Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald reviews policies with school board members, from left, Doug Plaehn, Deb Larson and Kristin Beck during the Jan. 22 meeting.   GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald reviews policies with school board members, from left, Doug Plaehn, Deb Larson and Kristin Beck during the Jan. 22 meeting. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Editor's note: The meeting was held prior to Monday, Jan. 27, when school was called off yet again due to extreme temperatures and blowing snow.

Kingsland's school board did plenty of housekeeping during its first meeting of the year, Wednesday, Jan. 22, handling everything from winter weather planning to reviewing programs currently underway in the district.

January weather has been more "January" than anticipated in the 2013-2014 school calendar, and the board discussed what could be done to make up for the days that were or are going to be missed through the remainder of the winter. Since Gov. Mark Dayton called for all schools to be closed on Jan. 6 and the district chose to close on Jan. 7, board member Gwen Howard proposed that the Jan. 6 closure be forgiven because it was a statewide day off.

Originally, the calendar set Thursday, May 29, as the final student day of school, but adjustments to compensate for snow days would change that to Friday, May 30, the same day as graduation, and teachers would have to remain until June 2. The board voted 4-1, with Howard opposed, to change the calendar to reflect snow days used.

"We're living in southeast Minnesota, and we have winter," said Howard. "Looking at other schools, they already have two days built into their calendar, with the day the governor called off. We've got a lot of winter to go yet, and some teachers have already made plans. Next year, I hope we look at this more in depth when we make the decisions."

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald gave his monthly report, outlining the facility options the board is considering for the two buildings in the district - options that the board will review further at a study session this evening, Wednesday, Jan. 29. The Tribune will continue to provide updates on the options as developments occur.

McDonald also commended Kingsland's teaching staff as he shared the new programs and initiatives that the district has engaged to foster excellence in student achievement. He expressed the district's appreciation for donations given by area businesses and volunteers, including $2,000 through the Land o' Lakes Volunteer Grant program, BP Amoco for a $2,150 donation to the softball program, and to Kingsland ag instructor Kristal Brogan for pursuing a grant from the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council (MAELC), after which the district received $18,551 to start a food chemistry class next year.

Principals' reports were filled with news of numerous school activities. Kingsland High School Principal Jim Hecimovich cited that semester finals, the first given since he has been with the district, were almost done and that they went well. He noted that the high school staff is working with sophomores - using the My Foundations program, a 10-week course to prepare them for the Accuplacer college placement test - to help them realize the college opportunities available to them in 11th and 12th grade.

"We want to get them stoked about it," he said, "because the days of being 'average' are over...if you're not trying, if you're not making it, you're not going to find those jobs. We want them to understand that if they show hard work and dedication, they'll be shown their futures."

Hecimovich also shared that he's excited to see what kind of robot the Kingsland 2014 First Robotics team creates for competition in April, as the team has received its construction kit and will be building a robot over the next weeks.

Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Chris Priebe stated that he's pleased to welcome fathers and father figures to the elementary school to volunteer in the classrooms as the WatchDOGS (Dads of Great Students) program is inaugurated. "We have up to two dads a day at the elementary, and we're trying to actively recruit more. It's been a positive thing. We're hoping to make a success of it." The principal observed that winter's flu and cold season has descended upon the school, and he reminded parents to encourage students to wash their hands, drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest so that they don't miss school. Both principals pointed out that report cards will be sent home soon and that conferences are on the calendar for Feb. 6 and 13 - details are available on the Kingsland website.

The board approved the retirement of elementary paraprofessional Deb Amunrud, whom they thanked for nearly 15 years of service to the district, the resignations of B squad baseball coach Erik Bicknese, musical director Josh Hogberg, track coach Jim Hubka, and of former Kingsland business manager Kathy Beevers, who took a leave of absence for the remainder of her time with the district. Maternity leaves were granted to Erin Cady and Stacey Hogberg, Hogberg was granted a lane change, and the board accepted the hiring of Linda Wangsness as art club advisor, Andrew Brouwer as head football coach, Kyle Weinmann as middle school interventionist, Janelle Mosher-Rowe as an elementary paraprofessional, and Jasper Hamersma as a middle school paraprofessional. The board considered hiring John Fenske as a regular route bus driver, but then raised the question of whether he would be able to fulfill his after-school coaching duties if he is behind the wheel instead of on the field or court. Members determined that it would be best to do further investigation into the matter before approving his hire.

The next regular meeting of the Kingsland School Board of Directors is Wednesday, Feb. 19, at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room - instead of Monday, Feb. 17 - due to the Presidents' Day holiday. The public is welcome to attend. The facility plan discussion and study session will be held this evening (Wednesday) at 5:30 p.m. in the Kingsland High School conference room. For more information, call the district office at 346-7276, or log onto the Kingsland website at