The June 14 School Board meeting began with parents, teachers and community members addressing the board with concerns over losing quality teachers, the transferring of teachers from one job to another and the lack of communication among the school board, the superintendent, school staff and parents.
One of the most concerning topics raised by parents and community members was why questions from parents to the board have gone unanswered. Multiple times speakers brought up emails that were repeatedly ignored with no responses given.
Board member Jarrod Mankie stated that he “doesn’t feel in charge” when it comes to communicating with parents. He said the board had been directed by the school’s attorney to not respond to certain questions.
School Board Chair Barb Sherman said there are topics that they can’t talk about citing digital privacy specifically as the reason some questions were not responded to.
Transferring teachers from one job to another without communication was discussed. This resulted in the resignation of multiple staff members and could result in the loss of more. The reason for the transfers was the lack of applicants for special education positions that need to be filled. The vacated positions would then be advertised for new applicants.
All this left parents and community members feeling out of the loop when they received no response from the board regarding the logic of the transfers.
This all comes as Superintendent Eric Pingrey resigned his position and the board searching for candidates to fill the position. Five applicants interviewed last week and the final three will interview again this week.
The three finalists are Jenny Bushman, director of Teaching and Learning at the Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools; Darrin Strosahl, vice president of Academic Affairs and chief operating officer of Northwest Technical College; and Brian Dietz, superintendent of Centennial Public Schools.
Pk-5 Principal Jill McGowan reported new standards from the Minnsota Department of Education that will be implemented next school year. Staff had been training with Lisa Pingrey from Sourcewell to help implement them in the classroom. McGowan also reported on the preschool graduation and the staff awareness training with Dr. Joe Hill.
The “Get on the Bus” golf tournament raised money to reinstate the late school bus for kids participating in activities. Travis Hensch and Susan Ostlund organized the event. Next year’s date to raise more funds for the bus is in May; the date has yet to be determined.
Administration staff and the instructional coach participated in teacher development and evaluation training with Dr. Phil Warrick in Staples.
High School Principal Ryan Jensen reported that staff participated in diversity, equity and inclusion talking circles. Dan and Susan Ninham, Elaine Fleming, Faron Jackson and Dr. Matt Cobb facilitated the event. Jensen noted a ceremony for Senior Scholarship Awards, thanking Thomas McIver for all of his work in preparing this opportunity for students to be recognized for scholarship awards.
Activities/Community Ed Director Travis Hensch reported a new Minnesota State High School League approved amendment stating girls will train and compete with the boys’ teams during the regular wrestling season, but will have the option of competing in a girls-only individual section and state wrestling tournament that would occur simultaneously with the boys’ postseason individual tournaments.
As part of the approved amendment, girls would be eligible to remain a part of the boys’ team for post-season dual tournaments.
Softball and baseball season recently concluded while youth baseball and softball has begun with 18 boys playing on the “Babe Ruth” team and teams participating at all levels in baseball. Softball has a 10 and under team.
Summer recreation has started with 44 children and room for more to participate. Hensch also said the community garden on Tower Hill has doubled in size and irrigation is available if anyone is interested in participating.
Indian Education Director Mike Anderson reported the home liaison position is open and needs to be filled.
New hires include Brittini McWaters, student support specialist; Joseph Woods, fifth-grade teacher; Monica Voeller, head volleyball coach; Levi Capesius, elementary music teacher; Dawn D’Alesandro, special education coordinator; and Lauren (Jen) Buie Sumption, level IV social worker.
Resignations include Kathy Wiederin, fifth-grade teacher; Randy Henke, custodian (retirement); Olivia Leslie, paraprofessional; Lydia Bjorklund, paraprofessional; Rodney White, home school liason (retirement); and Ralph Jankovich, bus driver (retirement).
In other business, the board:
Approved a revised 2021-22 school calendar.
Approved Superintendent candidates.
Approved the renewal of insurance for 2021-22.
Approved the proposed and final budget for 2021-22.
Approved golf tournament donations.