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Paynesville Press - December 24, 2003

School Board sets 2004 levy

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 16. The board held their meeting in the afternoon at the middle school media center in order to meet with the student advisory councils from the middle and high school.

• The board approved its 2004 property tax levy of $1,259,405, which is $146,448 less than 2003, a reduction of 10 percent. (Read related story.)

• The board approved giving high school credits to students who take algebra as eighth graders.

The board had always intended for eighth grade algebra to count for content, meaning eighth graders who take algebra would not have to take algebra again in high school. The question was whether to count it as high school credits.

Currently, high school students have to complete 86 credits, including eight in math, at PAHS to graduate. Recently, the school board approved raising the credit requirement for graduation to 90, starting with this year's eighth grade class, the Class of 2008.

These eighth graders also will have to take 12 credits, or three years, of high school math, a new state mandate.

While all school districts are counting algebra taken in eighth grade for the content, some are giving high school credit and others are not. Both sides have good arguments. Some board members and some parents argued that since the algebra class is the same - whether taken in eighth or ninth grade - it was only fair to give eighth graders credit for completing it.

On the other hand, giving the math credit to eighth graders would allow them to take only two years of math in high school, instead of three, and would enable them to be done taking math by the end of their sophomore year. For students going to college, having a two-year break from their last high school math class to their first college math class might be too much.

The purpose of offering algebra to eighth graders was to challenge them and to keep them from being bored in a regular eighth grade math class. Everyone agreed that these students would most likely want to take more high school math classes anyway.

Board chairman Pat Flanders said he could see validity to the arguments on both sides but in the end he thought these students should be able to choose if they wanted to take more high school math classes or if they wanted to take other elective classes.

The board agreed on a compromise. Eighth grade students will get high school credit for taking algebra as eighth graders but they will still need to earn the same number of high school credits. That means, for this year's ninth graders, those that took algebra last year will only need four more math credits in high school but will still need to earn 86 credits in grades 9-12. For those who did not take algebra last year, they will still need eight math credits and 86 credits overall in grades 9-12.

For this year's eighth graders, those that take algebra will need eight math credits and 90 total in grades 9-12. Those that do not will need 12 math credits and 90 credits overall in grades 9-12.

• The board approved a three-year contract for Todd Burlingame to become the next superintendent. Superintendent Howard Caldwell is retiring at the end of June 2004, and Burlingame will take over starting in July.

• The board discussed items of concern with the middle and high school student advisory councils.

The middle school students raised only one issue: having a band concert during the school day on Friday, Dec. 19. This was done in order not to charge admission for the concert. (The school district charges admission for high school concerts but not middle school concerts.) Originally, both the middle school and high school bands were scheduled to have their concert together but the middle school concert was rescheduled. Since no suitable evening could be found, staff and administration dec

Several board members agreed with the students that middle school concerts should be held at night and not in the afternoon. Board member Tami Stanger said, that as a parent, she would rather pay to attend an evening concert than have to take vacation time to attend an afternoon concert.

The high school students raised several concerns: the use of school vans, participation fees, and having more college-credit classes.

In order to minimize costs for transportation, the school district has used its two vans as much as possible for athletics and extracurricular competition. (The alternative would be to reduce the number of away events to cut transportation costs.)

Currently, though, it does so based on the larger group getting the vans with smaller groups driving themselves with parents being reimbursed for their mileage. The students said that this method is not fair to some groups and that groups should take turns driving themselves, and the board agreed that driving should be shared.

The board also directed administration to make sure that coaches or advisors make sure that any parents that drive fill out a form to get their reimbursement.

The students also asked for more college-credit classes, which the board supports.

Finally, the high school students noted that the participation fees for sports - now $75 - make students unhappy about sitting on the bench and might cause lower participation numbers, they said.

While supporting equal playing time in junior high, by the time students get to varsity, the goal needs to be to try and win, the board noted. Local participation fees, while increasing in recent years, are still less than other area schools, the board added.

• High school principal John Janotta announced to the board that he would return next year. Janotta is eligible to retire, which had led to speculation that he would do so next year.

• Janotta reported that the blooddrive at the high school was a success for the second year. They collected 62 pints of blood this fall, exceeding their goal and attracting 49 new donors, which is the main purpose of holding blooddrives in high schools.

• The board approved the following assignments for the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) and School Readiness programs for the second semester: parent/child educator Becki Quade, 139 hours for ECFE and 208 hours for School Readiness; child educator Sarah Kruger, 200 hours for ECFE; instructional assistant Kris Lang, 87 hours for ECFE and 176 hours for school readiness; and instructional assistant Diane Gilk, 48 hours for ECFE.

• The board approved a part-time assignment for Kathy Olmscheid to provide an extended special needs program for a district student.

• The board approved its assurance of compliance with state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination for the 2003-04 school year.

• The district recognized outgoing board members Pat Flanders and Maurice Dosdall, who attended their last meetings. Flanders has served on the board since 1989, serving for nearly 15 years. Dosdall has served for 17 years total, including eight in this present stint. He also served three terms previously. New board members Lowell Haagenson and Bonnie Strobbe will replace Dosdall and Flanders starting in January.

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