Mabel-Canton junior Sarah Vettleson-Trutza stands with the President’s Volunteer Service Award she received at the Mabel-Canton School Board meeting on April 15. The award was given to her in recognition of Vettleson-Trutza’s volunteer service work.  DAVID STOEGER/NEWS-RECORD
Mabel-Canton junior Sarah Vettleson-Trutza stands with the President’s Volunteer Service Award she received at the Mabel-Canton School Board meeting on April 15. The award was given to her in recognition of Vettleson-Trutza’s volunteer service work. DAVID STOEGER/NEWS-RECORD
The Mabel-Canton School Board met with a relatively light agenda during its meeting on Tuesday, April 15. During the meeting, the board discussed several "good things happening," the district budget, calendar for the 2014-2015 school year and several items brought to their attention by Principal Jeff Nolte and District Superintendent Jennifer Backer.

President's Volunteer Service Award

Junior Sarah Vettleson-Trutza received the President's Volunteer Service Award during the meeting. The award was presented to Vettleson-Trutza for her many hours of volunteer service in the community.

"She actually has a letter from the president here," said Principal Jeff Nolte as he prepared to read the letter from the president to the board.

"Your volunteer service demonstrates the kind of commitment to your community that moves America a step closer to its great promise," Nolte read from the letter.

"This award was earned by Sarah by her giving to our communities through community on the biggest parts of our Cougar Code is community and I think Sarah has shown an excellent representation of community service," added Nolte.

"I've done a lot with the Mabel First Lutheran Church," said Vettleson-Trutza. "But I think it was mostly probably from last summer (when) my sister and I spent the majority of the summer over at "Noah's Bark" in Canton. We would be there from 9 a.m. until 2 or 3 p.m. and we would walk all the dogs and them brush them out and get them their water and clean their cages out."

Other "good things happening"

The board thanked those who attended the annual Senior Turkey Dinner on Sunday, March 30. The senior class served over 1,900 hungry guests. Proceeds went to the annual senior class trip to Washington, D.C.

The Week of the Young Child was April 6 to 12. "It's a great week to remember that we also have Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) here, we have preschool here...and we always want to consider them an enormous part of our school district," said Backer.

Board member Crystal Adkins noted the success of the school's girls bowling team. "Our girls finished first in our conference...and we were conference tournament champions as well...and we will be bowling at the state level in two weeks."

Adkins presented an award plaque to be displayed in the school.

Consent agenda

The board approved a tentative calendar for the 2014-2015 school year. Backer said the calendar went through a variety of committees in addition to being reviewed by the teachers union.

"We want to get this out as early as we can...but always know that this may change due to unforeseen circumstances later on," Backer added.

The board also approved designating employee Chris Hansen to authorize electronic fund transfers.

Budget update

Business manager Todd Lechtenberg gave an update on the district's budget, which continues to show a deficit spending of about $193,000 for the current school year.

So far, the district has received about 75 percent of its revised budget revenue for the current school year. Lechtenburg noted on the expenses portion of the report that Schmidt's Busing has not yet billed the district for transportation services for extra curricular activities since the beginning of the school year.

"Some of the things we've got going on right now (is) we are starting to get staff to look at the 2015 budget for operating capital, health and safety and differed maintenance," he added. "Those are three areas that we levy the taxpayers."

Lechtenburg said the primary concern is the overall health of the building and making sure there are funds available for maintenance. "We need to make sure we have money in here to take care of the building because the worst thing that can happen is the building starts to deteriorate," he explained.

"We are writing down the history, what's needed, and where we need to go (with the building)...we are just starting that new process," Backer added.

Lechtenburg said his focus right now is looking ahead to the district's finances for the next school year and even the 2015-2016 school year.

Backer said they plan to bring a list of budget cuts before the board for the 2015-2016 school year during the next meeting on May 20.

Principal's report

While he said this year's senior trip to Washington, D.C., had been going well, Nolte brought up the fact that a couple seniors had opted to not participate in the trip.

"Those families of those two students who stayed back really felt that their seniors should be able to stay home during this time that the senior trip is going on," he said.

Nolte reminded the board that the senior trip is a part of the curriculum. "It is an irreplaceable curricular experience for our students out in Washington, D.C."

The issue lies with the expectation of students and families who opt out of the trip. "What might be a fair expectation of students that don't go on the trip and put something in writing as what we are going to follow.... It's the trip of a lifetime and it's always hard to see kids not go. It's just difficult to replace the experience and hold them accountable while they (the seniors) are gone for something that's hard to re-create," Notle added.

Nolte urged the board members to take some time over the next few months to reflect on the issue and to think about ways in which it might be the best way to support students who choose to opt out of the trip.

Nolte said staff PLCs (professional learning committee) have been meeting twice a month to discuss ways to increase student achievement.

Staff has been focused also on increasing reading achievement and has been working with a reading specialist, Laurie Mack, through Southeast Service Cooperative.

"She's given us some really good feedback on some great things that we are doing really strong," Nolte said. "There's a lot of new research out in small group instruction and differentiating we're going to be looking at strategies in that area as a staff to increase our student achievement."

Nolte also mentioned that spring sports are up and running despite the cooler weather.

Superintendent's report

Backer reported enrollment has remained steady. "However, we need to continue to re-look at the offerings we have here and the recruitment of kids and also getting those kids back that have left us," she added.

Backer spoke about legislation happening at the state capital including the minimum wage bill that passed and the Senate Health Insurance Bill Transparency Act. "It basically allows districts to go back and negotiate up to two bidders to reduce cost and improve services."

Backer also spoke of the recently passed Safe and Supportive Schools Bill (anti-bullying bill) that was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton on April 9. Backer said there will be some changes in policy next year and sooner changes to the student handbook to accommodate the provisions of the new law.