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Paynesville Press - November 19, 2003

School Board canvasses election results

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Monday, Nov. 10. The board met a day early because they cannot meet on Veteran's Day.

*The board received its annual audit report for its 2002-03 school year from Al Habben of Frieler, Habben, and Company.

The board also reviewed an updated statutory operating debt plan. The district initially made this plan in January 2002, when the district qualified as being in statutory operating debt, according to state criteria, and had to formulate a plan to rectify its financial position. The district was only in statutory operating debt for one year but has continued to follow its plan, which was updated to show using figures from the audit report.

*The board canvassed the results from the school board election on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Out of nearly 3,600 registered voters, 562 cast ballots, with incumbent Gretchen O'Fallon receiving 482 votes, Bonnie Strobbe receiving 458, Lowell Haagenson 220, write-in candidate Paul Bugbee 196, and Paul Thielen 126. There were another 21 write-in votes.

O'Fallon, Strobbe, and Haagenson will serve four-year terms on the school board starting in January 2004.

*The board approved a two-year contract agreement with the district teachers. The contract calls for a total increase of four percent for the 2003-04 school year and 3.25 percent for the 2004-05 school year.

The local teacher's union had already approved the new contract.

*The board listened to a recommendation from the high school staff, given by principal John Janotta, about new graduation standards. Currently, the ninth through 12th graders will need to follow the current requirements, which include 86 course credits (one per class per quarter) and 13 standards, which are embedded in the curriculum in required courses.

But, with the repeal of the Profile of Learning last year by the Legislature, new graduation requirements will apply to current eighth graders, the Class of 2008.

Janotta told the board that his staff recommended increasing the credit requirement to 90. This is aimed at keeping enrollment in elective classes that are not required. Under the current requirements, students can take six classes in ninth grade and then only have to take basically five classes per year their last three years. PAHS is low compared to other area schools for credit requirements, said Janotta.

Some required classes will change, too. An extra year of high school math will be required, which will primarily affect the basic math and technical math sequences, both of which will need to add another year and be sure to include aspects of algebra, geometry, and statistics and probability.

In social science, students currently take two years of American history but, under the new state requirements, must take a year of geography. Janotta said his staff has recommended teaching a year of American history to ninth graders and a year of geography to tenth graders. Semester electives in social science, now to be required by the state, include government (already required by PAHS), economics, and world history.

In addition, three years of high school science will be required, instead of the current 2.5 years.

The board will need to approve new graduation standards by the end of December so the student handbooks can be printed and staff can prepare for high school registration in early February.

*The board continued its discussion of reorganization. So far, the board has reached consensus that the sixth grade will stay at the middle school and that the district will try to reduce to two building principals (one K-5 principal who is also the curriculum coordinator and another 6-12 principal).

The district also plans to create a position of athletic director/dean of students to handle athletics and help with discipline cases in grades 6-12. The board indicated that they wanted to advertise this position.

The board also indicated that they support having the Title I teacher help with curriculum and staff development and indicated an interest in reinstating department chairs.

The board remains undecided about how to divide secretarial duties and whether to keep a secretary in the middle school office, where Community Education will likely move.

*The board reviewed a proposed policy for notifying staff about violent behavior by students. Such a policy is now required by law.

The district's proposed policy is based on a model policy provided by the Minnesota School Board Association. On one hand board members expressed understanding that staff needed to be informed about violent behavior, but they were concerned that the policy was pretty broad, including threats as well as actual violent behavior.

The board asked superintendent Howard Caldwell to have the policy reviewed by legal counsel and also to consult with other school districts about their policies.

*The board approved adjusting the contract for Don Skrypek, special education van driver, from 18 hours per week to 24 hours per week and gave Caldwell authority to make further changes in his hours this year, depending on district needs.

*The board approved a new seniority list for the district teaching staff.

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