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Paynesville Press - August 17, 2005

School board approves hiring of another elementary school teacher

By Melissa Andrie

The Paynesville School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

*The board heard from teacher Rick Houske, during public comment, about his displeasure and disagreement with his non-rehiring by administration as a boys' basketball coach for 2005-06. Houske gave packets - including, he said, e-mails, documentation of phone calls and conversations, and letters of support from parents and players - to the board members and addressed the board for 30 minutes.

Houske told the board that he was thereŠto clear up "lies" and "misconceptions" from his non-rehiringŠbecause he was told to follow the chain of command if he did not agree with the decision and he still does notŠand because he shared a promise with a group of sixth grade boys five years ago that neither would quit.

He cited differences he has with the other varsity boys' basketball coaches, including what he considers their lack of relationships with parents and players, and urged the board to consider reversing the decision about his non-rehiring. He asked that the opinions of players and parents not be disregarded and warned the board that he had been advised to pursue legal action.

The board informed Houske that the matter involved personnel issues and might need to be addressed in a closed session and that Houske would be contacted by someone.

*The board approved hiring Connie Ludwig as a kindergarten teacher for the 2005-06 school year. The board had previously approved to hire another elementary school teacher if the state legislature approved at least a 2.5 percent increase in funds. A four percent increase was passed, so Ludwig was hired. Rachel Nelson and Leah Pfeifer will now both teach a kindergarten/first grade multi-age classroom in 2005-06.

*The board approved in concept an additional easement for the Lake Koronis Recreational Trail, with a final plan and written easement to be presented to the board at a later date. Trail consultant/city council member Jeff Bertram and Mayor Jeff Thompson informed the board that the trail planning group would like to put a section of the trail along the north side of John Janotta Road - the road from Burr Street to the high school parking lot along the north side of the softball fields - to avoid Highway 55.

Two trail routes were presented to the board, with both following this route before going north along the eastern edge of the practice football field. The preferred route then turns west and follows the south side of the armory, the east side of Highway 55, and crosses that highway to go west on the south side of Main Street. The other route continues north along the school access road on the east side of the armory, turning left on the south side of Main Street and following Main Street past the armory.

Both plans call for a 7.5-foot boulevard along Burr Street next to the eight-foot bituminous trail, leaving two feet between the trail and the fence containing the athletic facilities.

Janotta Road would be widened along the Kotten property, with no boulevard between the road and the trail, while a five-foot boulevard would be created along the Janssen property. A five-foot boulevard is also planned along the east end of the practice football field.

Concerns discussed by the board included problems that may arise at the intersection of the high school parking lot and Janotta Road. That intersection is currently a three-way stop. Bertram responded to the concern, saying that - though the committee is open to suggestions - crossing roads where stop signs are placed is preferred. Another potential problem is losing length on the high school practice field, which may then become too short for some activities. Bertram reiterated that the plan is not yet firm, and other ideas will be considered.

The school will continue to maintain the land along the trail route, while the city and township will share responsibility for the trail and its upkeep.

*The board approved handbooks for elementary, middle, and high school students and parents. Faculty handbooks for all three schools were also approved, along with a middle and high school faculty policies handbook.

Changes noted in the elementary school handbook for students and parents included a revision of the calendar format, with a notice that the calendar may change. The monthly newsletter and school website should be checked for updates.

Lorie Floura, the new 6-12 principal, was not involved in the handbook revision process this year, but she did note some changes in the student and parent handbooks. The cell phone policy guidelines call for them to be set to silent ring and for "extreme care" to be taken with them. They are forbidden in restrooms and lockerrooms. Notification was also included that students taking college coursework are responsible to get their transcript to the high school office and to other colleges.

Two changes Floura mentioned in the faculty handbook included a notice that parking stickers will be given to faculty free of charge and will need to be displayed. Secondly, the Minnesota State High School League policy for chemical use will be used for all extracurricular activities, not just for athletic events. (This is currently in the handbook as a guideline and will be brought back to the board for a second reading and consideration as policy at a later date.)

