Seltz to lead North Central Consortium School

FD native focused on returning troubled students to regular class setting

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Josh Seltz, of Fort Dodge, will become the principal of the North Central Consortium School west of Fort Dodge starting with the 2019-20 school year. The school used to be the Rabiner Treatment Center, where Seltz also worked for many years.

A former physical education teacher at Rabiner Treatment Center will oversee troubled students in his new role as principal at the North Central Consortium School, west of Fort Dodge.

And it will be his goal to help return those students to the regular classroom setting at the public schools they attend.

Josh Seltz, of Fort Dodge, was recently hired by the Manson Northwest Webster Community School District to become the next principal for the consortium school. He will be paid an annual salary of $85,000 when he begins his duties July 1.

Seltz, a 1999 graduate of St. Edmond High School, said the school is currently serving dozens of students who have been sent there by public schools throughout the region.

“We are approaching 50 students right now,” Seltz said. “We are getting calls almost every day to see if we can take on more kids. We do have a waiting list. Due to staffing, we are capped out at 50, but for next year we will expand a little. We hope to add some staff to be able to handle 70 based on the need we are seeing.”

According to Seltz, the school accepts students who, in general, are too disruptive for the regular classroom setting.

Their needs could include things like depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder.

About 24 school districts have students enrolled at the consortium school, according to Seltz.

“We stretch all the way north to Spencer, west to Schaller, east to Webster City and Southeast Hamilton in Jewell,” he said. “We have a lot of member schools here in the north central and northwest part of the state that send their kids to us.”

The students are bused in each morning from their respective schools and return home that same day.

That’s one difference between the consortium school and Rabiner Treatment Center, which used to house children overnight.

The North Central Consortium School was formed after the closure of Rabiner. It’s located in the same buildings that Rabiner was in at 1762 Johnson Ave.

Rabiner sold the property to Lizard Creek Ranch LLC in 2018. The owners of Lizard Creek Ranch are renting the space to be used for the school, with MNW serving as the fiscal agent.

Area schools pay a fee to be part of the consortium, which allows them to send students there.

Another difference between Rabiner and the consortium school, according to Seltz, is the reasons why the students are sent there.

“Before we had any range of kids from all over the state were coming into Rabiner for all sorts of reasons,” he said. “From DHS things, juvenile court, legal issues. Where now we are having more of the kids struggling with mental health and emotions in school. We are taking more of a therapeutic approach to it. The staff has been doing some professional development on becoming a trauma-informed school, so we can help those kids with their emotional needs, recognize some of the signs of mental health issues and have a better understanding of those issues.”

Seltz said the staff is well equipped to handle challenges.

“I think all of our teachers out there have their master’s degree in special education, which is a big plus for us,” he said. “A lot of our kids do come to us with IEPs (individualized education plans) because they have some academic delays. Some of those are brought on by mental health concerns and their emotional and behavioral needs.”

Seltz graduated from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training and education.

His first job was working at Rabiner in 2004. He remained there until 2010.

Then in 2016, he returned to Rabiner as a PE teacher.

Seltz is replacing John O’Brien as principal. O’Brien announced his retirement earlier this year.

“It’s nice moving up, already knowing about what goes on in the system and knowing a really great staff there,” Seltz said. “Most of them have been there 15 years or more. My first interview there was with some of the teachers that are currently there. It’s a dedicated staff and they enjoy working with a little more difficult kids. I look forward to continuing my work with staff, just in a different role.”

About 20 people, including office staff, behavior interventionists, teachers, and classroom associates, work at the school.

Smaller class sizes allow for teachers to have more individual time with students.

“One of the biggest things is our bigger ratio of staff to students that we have and the much smaller class size,” Seltz said. “Coming from a typical public school, they are maybe sitting in a classroom of 20 to 30 kids, where ours are usually no more than eight or nine kids in a room. Typically five or six in a room is what we try to aim for.”

Teachers track students using a point system, Seltz said.

“Every kid we have a point sheet to give them regular and consistent feedback,” he said. “Teachers monitor their behaviors throughout the day, so we can give them feedback on how to better cope with their emotions and manage their behaviors.”

The school serves students from fifth grade through 12th grade.

Plans are in place to expand the grades for next year by adding an elementary teacher.

“We want to continue to grow and meet the needs of the school districts,” Seltz said. “I know we have gotten some calls for some younger kids, maybe second and third grade. So we are going to offer an elementary position for next year, where will have more of your traditional elementary classroom setting. The self-contained, where the students probably won’t go from classroom to classroom, they will just stay with that teacher for the majority of the day and get their education in that classroom. That allows us to expand down there to some of those younger kids.”

A majority of students are middle school-aged, he said.

“We only have a couple of kids who are 11th and 12th grade,” Seltz said. “For a lot of them, if they are struggling this much in high school by the time they are that age, a lot of them, unfortunately, drop out. So we don’t get as many of the kids who are still in school at that age who are dealing with some of those issues. But we do have a significant number of ninth and 10th graders. Eight grade and seventh grade are big right now.”

He added, “Those early high school and upper middle school ages are what we have the most of. But we are getting some on the outskirt grade levels. The two, three, and four and the 11, 12. This (adding staff) will allow us to go all the way from second grade to seniors in high school who are needing an alternative placement from their traditional school to help them manage their emotional needs and behavioral concerns and hopefully get them back on the right track, so they can continue back on at their public school.”