Retiring Kingsland teachers Marilyn Erdman, Karlene Hatleli and Karen Cleveland received plaques in recognition of their years of service.  PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Retiring Kingsland teachers Marilyn Erdman, Karlene Hatleli and Karen Cleveland received plaques in recognition of their years of service. PHOTO BY GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
Kingsland's school board honored four retiring employees last Monday evening, thanking them for their dedication to the education of students over the course of their respective careers.

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald began with recognizing Shelly Cornell, a paraprofessional. "Paraprofessionals are the people who do the behind the scenes work, sometimes the unsung heroes. Without their efforts, teachers wouldn't be able to do their jobs throughout the school day."

He went on to thank kindergarten teacher Marilyn Erdman, who "has been here tirelessly giving our students a wonderful education...if I have a bad day, I just go to kindergarten."

In regard to first grade teacher Karlene Hatleli's dedication, he commented, "This teacher is truly loved and has done a great job...she'll be truly missed."

Finally, Kingsland's former German teacher and longtime English instructor, Karen Cleveland, known to thousands of students as "Frau," or Mrs. in German, was given recognition for "over 40 years of giving tireless service to our kids."

Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich thanked Kingsland art instructor Linda Wangsness for creating a painting of a dragon to be placed in the entrance of the high school and another painting to fill a former bulletin board frame, brightening up the lower hallway and bringing school spirit.

Regarding Project Lead the Way, he stated, "We had our business partners' meeting, and it was a good meeting, lots of interaction. We got some good feedback from our partners.

"As for College in the Schools, we've wrapped up our online English classes, and the students all got A's. We also have students coming back to Kingsland instead of going to RCTC for Post-Secondary Options (PSEO) classes. We had one and a half students (full-time equivalent) who were considering going to RCTC, but they've given us a second look. We're keeping more students in the halls of Kingsland."

Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Chris Priebe reported that elementary students are finishing up online standardized testing. Additionally, the elementary staff might undergo some realignment as Erdman and Hatleli retire. "Their shoes are too big to fill, and I thank them for the opportunity to work with them this year. We're also evaluating the middle school structure and comparing models to see what's most efficient."

McDonald's monthly report included that the Project Lead the Way Gateway Academy will be held once again this summer, and again next summer, as funding was provided through an anonymous donor. "We also received a certificate of achievement from the city of Spring Valley, congratulating us on being the first district certified in three areas of Project Lead the Way and being the first in the area to offer an AA degree. The staff has been going the extra mile and put Spring Valley and Kingsland on the map."

He related that the state Legislature has made changes to state aid contributions, increasing it by 1.5 percent per year, or $78 in 2014 and by $83 in 2015. However, changes to the way that students are weighted for state aid purposes have also been put into place, affecting how much state aid is given the district for each student. "In kindergarten through sixth grade, the students are now weighted as one, but in seven through 12, they were 1.3 and are now 1.2."

Business manager Todd Netzke and McDonald outlined the capital outlay budget. McDonald noted that the choir and band room risers may require remodeling if the district removes asbestos, that the cost of replacing English curriculum has risen but that the district hopes to get new curriculum in an electronic format for use on iPads and netbooks - as Priebe found curriculum that might show promise - that the district plans to continue replacing one bus every other year and one van on an opposing every-other-year schedule, and that Kingsland still has a balance of over $1 million in capital outlay funds as it's been managed very well.

The board did vote, however, by a 5-1 vote, not to purchase a new electronic message sign for the high and elementary school building, given that the district still has numerous other issues to address.

Another vote that took some review was the question of whether to have teachers make up another snow day to meet their contract requirements of 183 days of service after the May 2 snowstorm. Board member Gwen Howard questioned why staff should have to do so when "on snow days, I saw cars here early and here late...they've already put in that time." "My feeling is that with all that technology in place, and with the number of vehicles in the parking lot on a snow day, the teachers shouldn't have to make up that snow day."

Board member Deb Larson concurred, "We've struggled with this...we raised the bar a couple years ago, and they've already jumped over it."

A tied vote of 3-3 followed, and Howard made a motion not to extend the teachers' school year by having them make up that snow day.

In personnel matters, the board voted not to renew the contracts of Samantha Van Gorp and Kathy Sportsman, to accept the resignation of Paula Ruesink as district health and wellness coordinator, and to hire Kathy Grabau as a long term substitute kindergarten teacher, Stacy Hogberg as a high school English instructor and Julia Salzmann as school psychologist. The board also did not grant a leave of absence to choir director Elliott Grandall - a vote was called for, but the request died for lack of a motion.

Lastly, the board thanked Red Essig for his help in sponsoring ag programming, BP for $300 toward playground equipment, and the horticulture classes for planting flowers around the building, creating a welcoming atmosphere.