School board meeting draws community response
Thursday, May 29, 2014 9:02 AM
Nearly two-dozen residents showed up for the May 19 meeting of the ISD #297 school board, expressing concern over two issues. The first was the proposed termination of community education secretary Lynn Anderson, while the second was the non-renewal of elementary teacher Betty Johnson's full-time contract.
Seniors Nicole Ellingson and Jayme Lenning served as non-voting student representatives to the Spring Grove School Board during the 2013-14 school year. Directors and administrators honored them for their service on May 19. PHOTO: CRAIG MOORHEAD/SPRING GROVE HERALD
Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said that a class offered through community ed had violated state statutes (a misdemeanor) by including a tasting session involving alcoholic beverages. When administrators realized that the class had violated the law, the district's legal counsel told Udstuen to recommend Anderson's termination to the school board.
Anderson told directors that she was unaware of the problem when the class was held. "The most recent community education brochure, the one that offered the class for which I am being held responsible, was brought into the superintendent's office numerous times for approval prior to going to print..." she said. "Why was I the only school employee singled out as losing my job because of alcohol on school premises?
"I did not feel I was in violation because it was strictly for educational purposes."
The catalog listed "Cheese Exploration" as a "hands on experience in cheese making." It further stated that those who enrolled "must be over 21 to enjoy the entire palate of activities," and openly mentions "wine and beer pairings" as part of the activities involved.
Residents spoke at length in Anderson's defense. "No one got hurt, no one even came close to getting hurt (and) no kids were in the school building at the time," Matthew Myrah said. "It was a mistake that was oversaw by many of us...,"
"Do we all want to live in this small community and not be able to make a mistake once in a while without being forgiven?"
Directors later voted to table the issue for further study.
Kindergarten teacher speaks
Johnson also spoke to the board about the evaluation process that she said contributed to her position being cut last month. "The administration is only concerned with test results, and the data it drives," she stated. "Sadly, data completely leaves out the human aspects of our children in Spring Grove Public School...."
Even if data is used, her class still makes the grade, Johnson said. "Eighty-one percent of my students are reading at or above grade level," she added.
Several residents asked for a reversal of last months' decision to cut Johnson's job.
Udstuen reminded the group that the reduction was due to only 18 kindergarten students arriving next fall, while a class of 27 or 28 will be entering first grade.
"This isn't fun, and it's not easy," Director Eric Bjerke said. "We all really like Betty. When it comes to a cut, I don't think we have a bad teacher in the school."
"The decision was based on enrollment," Director Christian Myrah said. "As a board member, I'm inclined to back the administration."
The board did not revisit their April 21 decision.
Udstuen reported that health insurance rates for district employees are dropping by 10 percent next year. She also noted a slight increase in per-pupil state funding. Directors were brought up to date on facilities (a new swing set is being installed on the playground), and a donation that the school has received from a local business -Mulqueen's True Value has given 40 gallons of paint to the district.
Directors voted to place science teacher Nolie Kapplinger on unrequested leave.
A new contract for district accountant Tanya Elton was approved. That includes pay increases for the current school year and 2014-15.
The board accepted the resignations of girls varsity basketball coach Russell Larson, assistant football coach Kevin Klug, and junior high girls volleyball coach Jennifer Schieber. All of those positions will be advertised.
Other coaches were approved for next year. They include Zach Hauser (head coach - football), a football assistant position that will be split between Heath Olson and Brian Anderson and a junior high football coaching job held by Kody Moore. For volleyball, Michelle Anderson will serve as the head coach (varsity), while Bethany Bergsgaard will head up the B team. Olson will serve as girls basketball assistant. Jullianna Lile and Matt Foster will coach junior high girls basketball. Wade Grinde returns as boys basketball coach for the varsity, assisted by Dave Konz. The junior high will be led by head coach Al Lochner and assistant Chris Strinmoen. Softball includes Michelle Anderson as head coach and Tory Kale Schulz as assistant. The junior high head coach for softball will be Bethany Bergsgaard.
Clifton Larson Allen was approved to produce the 2013-14 school audit. The cost will increase from last year's $16,899 to $17,300.
Two quotes for a new water make-up tank for the boiler room were reviewed, with the lower (from Winona Controls) approved. The cost is $12,000.
A variety of summer projects for the school building and grounds were reviewed, but no votes were taken to approve specific contractors. Jobs under consideration include pressure washing and painting the mechanics building, tuck pointing the exterior of the school building, improvements to the parking garage, finding a new pickup truck for district use, and more.