Kingsland's school board had a special visitor during its April meeting held last Monday, April 15. Norm Hecimovich, Kingsland High School Principal James Hecimovich's father, presented the board and Kingsland Superintendent John McDonald with the Patriotic Employer Award from the United States Department of Defense.
The award recognizes that the district is a supporter of the National Guard and Army Reserve, as it has allowed the principal to take time away from his duties at the school during his tenure as an elementary principal and also now as a high school principal to serve his country. The elder Hecimovich filled his son's role as an elementary principal following the bombing of the Trade Center in 2001, and noted that "it was an honor and a privilege" to be able to work in the district and to present the award.
The board thanked the Kingsland First Robotics team, the TeKnights, for its demonstration of the team's robot before the school board meeting. McDonald shared that the board is "very proud of students, coaches, mentors and sponsors," and that the team did "a job well done." Other gratitude expressed included that for former Kingsland business manager Kathy Beevers' efforts, as the district once again received a school finance award for prudent financial decisions and bookkeeping, and for musher Cindy Gallea for sharing her Iditarod experience with Kingsland Middle School's fifth graders.
McDonald cited in his monthly report that the district is considering developing electronic textbooks for use in science classes, as the implementation of iPads has revolutionized interactive education. "Teachers might work as teams to develop the e-textbooks, and we've talked about also doing them for social studies in eighth, ninth and tenth grades," he told the board.
He added that the district is examining adding technical college credits to its College in the Schools (CIS) college courses to satisfy students who would like to pursue technical vocations.
Concerning finances, he noted that the state might allot funding for all day, every day kindergarten, easing the expenses of instructing the youngest students. "Any move in that direction is very good," he said. "The Senate is considering $130 million for kindergarten funding across the state."
Principals' updates came next, and Hecimovich related that "in a lot of schools, the students are interested in civil engineering and architecture classes" as part of Project Lead the Way (PLTW), and that while the district cannot offer these classes - which cover "landscaping to building design" - annually, the idea might be to offer them every other year. "We don't have enough teachers to teach every single course. And in art, we're still working with Riverland to build a CIS art program. There are a few things to iron out yet."
He went on to note that registration for the 2013-2014 school year is underway and that juniors and seniors are excited but somewhat fearful of taking college credit courses because they have heard from their classmates that the courses are hard or challenging. "We need to change the culture here, because the more the kids can do now, the better, rather than waiting to do this in college."
Lastly, he thanked the board for its support of his military service over the years.
Kingsland Elementary and Middle School Principal Chris Priebe spoke on Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) tests being offered online for the first time and how the staff and students might adjust to the change. "I hope there are no surprises," he stated, going on to point out that scheduling for the upcoming school year in both buildings is nearly complete.
Board members reviewed the proposal for purchasing an electronic message sign for the high school and elementary building. McDonald outlined that the original amount reserved for its purchase was $50,000 and that $11,700 in donations collected from various community sources have offset the reduced cost quoted by vendors, meaning that the district would have to post $29,000 in order for the purchase to happen. No action was taken, but the item will remain on the agenda, as vendors will still honor the quotes through the coming month.
FFA members reported that Valerie Earley and Dane Gillespie have been chosen as region officer and region assistant officer, respectively, that 33 members of the chapter will attend state convention and 10 teams will compete.
Kingsland Business Manager Todd Netzke updated the board on the district's budget, saying that "it's right in line, at 66 percent overall for the year, and the cash flow has improved."
Kingsland Elementary will soon own a wrestling mat, following a motion to purchase one to allow the district's continuation of the youth wrestling program in conjunction with Grand Meadow and LeRoy-Ostrander, as Grand Meadow's wrestling program has a mat that it has brought to meets but no longer wishes to transport, having requested that Kingsland buy one before the 2014-2015 school year and given that year's time to budget the estimated $10,000 for the mat.
Additionally, the board approved the formation of a high school winter dance line team at a cost of approximately $25,000, including coaching, uniforms, transportation, entry fees and supplies. McDonald related that the cost could be lower if the district chooses only one form of dance, limiting the number of uniforms needed.
Additionally, Kingsland's community education coordinator, Becky Bicknese, presented information regarding a summer youth soccer program in cooperation with the Rochester Family Y. "They provide equipment so kids can try soccer without much cost to the district. Several families from Kingsland travel to Stewartville to be a part of the program there, and it would be nice to keep those kids closer to home. We'd ask for parent volunteers, and it would be $45 per student, with $39 going to the Y and $6 to Community Education. We'd need 18 kids to practice and play."
Personnel matters included hiring Kathleen Harryman as a long term substitute social worker to carry out Ann Halloran's duties while she is on maternity leave, Kelly Simon as a part-time early childhood family education teacher, Becky Bicknese as a junior high volleyball coach, adding six days to district psychologist Julia Salzman's contract due to an unanticipated increase in her workload, accepting the retirements of Kingsland kindergarten teacher Marilyn Erdman and paraprofessional Shelly Cornell.
The next meeting of the Kingsland School Board of Directors is slated for Monday, May 20 at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland High School conference room.