Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Chris Priebe sports a WATCHDOGS t-shirt and a Knights hat as part of his February report.  By the end of his report, Priebe had shared about four different programs and activities related to the four t-shirts he was wearing. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Chris Priebe sports a WATCHDOGS t-shirt and a Knights hat as part of his February report. By the end of his report, Priebe had shared about four different programs and activities related to the four t-shirts he was wearing. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich told the Kingsland School Board of Directors last Wednesday evening how the high school students will soon be learning about neutrinos, dark matter and purified copper at the bottom of a mine in Lead, S.D., without ever leaving the high school classroom, thanks to Kingsland's participation in a study with the Sanford Deep Underground Research Facility and improved distance learning technology.

"We're setting up our new video conferencing system, and we're meeting with Peggy Norris from Sanford on Feb. 28, and the students will soon be working on projects a mile underground (in Lead) here at the high school," Hecimovich related.

Following Hecimovich's announcement, Kingsland's tech coordinator Bob Tieffenbacher told of how the district is working to determine what its Internet bandwidth needs are and that it may choose to increase its connectivity through a collaborative purchasing effort with Grand Meadow, Southland, Lyle, LeRoy-Ostrander and Glenville-Emmons school districts.

"About seven years ago, we got an Internet connection - a pipe - between the middle school and the high school, and before that, we operated through wireless connections," said Tieffenbacher. "We were paying about $3,500 a month, and we worked with local providers to try to get more information on lower cost and raise our bandwidth. We managed to find a contract for a year with other schools for $750 a month, and there is a group we're working with now that provide video conferencing and learning to their students."

Tieffenbacher outlined the options available to the Kingsland district at this point, stating, "Right now, we're paying $1,600 for Internet each month and $750 for the connection between Spring Valley and Wykoff. One company we've checked with offered us one gigabyte per month, and we could keep Mediacom as our provider. The second option is to leave Mediacom and go with Jaguar Communications, but they want us to sign a five-year contract. We feel that technology changes too fast to sign a five-year contract, and since the district does a lot of online testing for NWEA tests, we use a lot of bandwidth. We need to see how things are going...but for now, we want to try a secure connection that connects point A to point B to work with Sanford - students will be able to ask questions in the mine."

In other discussion, Hecimovich spoke of how "horrible" parent-teacher conference attendance had been at the high school in comparison to at the elementary and middle school. "We had maybe 30 parents come in, and I've talked with the teachers...we've decided that it might be good to look at some targeted conferences for students having difficulties, and then to keep an open door for parents who want to come in during the school year. The high school registration manual updates are almost completed, and changes have been made, such as the elimination of some class offerings of algebra and the introduction of college calculus and practical application math.

The principal then told how free meningococcal vaccinations are available to all students in grades seven through 12 as a service of the Fillmore County Public Health Department. "We've sent a note out to parents to let them know that these vaccinations are available. Meningitis is a serious virus that can cause so many different health problems...including inflammation of the brain. The vaccination will be added to the Minnesota immunization law on Sept. 1, 2014, so students might as well get their shots now for free." He closed his report with a request to the school board to consider incorporating more snow days into the school calendar next year, as this winter's wild weather has consumed more than the allotted snow days. "We've had multiple snow days, and my proposal is for more to be included. My biggest concerns are that we build long-term stability for our students. If that means they're graduating during the first full week of June, that's what I'd like. We're not having what's been considered normal winters lately."

Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Chris Priebe was a man of many T-shirts as he updated the board on primary school activities - he began by sharing about the WatchDOGS program - Dads of Great Students - and how it has been successful at both the elementary and the middle school, averaging two dads or father figures visiting the elementary per week and one visiting the middle school per week in an effort to engage the male role models whom the younger students look up to.

Priebe peeled off his WatchDOGS t-shirt to reveal a Positive Behavioral Intervention System (PBIS) t-shirt, telling the board how PBIS has affected the social climate in each building. "At the elementary, we're having an Olympics theme this month, and at the middle school, the theme is 'Valentines.' We're making sure everyone understands what it is to be respectful, responsible and ready."

Two more t-shirts later, Priebe was pleased to announce that "100 Day" was celebrated in Denise Erichsen's kindergarten class, and the "100" emblazoned on his white t-shirt was evidence that he'd gone and helped the students count from one to 100.

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald related that various area school districts have been sending delegates to explore Kingsland's education model and that some delegates from both North and South Dakota have even been scheduled to tour the schools.

"They want to view the launch of Kingsland's elementary Project Lead the Way (PLTW) program," he said. "We've had visitors from Lourdes in Rochester, from Kasson-Mantorville and Faribault."

Kingsland's business manager, Todd Lechtenberg, gave his report via phone because he was at another school board meeting since he is hired by the district through a contract with School Management Services. He shared that Kingsland has deficit spent approximately $21,000, but that that amount would be taken from an assigned fund at the end of the school year to reconcile the deficit. He added that the district's budget will be reviewed and revised soon and that it will be presented for approval at the March board meeting.

February's personnel changes included accepting head volleyball coach Jackie Whitacre's resignation, hiring Amber Uhlenhake as head track and field coach, Emily Hahn and Megan Oakland as spring musical directors, Brent Stinson as assistant football coach, Jacob Vetter as B squad baseball coach, Brian Feight as school psychologist shared with Fillmore Central, John Fenske as a regular bus driver, and approving the posting of ninth grade and B squad football positions. The board also approved the teacher seniority list and the formation of a district branding and marketing committee, and passed the annual resolution authorizing the board to make reductions in staff and programming as necessary.

The board thanked Swiss Valley Farms for its donation toward the First Robotics program, Seabright Electric for a wire for the electricity class, and Classic Carpets for a donation of carpet for the FFA barnyard.

The next meeting of the Kingsland School Board of Directors is set for Monday, March 17, 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland High School conference room. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, contact the Kingsland district office at (507) 346-7276, or log onto the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us.