Kingsland's school board discussed calendars and dance teams during its February meeting, held last Wednesday, Feb. 20, due to the Presidents' Day holiday on Monday, Feb. 18.

Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald introduced a proposal for an alternate school calendar next year that would allow for staff development to be held on certain Wednesday afternoons; students would be released from school an hour early in order to allow staff to convene and collaborate on various projects. The proposal wouldn't affect student instructional hours, according to the superintendent, because he compared the number of minutes of actual instructional time presently allotted in each school day to the number the Wednesday early-out calendar would allot, and the difference was one hour; the current calendar has 1,038 hours of instruction, and the Wednesday calendar would have 1,037 hours.

"I feel it would help us make big strides in collaboration," he said.

Board members gave the alternate calendar some consideration, as Gwen Howard noted that the early outs would allow students to complete assignments and tutor other students if the opportunities were made available.

Other calendar business was related to precipitation. This school year, students will have to make up a snow day on May 31, and teachers will have an in-service day on June 3 to compensate for the winter's wrathful weather. Graduation is set for May 24 and will remain as such.

In other matters, Kingsland Activities Director Tom Speltz updated the board on a student interest survey taken in January regarding Title IV gender equality and school activity offerings. Students expressed great interest in forming a dance team, and Speltz pursued further information on that particular activity, finding that in its first year, it would cost approximately $25,000 and then $10,000 for each year after. He stated that there are 20 students in grades seven through 11 who would like to see a team formed.

Spring Valley Just for Kix instructor Laura Perez lent her knowledge of the sport to Speltz's report, citing that a minimum of five students must attend competitions in order to comply with conference requirements. She pointed out that while the school may choose to offer high kick or jazz and funk dance teams, it does not have to offer both. Speltz outlined how the team's budget would be spent, beginning with approximately $8,000 for the coaching salary, $7,500 each for varsity and junior varsity team uniforms, $1,400 for entry fees, $1,600 for transportation, and $100 for supplies.

McDonald gave the business manager's report, as School Management Services (SMS) business manager Todd Netzke was unable to attend since he already had another school board meeting scheduled for the evening. McDonald shared that "there's about $40,000 difference between the 2011-2012 budget and the 2012-2013 budget, because we had just enough kindergarteners that we hired a third teacher." Additionally, necessary repairs were made to the middle school roof last year to stop a leak into the gymnasium, adding expenses to the capital outlay fund.

"We will come with a revised budget at the March meeting, and we'll also have a clear definition of our capital outlay," he told the board. "We'll be working on our 2013-2014 budget as well."

Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich updated the board on various secondary school news, including registration for the second semester of College in the Schools being in progress, Jennifer Campbell's opportunity to "network with attorneys who deal with federal education laws" during a seminar with the Minnesota Association of State and Federal Education, and the completion of the school's registration manual, rounding out the master schedule and posting dates for parent information meetings to be held in March.

"We want to get kids registered for next year and have it done by April," he said.

McDonald commended Hecimovich and assisting staff for their hard work on the master scheduling project, as in years past, it was not done until at least June or as late as August. Hecimovich added that the Kingsland TeKnights robotics team will be competing with their robot at the First Robotics tournament in Duluth March 7 through 9, and he wished them well.

Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Christopher Priebe spoke on the implementation of a release plan for student iPads. "Great things are happening at the elementary and middle school. It's a pretty exciting adventure, because at the middle school, we're launching the iPads." He observed that students have been given instruction in the care and handling of the tablets and that they soon will be given permission to take them home over night, but that parents will be advised that they do have the right to take the iPads away from students if homework is done and the iPads cause household disruptions.

"I feel confident that the third graders will be able to manage their devices...they have to learn to remember to charge them at night and bring them back to school. It's been a real delicate balance, finding how much responsibility to give the students," he said.

Board member Doug Plaehn commented, "I think the kids will amaze us, and I think they're farther along than we give them credit for."

Priebe agreed, "They are digital natives. Our hope is to help them use the iPads as a tool for learning."

Personnel changes included Linda Wangsness's resignation as Key Club advisor, Grayce Hamlin-Enriquez's resignation as seventh grade volleyball coach, Angie Boysen's resignation from her position as preschool paraprofessional, and hiring Jesica Voigt and Heather Lawson as high school special education paraprofessionals, Julia Salzman as school psychologist shared with Fillmore Central, Becky Bicknese as Key Club advisor, and hiring spring coaching staff.

The board also approved changes to the administrative assistant's job description and pay due to Netzke returning responsibility for payroll to the district. McDonald stated, "Todd is here two days a week, and there isn't a lot of time for him to do payroll. Someone else was contracted to do that for him, but he agreed that it would work well to move payroll back to the district and put the administrative assistant in charge. It works because then there's someone onsite if there are questions or a staff member needs answers."

There were no Student Council or FFA reports, nor was there any comment from members of the public.

The next meeting of the Kingsland School Board of Directors is slated for Monday, March 18, at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland High School conference room.