Whether to retain or release Chatfield High School head basketball coach Tom Bance for the coming season was the most visited topic of discussion during the Chatfield School Board meeting held last Monday, April 15, following parents' complaints that Bance's coaching did not satisfy their standards.

Tim Hebrink and Carmen Berge spoke during the district patron comment portion of the meeting, sharing why they felt that Bance should be given the opportunity to remain.

Hebrink approached the board as a colleague who had worked with the coach and witnessed how he positively influences student athletes. "At a very young age, he starts the kids with the fundamentals of basketball, and he lets them dribble the ball, but when it's his time to talk, he lets them know that," he said. "At the end of every camp or tournament, he always closes with the same words, that it was a lot of fun, but if they don't practice in their driveways or even watch basketball on TV, that's as good as they're going to get, that every season is up to them. In the locker room, there's an unwritten shift where he has gone from being 'Coach Bance' to just 'Bance,' and they respect him. They work hard to get to the varsity level, and you can see how they got there."

Berge represented the Chatfield Education Association (CEA), and said, "As co-president of the CEA, I would like to express the sentiment that there's a lack of support for the head basketball coach. I believe the school district did not follow the process, and I believe he should be given the opportunity after coaching 10 years in our district to continue."

She went on to cite that Bance has "complied with" the coaching code of ethics and that there is "no formal documentation" of the complaints against him being brought to him by students, parents, staff or the administration before action was taken to end his contract.

Chatfield Superintendent Ed Harris recommended that with the implementation of a new athletics and activities advisory committee comprised of board members and other individuals, Bance should be given the chance to fulfill his coaching obligations during the 2013-2014 school year, as a new comprehensive oversight structure has been devised for the entire coaching staff and that without that, guidelines for coaches were not uniformly established or enforced.

Each of the board members weighed in on the subject, with five out of six expressing their recommendation that the board support Bance and allow him the coming school year to coach under the oversight structure that will be outlined in a coaches' handbook that will be compiled and approved at or before the annual board business meeting.

Board member F. Mike Tuohy shared that he disagreed from a "business standpoint," noting that the problems being addressed "have been problems for the past five years" and that he felt that change is necessary.

However, the motion to retain Bance for the coming year passed with a majority vote.

Technology plan

Harris updated the board on the district's technology plan next.

"There's been a technology work group looking at how to deploy one-to-one mobile devices, and we think we've gotten to the point that we have a plan that suits our needs," he said.

Harris cited that the fourth through sixth graders might be given iPad Minis, the seventh through eighth graders, Androids, and younger grades will either have their own iPads or have classroom iPads.

He related that Chatfield Elementary teacher Kristi Cook has completed technology integration education and is willing to facilitate the integration. He added that teachers in grades four through eight may have professional development and technology training throughout the summer so that they are prepared for the coming school year.

"The initial cost is approximately $128,000, and it will be $10,000 each year after for maintenance," Harris explained. "The plan is not just dumping a load of iPads in classrooms and expecting them to work like magic, but it will be about how well they're used. I'm asking for your soft approval to continue working on the integration and to consider adding a 1.5 full time equivalent position to backfill for Kristi."

Board member Matt McMahon stated, "We can't fall behind. We should support this."

Chairman Jerry Chase concurred, "We should keep pace with other districts." Harris will continue to coordinate with the technology work group and report back to the board.

Principal reports

Chatfield Elementary Principal Craig Ihrke reported that "NWEA tests are in full swing" and that Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments will begin soon, now online instead of on paper.

The Action 100 reading curriculum has proven its worth, according to Irhke and teacher on special assignment Elissa Johnsrud, who pointed out that students have shown 1.6 years of average growth in reading and that 87 percent are reading at grade level.

Ihrke also relayed that the elementary school will have an emergency drill on April 29, complete with fire and ambulance personnel, affording the students the chance to see what happens in case of a real emergency and the emergency personnel a chance to work onsite with students participating in a drill.

High school Principal Randy Paulson's report consisted of congratulating his students.

"I'd like to celebrate our academic all-stars," he said, 'because the Knowledge Bowl team got 12th at state and brought home the Heritage Award for good sportsmanship, the state science fair participants brought home several awards, there are 14 History Day students going to state, the band and choir each got superior ratings, Marissa Hanson will be touring six countries in Europe in 2014 as a Minnesota Ambassador of Music, and the speech team has three members going to state - Gabby Bouska, Levi Cole and Kayla Nelson. I'd like to thank the senior class for doing such an excellent job on their class trip, and also, I appreciate my wife's help and Tom and Sara Duxbury's help in chaperoning."

Other business

In other business, the board handled the following issues.

• The board approved purchasing educational services from the Hiawatha Valley Education District.

• Stacey Hogberg and Blake Jansen were appointed as advisers of the high school pep club.

• The board voted not to renew the contracts of probationary teachers Mary Catherine Johnson and Rachel Erz, and accepted the resignation of ECFE teacher Kristi Swisher.

• Due to an increased number of snow days this spring, the scheduled May 17 early out has been canceled, as was the April 19 early out.

• The next regular meeting of the Chatfield School Board is slated for Monday, May 20, at 7 p.m. in the Chatfield High School media center. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, log onto the Chatfield district website at www.chatfield.k12.mn.us