The first Laporte School Board meeting of 2019 was not without its drama as some unresolved feelings were aired over the board’s handling of the district’s music program and how it was eliminated last spring and subsequently brought back because of pressure from community members and staff.
The Jan. 14 meeting started off on a positive note with Sharon Nordrum telling the board that Native-American hoop dancer Kevin Locke will be at the school Thursday and Friday. He will give a public presentation Thursday at 6:45 p.m. and will meet with elementary students in their classes Friday.
The visit is being paid for by Tribal Extension with a $2,250 grant.
It was during the reorganizational session that the meeting got contentious. After Joe Jorland nominated John Seegmiller to remain as board chair and after it was seconded, Sally Raddatz asked for discussion.
“We need leaders. We need quality leadership,” she declared in a statement that appeared to be directed at Seegmiller. Raddatz wanted to discuss further what the board did wrong.
Seegmiller stated he took responsibility for that. “If I had to do it over I would do it differently,” he said, referring to how the board decided to eliminate the music program without first talking to the staff.
Some of the board members and administrators thought this was not the time to discuss something that happened during the last school year, but Raddatz thought it was the appropriate time.
“We talked to all those involved and felt good about that,” Seegmiller stated.
Lisa Price, who was welcomed earlier as a new board member, thought the board made a mistake in getting rid of the music program, but they stepped forward and admitted to it and was sorry for it. Price said if she didn’t think the board took responsibility for their mistakes, she would have taken her children out of Laporte School and not run for school board.
Seegmiller was elected board chair by a 4-1 vote, with Raddatz voting no and Seegmiller abstaining.
Jorland was nominated as clerk and Joan Moorhead nominated herself. Jorland received three votes and Moorhead one, with both abstaining on their votes.
Raddatz was then elected treasurer by a 4-1 vote, with Seegmiller voting no.
After voting to keep the compensation the same for board members, chair, clerk and treasurer, it came time to decide the pay for both board and committee meetings.
Raddatz made a motion to cut the pay from $55 to $45, which was seconded. Raddatz, Moorhead and Sue Olson voted yes, Jorland and Seegmiller no, with Price abstaining.
The $45 is well below what other area boards get paid.
Seegmiller quickly responded by stating he would be submitting his letter of resignation at the February meeting.
The board decided to keep committee meeting compensation at $25, and the recording secretary compensation will remain the same at $70 per meeting.
Later in the meeting, teachers Aimee Tabaka and Karen Komulainen both asked Seegmiller not to resign. The two said that when the teachers met with both Seegmiller and Raddatz last year, they were pleased with the discussion, adding that Seegmiller was nothing but cooperative and supportive. “I would be remorseful if John resigned,” Komulainen stated.
Tabaka added that the teachers are very happy this school year, which contradicted an earlier statement Raddatz made that the teachers were not happy.
The board also discussed the open seat after Duane Malterud, who was elected to a four-year term back in November, submitted his resignation prior to the Dec. 10 meeting, that the board accepted by a 3-2 vote. The matter was tabled to the next meeting.
In other school business, the board:
Set the date and time for board meeting as the same, the second Monday of the month at 6 p.m.
Appointed board member to the Minnesota State High School League.
Appointed First National Bank as the official depository.
Appointed The Pilot-Independent as the official newspaper.
Authorized the superintendent and business manager to invest and transfer funds.
Authorized the superintendent and business manager to make electronic fund transfers.
Authorized facsimile signatures.
Set standard mileage rate at 54 cents per mile.
Approved the minutes for the Dec. 10 regular board meeting and Dec. 13 special strategic board meeting.
Approved monthly bills at $197,875 and ACH at $300,441 for a total of $498,316.
Approved high school English teacher Andrea Hoyum’s use of 20 six leave days from the district’s sick leave bank. The days will spread out over three per week.
Approved a resolution directing the administration to make recommendation for reductions in programs and positions and the reasons for. This is something the board does every year.
Set meet and confer dates with certified staff at times to be approved by both the board and staff.
Heard from Principal AJ Dombeck that the district’s enrollment was at 308 pupils with 10 students on the wait list for those classes that are capped. There are also 52 preschoolers at the school.
Approved revision of policies 440 workers compensation and 719.1 lunch pin numbers, and to remove 719.2 lunch no charging.
Reviewed policies 410 with additions, 413, 414, 415, 506, 514, 522, 524 and 806.
Heard the district received a $600 grant for security doors.
Heard that the district is still looking for a donated piano after the good-faith donation fell through as the tuning bar needed to be replaced at a cost of $750.