The Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School Board accepted Superintendent Eric Pingrey’s official resignation at the April 12 meeting, hired a principal to lead the new Level IV special education facility, and after some contemplation and discussion decided not to host prom.

The week prior to the meeting a special closed school board meeting was convened to discuss Pingrey’s decision. Because this is a personnel matter, the board may hold a closed meeting because it’s an internal personnel issue. A few days later Pingrey emailed staff that he was, in fact, leaving WHA. 

Pingrey’s decision to  accept a superintendent’s position in Idaho had been reported in The Pilot-Independent, as well as in local Idaho newspapers. Pingrey accepted a position with the Idaho Fall’s School District, but then accepted the superintendent’s position with McCall-Donnelly School District in western Idaho instead. He will be done at WHA at the end of the school year. 

The board has already begun the search for its next superintendent.

Dawn Casteel, formerly a Special Education coordinator at WHA, will be the new principal leading the Level IV learning facility currently under construction at the Ah-Gwah-Ching location.

“This new school will provide structured behavioral, academic and mental health support to ensure that students get the high quality education they deserve,” said Casteel. “The building is in the final stages of completion and we are currently assembling a great team of educators who will make this program a success, and we look forward to the fall, when we get to welcome in our first students.”

High School Principal Ryan Jensen reported on several discussions with parents, staff and students about how to host a prom that was distanced and safe for everyone. Questionnaires were sent out and the information was calculated, culminating in a tough recommendation for Jensen (a huge fan of prom himself). But he recommended WHA not host a prom to keep everyone as safe as possible, looking ahead to graduation. 

There was a lot of remorse and heavy hearts as the board wants the students to experience these landmark events, but the decision was made, and graduation will be the priority continuing into the future.

Pre-K-5 Principal Jill McGowan reported staff attended regular science training through Sourcewell as they prepare for new science standards coming to Minnesota schools. 

Jensen reported a tough week of March 22-26 as the school had 11 COVID-19 cases and around 100 students quarantined. He noted a virtual parent-teacher conference was held during this week. 

Activities/Community Ed Director Travis Hensch reported the transition from winter to spring sports, but Mother Nature had other ideas with 70 degree to 35 degree swings creating frustration for just about everyone, especially spring sports athletes and coaches. However, the athletic department remains flexible and will get in as many events, games, matches and contests as the weather allows. 

Community education continues to offer limited classes but is planning for a full summer schedule. ZOOM is the current medium through which classes are offered, which will hopefully change soon.

Indian Ed Director Michael Anderson reported that 11 students crafted their own hand drums with the guidance of Rod Northbird. Anderson also noted Ojibwe language instructor Cobb and some students designed a class flag to represent American Indian students at WHA. 

Anderson also stressed that the need to fund projects for American Indian students is crucial and underfunded. He also said American Indian students will make up roughly 25 percent of the student body, a significant portion of the student body, with specific educational requirements.


In other business the Board:

Approved new hires including Breah Naeseth, junior high softball coach, Brian Neppl, full-time custodian.   

Approved resignation of Kyle Benjamin as Transportation coordinator.

Approved the check register and financial report.

Approved policy updates including annual AIPAC compliance/vote of concurrence, tobacco free environment, student medication, curriculum and instructional goals, organization of grade levels, mandatory summer school instruction and student transportation/safety. 

Tabled the student discipline policy update.

Accepted donations including $200 from Walker American Legion for elementary milk fund.

Approved the hiring of School Exec Connect to begin the search for WHA’s next superintendent.


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