District at a Glance
"A Small School With Big Ideas" is the motto of CAL Community School in Latimer, Iowa. In a time when bigger is often perceived as better, CAL, with its PreK-12 enrollment of 406 students, challenges that perception by providing outstanding academic and extra-curricular opportunities in a close-knit, caring environment. This mission is to educate all students to think critically, assume responsibility, possess self-confidence, and become productive members of a changing global society.
Located in Franklin County in north central Iowa, CAL Community School includes the towns of Coulter, Alexander, Latimer, and 117 square miles of surrounding agricultural farmland. The districts geographical size places it among the top 25 percent of school districts in the state of Iowa in terms of area and its PreK-12 enrollment places it in the bottom 25 percent of school districts in terms of student population. For the past 25 years, in addition to its regular educational program, the district has supported a public pre-kindergarten program that enrolls nearly 100 percent of its eligible three and four year olds.
The CAL School, with strong community support, has a long-standing tradition of providing progressive and meaningful educational opportunities to its students. As early as 1979, the CAL School was recognized as a leader in small-scale community based rural education. Researchers from Boston University studied the school and wrote an article on their findings entitled "CAL Community School- Small, Rural, and Good!" that appeared in the April issue of the Phi Delta Kappa. In 1985-86, CAL received the Governor's Partnership in Education Award for working with the public in bringing Iowa's top performing artists to the CAL school through a jointly sponsored Theater and Concert Series. In 1986-87, the CAL High School was one of 256 schools nationwide to receive the United States Department of Education's Secondary Schools Recognition Award. In 1987-88, Secretary of Education William Bennett included the CAL High School as one of seven exemplary high schools in his book, James Madison High School In 1991-92, the CAL Elementary School was one of 250 schools to receive the United States Department of Education's Elementary Blue Ribbon Schools Award. Therefore, the CAL, Community School system is one of a handful of school systems throughout the nation that has had its entire Pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 program recognized for excellence in education. In 2000-2001 the CAL High School was once again recognized as a United States Department of Education's Secondary Blue Ribbon School. In May of 2001, TIME Magazine recognized the CAL Community School when it named it Runner Up Elementary School in TIME's "Schools of the Year." The CAL School was recognized for using high school students to assist elementary students; pooling their knowledge with a neighboring school; and moving ahead with a building expansion program, using private donations and a federal construction grant, to pay for facility improvements. TIME Magazine said "the CAL-Dows successful sharing arrangement serves as a model for other rural districts with shrinking populations, especially in the Great Plains states."
Parental involvement and community support in the district stems back to CAL's beginning and continues to flourish today after sharing with the adjacent district. In 1973 the district voters were among the first in Iowa to support a 67-1/2 cents Schoolhouse Levy, and in September, 1975, CAL voters were the first in Iowa to pass a local option enrichment tax to provide additional financial resources to support the school's general budget operations. Since their enactment in the district, both of these levies have been extended each time they have come up for renewal, in spite of a declining farm economy and renewed emphasis on tax reduction. Community support is also evident in an active ministerial association working in conjunction with the school to present a position paper supporting the schools efforts in the area of character education. Finally, parents and community are involved in a newly formed School, Family, and Community Partnership Team, the At Risk Council, and a School Improvement Committee, all which share in the decision making process at the school.,
An additional area identified as successful at CAL
Community Schools that of teaching and instruction. To create a
"total learning environment", the emphasis placed on education
extends beyond the students to the faculty. The entire staff is
included in the decision-making process and they continue to revise
and implement district developed standards and benchmarks.
Staff-student communication is open and relaxed, fostered by small
class sizes and individualized instruction. Technology and
cross-curricular collaboration are used at all levels and within
The final area of success, that of culture and climate, is one that is truly unique at CAL Community School. Led by the Culture/Climate Cadre, the staff works hard to increase the understanding of how to develop and maintain a positive school climate and to implement good practice. First time visitors are often amazed by the lack of locks on the lockers and the relaxed, family atmosphere enjoyed by the staff and students. Senior citizens volunteer to serve as ambassadors in the building, making those who enter feel welcome. Their presence is testimony of the dedication of the entire community to the educational process.
CAL has been successful in delivering good and innovative service to its patrons, so one snapshot view might be varied and complex. The best "snapshot", however, would be very simple--a picture of a single child. At CAL, real success is measured by the success of each individual child.
For more information on the CAL Schools, feel free to contact any of the following individuals located HERE.