant Bluff-Luton Community School District. During his time at Sergeant Bluff-Luton, the District was one of two Iowa high schools named as a 2018 National Blue Ribbon High School of Excellence, expanded opportunities for students to earn college credits through concurrent enrollment and advanced placement, and increased the number of career pathways for high school students.

Prior to his superintendent role at Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Earleywine served as the District’s middle school principal. His educational experience also includes teaching high school social studies and elementary physical education and coaching at the high school level.

Earleywine holds a doctorate in educational administration from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, South Dakota; a specialist degree in educational administration and a bachelor’s degree in education from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Ponce currently serves as assistant superintendent of high schools for the Houston Independent School District. Under his leadership, the District has implemented campus support plans to increase post-secondary opportunities for students, increased student industry-based certifications, and improved campus graduation rates in schools across the Houston Independent School District. During his tenure, the District has been recognized by US News and World Report as having some of the nation’s top high schools.

Prior to his current assistant superintendent role, Ponce served as an area superintendent and middle and high school principal in Houston. He began his career as a campus curriculum technologist and bilingual teacher, also in Houston.

Ponce holds a doctorate in public school administration from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas; a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision from the University of Houston in Houston, Texas; and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

The public is invited to hear from the superintendent candidates during separate community forums on Wednesday, January 25 in the media center at North High School, located at 4200 Cheyenne Boulevard in Sioux City. Earleywine will be present for questions from 5:15 pm to 6:30 pm; Ponce will be present for questions from 6:45 pm to 8 pm.

The public may also watch the community forums via Microsoft Teams. The link will be available on the superintendent search section of the District’s website ahead of the community forums.

Facilitated by executive search firm GR Recruiting, the District’s superintendent search began in the fall of 2022 with community surveys, followed by in-person input sessions with district staff, students, and

the public. The Board of Directors of the Sioux City Community School District is expected to announce its selection of the District’s new superintendent in late January or early February.

The new superintendent will assume his position for the 2023-2024 school year.

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About Sioux City Community School District:

The Sioux City Community School District exists to educate students to believe in their talents and skills, achieve academic excellence, and succeed in reaching their potential. Students of the Sioux City Community School District experience boundless opportunities at every grade level; that is because SCCSD teachers guide every child to discover a love for learning. Serving over 14,500 students annually, the District ensures our students develop the critical-thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills needed to be successful now and into the future. For more information, visit siouxcityschools.org.

News release from the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship:

DES MOINES, Iowa – Emerald ash borer has been discovered in Monona, Osceola and Woodbury counties for the first time. Since its original detection in 2010, the invasive, ash tree-killing insect from Asia has now been confirmed in all but three of Iowa’s 99 counties.

Insect samples were collected by Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship staff from ash trees in rural Blencoe (Monona County), Melvin (Osceola County) and Sioux City (Woodbury County). Federal identification confirmed these samples positive for EAB.

EAB is a significant threat to native ash tree species, typically killing a tree within two to four years after becoming infested. The cumulative damage by the larvae (immature stage) feeding on the inner bark eventually kills ash trees. The feeding cuts off the tree’s ability to transport water and nutrients.

Indicators of an infestation may include canopy thinning, leafy sprouts shooting from the trunk or main branches, serpentine (“S”-shaped) galleries under the bark, bark splitting, woodpecker damage and 1/8-inch, D-shaped, exit holes.

While adult beetles can disperse locally by flying, long-distance spread of this insect is attributed to people moving infested material, including firewood. People are encouraged to use locally sourced firewood where it will be burned to help limit the spread of EAB.

Now is the time to decide a course of action for ash trees at risk of EAB attack (within 15 miles of a known infestation). Landowners and managers can wait and see what happens, remove declining ash trees and replace them with other species, or use preventive insecticide treatments to preserve and protect valuable and healthy ash trees. The best time to treat for EAB is in the spring, from mid-April to mid-May. Insecticides are most effective when the ash tree is actively growing and uptake is at its peak. Tree service companies can apply insecticide trunk injections through the summer if soil moisture is available.

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has produced a publication about EAB treatments. For more information, download Emerald Ash Borer Management Options.

The State of Iowa continues to evaluate the potential spread of EAB on a county-by-county basis. Before a county can be declared positive, a life stage of the insect must be collected and confirmed. Anyone who suspects an infested ash tree in a county not currently known to be confirmed with EAB is encouraged to contact one of the following:

  • Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, State Entomologist Office, 515-725-1470.
  • Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Entomology, 515-294-1101.
  • Iowa Department of Natural Resources, 515-725-8200.

Additional information on EAB, including a county detection map, can be found at iowatreepests.com.