For next year, Floura intends to revise the cell phone policy again, as well as requiring high school teachers to prepare a syllabus for each class and send midquarter reports to all students having a D or an F.

*The board heard from Floura regarding changes made in the work permit guidelines. Now, students receiving a grade below a D in one quarter or missing 12 or more days in a semester could have a work permit revoked.

Board members noted that one part of the previous guidelines may not have been implemented well. It stipulates that students who are absent from school may not work under a work permit that day, and Floura said that this will now be enforced.

These guidelines will be given to students applying for work permits and will be brought back before the board later for approval as policy. Floura would also like to create a curriculum and change the program to have a work study focus rather than mostly work release. Under the current program, most participating students leave school for work but do not earn credit for the work or reflect on it as a learning experience, which they would do under a work study program, said Floura.

*The board approved a policy for the investment of district funds that gives the superintendent responsibility for investment of all surplus funds. Three considerations for investment are listed in the policy: safety and security; liquidity; and return and yield. Under the policy, funds not set aside for construction work, set aside for specific projects, or meant for long-term financial flexibility are considered short term funds. A diverse use of funds, especially of long-term funds, is required. Additionally, a competitive process will be used to select all investments.

*The board approved an agreement with Paynesville Motor and Transfer for transportation during this school year and the next. A three percent increase on the contract, a change in the fuel clause (from $1.25 to $1.50), a change in cost per mile for special trips ($1 to $1.25), and a change in the hourly wages for drivers ($9.50 to $10.25) were all included in the contract.

*The board approved a revision to the adult breakfast and lunch prices and the price for a complete second meal for the 2005-06 school year. The Department of Education's food service division has set minimum amounts that schools can charge, and the school would have forfeited state reimbursement without increasing the prices. Adult breakfast prices went up 5˘, to $1.30, and adult lunch prices increased 10˘, to $2.60. The cost for a student to get a complete second meal is now $2.60 instead of $1.60 as previously.

*The board approved food service bids for dairy and bakery providers. Two bids were taken in for the dairy products, and Kemps - which received the bid - was lower, at $90,857.50. The bid by Food Service was $108,585.50.

There were also two bakery bids. Pan-O-Gold, which was also used last year, bid $12,133.50 and was approved. A bid of $13,534.55 was submitted by Sara Lee.

*The board approved assigning sixth classes to Bill Brinkman and Phil Carlson for both semesters of the 2005-06 school year. These classes must be filled because Murray Rafferty is not being replaced in the math department.

*The board approved the following non-athletic assignments for the 2005-06 school year: high school student council - Diane Seegers/ Jackie Campbell; middle school student council - Dawn Knoll/Dave Mutschelknaus; special education department chair - Sue Currens; middle school and high school instrumental music and jazz band - Ken Vork; middle school and high school vocal music and pops choir - Cheryl Bungum; middle school and high school three-act play - Vork/ Jane Leitzman; one-act play - Joan Nevitt; high school speech - Nevitt; middle school speech - Leitzman; FFA - Natalie Todnem; FLA - Karen Odberg; VICA - Michael Guenther; yearbook - Jackie Parsley; school patrol - Bill Virant; magazine sales - Brenda Whitcomb; and computer coordinators - Chad Campbell (elementary school); Todd Spanier (middle school); and Bill Brinkman (high school). Two non-athletic positions (prom advisor and prom banquet) are still being filled.

*The board approved the following athletic assignments for the 2005-06 school year: football - Chris Theis, assistant coach; Josh Kuenzel, junior high coach.

*The board approved an increase in the hourly rate for fitness center employees. It is now $8.25 per hour after staying at $8 per hour the past three years. The center is still within its budgeted amount for wages.

*The board approved Tricia Buggs as coordinator for the Early Childhood Family Education and Women, Infants, and Children programs for the 2005-06 school year.

*The board approved hiring Wanda Haase as a special education paraprofessional and hiring Julie Smith as a title papaprofessional for the 2005-06 school year.

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