Jon Selness and Sarah Vettleson-Trutza are Mabel-Canton High School students who are representing the student body at Mabel-Canton School Board meetings.  DAVID STOEGER/NEWS RECORD
Jon Selness and Sarah Vettleson-Trutza are Mabel-Canton High School students who are representing the student body at Mabel-Canton School Board meetings. DAVID STOEGER/NEWS RECORD
The Mabel-Canton School Board dealt with a full agenda during its meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Among other things, the board discussed budget cuts, school security and committee assignments.

Budget cuts

The board was updated and gave consent for the administration to look into ways to make potential cuts to compensate for a nearly $200,000 shortfall from last year.

"Unfortunately, Jeff (Nolte) and I are saying 'no' to some things we really don't want to say 'no' to - but we know we have too," said District Superintendent Jennifer Backer. "As you recall at the last meeting we talked about our deficit spending. We've started to really crack down on certain things and again saying 'no' to some things, tightening our belts a bit."

Backer reported the current district balances and revenues have improved slightly over the previous year.

"I had a great meeting with our certified staff (recently)," Backer said. "They want to be extremely fiscally responsible to our taxpayers...it was neat to hear 'you can freeze our curriculum, you can freeze our classroom budgets.'"

She added that the staff also talked about how they may be able to work with neighboring school districts on certain things. Backer will also be meeting with the district's non-certified staff to discuss where they see adjustments can be made.

"We have to take a look at these things and constrict, but we need to be responsible at the same time," said Principal Jeff Nolte. "We will consider each one of those items as we go and make recommendations (for cuts) to you (the board) and will take them very seriously."

Administration plans to come before the board the specific budget reductions and cuts in the coming months.

School security

Nolte brought up the topic of security at Mabel-Canton during his principal's report.

Nolte reported he recently met with Custom Alarm of Rochester to do a yearly review of the schools security and communication measures.

Nolte noted one concern is the school's clock system. "If you go from room to room...there is probably not a real consistent time system in our building," Nolte said. "(The clocks) can't really be managed from one location like would ideally be the case." Nolte added a uniform clock system would allow for more flexible scheduling.

In terms of security, Nolte said technology and cost is improving for cameras that would overlook the school parking lot and the playground. "The cameras that would overlook the parking lot and be able to see the parking lot and identify a car, license plate or a student issues are a little over $2,000 instead of $4,000 (a few years ago)," he explained.

"We are on borrowed time and I just want to remind the board on that," Nolte continued. "We certainly want to be fiscally responsible with any new things that we do in the building in the regards to security. With Sandy Hook that came up over a year ago, we talked about doing something different with the front door system - that is something that we could still decide to do at some point."

In the past, the board had agreed to keep the school a single-door, open-access school because of the location in a small community, Nolte reminded them.

Another safety concern that was brought up by board members is locked doors that are being "propped" open by students or staff as they let students back into the building and sometimes forget to shut the door after.

"(Safety is) an issue of teaching and re-teaching and training and re-training," Backer added as she told the board that any staff member who leaves a locked door ajar is told not to repeat the error.

"When those alarming things come across the media - then we start remembering and doing things right...and then we forget. (Safety) should be our top priority, and I think it is, but we become so somewhat forgetful because so many other great things are going on," Backer said.

Nolte said a school safety committee is working to implement a new crisis plan and securing crisis locations.

"We always need to re-look at (our) practices and make sure this place is a caring place where every single child (can) feel good," Backer concluded.

Committee assignments

The board quickly set its committee appointments for 2014. Mary Kuhn will continue to serve as school board chairperson with Crystal Loppnow serving as vice-chair. Troy Soiney was made treasurer and Mark Weideman was made clerk.

The board voted unanimously to keep yearly salaries at the 2013 rate, which is $850 for officers, $750 for directors, plus $40 for each additional meeting.

The News-Record was renewed for another year as the district's official newspaper, and the school board meeting date was kept as the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m.

The only matter that brought additional discussion was the district's official communication channels, which are the radio and television stations that the district uses to list cancelations and postponements. The district had a total of nine official channels. "Calling (the media) for this district is difficult because there are so many places to call," said Backer. "I am used to three to five places to call at the most." The board voted to reduce the list of official channels to six: KTTC, KQYB, WKBT, KROC, WIZM and KNEI.

The board voted to keep its official depositories at Bank of the West in Mabel and First Southeast Bank of Canton. The electronic fund transfers can be conducted by Superintendent Backer and Todd Lechtenberg.

Student council representatives

The board heard from new student representatives Jon Selness and Sarah Vettleson-Trutza.

Vettleson-Trytza told the board she thought it would be a good idea to have a school debate team. "I thought it would cool for next year to try to do a debate team. I understand that money can be an issue - but I think there would be people in the school who would be really good at it, first of all, and it would be nice to have another speech program...."

Selness reported on how high school students are using the district's laptops and technology. "This next semester, when we have creative writing, we will use them (the laptops) every day...we use them quite a bit in AP (advanced placement) history, too."