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What Makes Cerro Gordo Schools a Great Place for Kids, You Ask?

By Mr. Brett Robinson, Superintendent

What makes Cerro Gordo Schools a great place for kids, you ask?  I’m glad you asked and happy to answer that question!  I am honored to be a part of Cerro Gordo Schools, having served as its high school principal for three years and now serving in my sixteenth year as district superintendent.  During my time here, I have observed through a broad, big picture lens, how many different factors fit neatly together - like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle - to make Cerro Gordo Schools a great place for kids.


Let me begin with the Cerro Gordo School District community, which encompasses 99.1 square miles and the communities of Cerro Gordo, Casner, La Place, Oakley and the surrounding countryside.  This is a community that supports its schools.  Some of the ways the community supports its schools are noticeable and some ways are less so.  Small local business owners faithfully support the schools through buying yearbook and sports schedule ads.  Community members support the school's fundraisers, attend athletic events, plays, musicals and concerts.  They also support our schools through membership in sports boosters, music boosters, PTO and post prom.  Each year, parents step up to provide leadership in those groups and collaborate with teachers, coaches and sponsors to make those activities meaningful and memorable for our students.


Another big way this community supports its schools is evident in our facilities.  As I write this, we are nearing completion of a project to replace failing brickwork on the 1962 portion of the Jr/Sr High school campus, as well as a matching thin brick overlay solution for the attached 2001 addition.  From south to north, the restoration/renovation of the exterior of the 1962/2001 portion now meshes with the 2019 connecting addition, which meshes with the original and iconic 1929 Cerro Gordo High School building.  If you haven’t driven by recently, I recommend you do so.  When you do, make sure to drive past Cerro Gordo Elementary, built in 2002 and connected to the 1956 CGES annex, which had its interior completely renovated over the past two summers.  Complete your drive by our schools with a look at our newly renovated and handicapped accessible playground, complete with over 9,000 square feet of cushioned, poured rubber surface for the enjoyment and safety of our students.  


School facilities like Cerro Gordo’s don’t just happen without the support of the community.  The funds for new buildings, renovations and improvements only occur when needs are identified, the community’s input is sought and voters are asked for their financial support of such projects.  That process most recently occurred with a 2017 referendum passed by the voters on the first vote.  That referendum provided the funds to build the aforementioned connecting addition (which houses new learning spaces including a state of the art STEAM lab, a new commons dining area and a new second gym) as well as the funds to renovate portions of the existing buildings.  Those renovations include remaking the original 1929 gym into a beautiful auditorium, renovating the original cafeteria dining and serving areas to provide a centrally located library/media center, remaking the old third floor library into new classroom spaces and air conditioning the 1962 gym.  In the same manner, the community provided the votes on the first ballot that culminated in the 2002 Cerro Gordo Elementary building.  


A related observation of how this all fits together is having a fiscally responsible Board of Education with a proven track record of being good stewards of the funds provided by the local taxpayers, as well as the state and federal governments.  Through consistently maintaining a balanced budget, the Cerro Gordo Board of Education has continued to meet its responsibility of prioritizing the use of available funds to provide for a high quality of education for all students, while also keeping the annual property tax levy as low as possible.  One of the ways they have accomplished this balancing act is in having applied for and secured nearly $3 million worth of the bonds for the 2019 renovations at 0% interest through a federal program known as Qualified Zone Academy Bonds.


Having great facilities allows our outstanding teaching staff to focus more fully on developing lessons tailored to meet the needs of their particular group of students.  Because their rooms are relatively new or recently renovated, Cerro Gordo teachers don’t have to worry about it being too hot or cold in their climate controlled classrooms.  On my daily walks through our buildings, I see great teaching and learning happening each and every day.  Under the leadership of our two excellent building principals and in concert with the teachers and entire support staff of aides, secretaries, cooks, custodians, maintenance staff, nurse, playground supervisors, and bus drivers, Cerro Gordo students are surrounded by caring adults from the time they board a bus or are dropped off each day at school until they return home at the end of the day.  I am honored and proud to work with such an excellent and professional team of administrators, teachers and staff that go the extra mile in meeting not just the educational, but also the social and emotional needs of each student.  This happens because the entire school staff does their part to create and maintain a positive culture and caring learning environment for each and every student.


Meeting each student's needs in that positive and caring learning environment stretches from the first day of pre-kindergarten through high school graduation.  Each grade level’s teachers prepare their students for success at the next level.  Multiple supports are in place all along the way to help any and every student meet whatever challenges they may face, while maintaining high expectations for all students to meet their potential.  Examples of such programs include Reading Recovery, which focuses on supporting beginning readers, as well as Response to Intervention programs for both reading and math.  The district also provides opportunities for Cerro Gordo high school students to challenge themselves toward achieving career based certifications at Heartland Technical Academy or college credits while dually enrolled in high school and at Richland Community College’s Transfer Academy.  In recent years, an average of 2 CGHS students per year have graduated from RCC with their Associate’s degree BEFORE receiving their high school diploma!  This enables such CGHS students to arrive at a 4 year university up to 2 years ahead of their peers as 18 year old college juniors!


Cerro Gordo students are also able to try a variety of co-curricular and extracurricular activities to enhance their educational experience.  Co-curricular activities include art, band, choir and FFA.  Extracurricular activities include plays, musicals and the following sports:  basketball, baseball, cheerleading, cross country, football, softball, track & field and volleyball.  Cerro Gordo students are encouraged to be involved in multiple activities, even if they might overlap.  Coaches and sponsors work together on scheduling so it's possible for students with multiple co-curricular and/or extracurricular interests to play a sport and be in a play or musical, for example.


For all of these and many other reasons, I am proud to assert that Cerro Gordo Schools is a great place for kids!  Go Broncos!