At their organizational meeting of the new year on Jan. 24, school board members re-elected their chair Aaron Solum and vice-chair Shannon Schuttemeier. Eric Bjerke was elected clerk/treasurer replacing Kristy Folz who is not returning to the board.

Newly elected member Stephanie Jaster took her oath of office and was welcomed to the board.

Student member considered

Board members discussed various options as to adding a student board member or two to its organization.

The idea had been briefly discussed at a previous meeting, but this time both Bjerke and Superintendent Rachel Udstuen had some ideas and suggestions learned at the Minnesota School Boards Association's (MSBA) annual leadership conference.

Bjerke said that Lewiston-Altura has been doing this for about 10 years. They have two students - one junior and one senior - so they serve two-year terms if they go on as a junior.

"They appreciated their (the students) advice on certain things. They were very helpful and raised issues the board hadn't thought of," Bjerke noted.

Udtsuen noted that by law the student members wouldn't be able to participate in closed or personnel sessions or vote, but their input could be very valuable.

Another board member pointed out that the student board members could possibly get the entire student body more engaged in the board's decisions.

The board went back and forth whether to jump in with both feet and bring a student on board yet this school year or put the criteria together and try to have an applicant selected by July so they could attend the board's August workshop?

Discussion also brought up staggered terms - a senior starting in August, a junior in January.

The board agreed by consensus to proceed with the concept and have Bjerke and Udstuen put together an application, selection process and interview questions to bring back to the board in the near future.

Band trip remains every 4 years

Discussion was held regarding the frequency of music trips for Spring Grove High School band and choir students. Currently, the school policy is to have trips every four years. If the school remains on that schedule, in 2015 when the next trip is set to occur, the Trinity Lutheran youth are scheduled to attend their national ELCA gathering, which occurs every three years.

The Music Boosters, which helps the students raise money for music trips, expressed concerns that it makes students choose between one event or the other. And it will be burdensome on the parents and community when the fundraising would occur in the same timeframe.

With the every-four-year rotation, a student only goes on a music trip once in their high school career. Solum raised concerns for parents, "I don't like that (some) parents would have to pay twice, if their child went as a sophomore and a senior."

It was pointed out that by going on a major music trip twice, perhaps seniors would be likely to skip the trip the second time around, which would have a huge impact on the quality of the band or choir itself.

On the flipside, there were concerns raised about the ability of students to raise money for both a large church trip and music trip at the same time.

Board member Michelle Borreson asked how many students would be affected, but no firm number was available.

Bjerke pointed out that is seemed like moving the school's schedule could just cause more problems than this one time problem, "This conflict in 2015 will only happen once every 12 years."

Schuttemeier suggested that perhaps the boosters could adjust their fund-raising schedule to be spread out two, three or four years instead of trying to do it all in a year.

It was also thrown out that perhaps the organization could put a program together that after a student has sold so many plants, raffle tickets, etc. that the rest of the sales would go towards their individual trip account.

A motion was made by Solum, seconded by Bjerke and unanimously carried to leave the school's schedule at every four years.

Personnel hiring approved

The board unanimously hired Brent Messner as head of maintenance to replace retiring Dana Kjome.

Darla Nerstad was hired as a long-term paraprofessional sub. She will work three hours a day/ three days a week.

Udtsuen reminded the board that her annual evaluation is coming up in February. Chair Solum handed out a packet to each board member that included a tweaked form from last year that will improve goal setting for Udstuen and provide a better way to measure or benchmark those goals.

Retirement incentives continue?

The board briefly talked about early retirement incentives. Superintendent Udstuen recommended meeting soon to extend an offer if the board was going to offer any incentives for the 2013-14 year.

It was decided to schedule a work session on Jan. 30 to determine "if we've done as we've always done or do something completely different," Udstuen noted.

It was pointed out that the district doesn't have to offer any incentives, but over the last couple of years, it has resulted in some savings.

Annual business transacted

The board designated Pat Maloney of Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, PA as the district's attorney for another year.

Accountant Tanya Elton was delegated the authority to make electronic funds transfers.

As the first step in the annual budget process, a resolution directing the administration to make recommendation for reductions in program/positions for 2013-14 was approved.

This resolution allows reductions in the future if they are required.

The board set its meeting dates for the 2013 calendar year. They are as follows: Feb. 25, March 18, April 15, May 20, June 17, July 15, Aug. 19, Sept. 16. Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16.

All meetings are scheduled for 7 p.m. in the Media Center at the school. It was noted that the December meeting may be scheduled at an earlier time, which is also the district's annual Truth in Taxation hearing.

Udstuen noted that even though board member Christian Myrah couldn't find a way to attend the January board meeting as he was in flight to Afghanistan, he hopes to be settled in by the February meeting to possibly use Skype or some other technology to attend the meeting virtually.

Grant proposal supported

Board members approved a resolution supporting an application to the Minnesota State High School League Foundation to enhance the district's athletic and fine arts programs.

Udstuen explained that she would like to bring in a speaker to talk about character and leadership. She had contacted neighboring schools, and both Mabel-Canton and Caledonia Public had expressed interest in also utilizing such a speaker, so a joint application may be submitted.

Other news from the board

Udstuen informed the board that the school had received $500 from Merchants Bank to purchase books for the Media Center, "It's a real treat to have monies just for books. We've had so many wonderful donations for technology that sometimes books get overlooked."

The board gave Spanish teacher Jim Tripp permission to poll his students to see how many of them would be interested in a class trip in the summer of 2014 to a South American country through a well-respected organization.