Administrators report to School Board on end-of-the year activities

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

The Chatfield School Board had a short agenda to handle during the Wednesday, May 1, meeting, even as the end of the 2018-2019 school year approaches.

The majority of conversation centered on reports, with Superintendent Ed Harris giving his updates to the board, after which the principals spoke about happenings in their respective buildings.

Harris began by addressing the matter of the School Board conducting a self-evaluation, something that had been brought up at previous meetings because the board’s members felt it should be done to determine strengths and weaknesses and help set goals.

“I called the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) to see what services are available,” Harris said. He related that the board may carry out a survey of itself in July.

Harris then went on to share about the plans to create new bus stops on either side of Highway 52 and add crossing guards at specific corners to eliminate some dangerous crossings for students who live along the highway or on streets just off the highway, which runs concurrent with Chatfield’s Main Street.

Finally, he spoke about the local literacy plan update that keeps the district in compliance with state literacy requirements that aspire to have all students reading at or above grade level by third grade. The board took action to approve the literacy plan later in the meeting.

Elementary Principal Shane McBroom reported that the students have been busy earning honors and recognition as of late, beginning with sixth grader Anna Bernau’s DARE poster winning top place in the state poster contest. “Anna did a phenomenal job, and was very well deserving,” he said.

Also, McBroom said Chatfield’s fifth graders went on their annual Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center field trip. “They did a really nice job, and some of them completed the ropes course,” he shared. “We had a number of really good chaperones.”

McBroom added that he greatly appreciates Chatfield Police Officer Kevin Landorf, who serves as the district’s DARE officer and also stops in at the school whenever he has a moment. He added, “I’d like to publicly recognize Officer Kevin Landorf, because in addition to teaching the DARE program, he comes up here at the beginning of the day to greet the students and welcome them to school, and he comes up to have lunch with them sometimes, too.”

High School Principal Randy Paulson outlined that the high school was planning a mock crash on Friday, May 3, to remind the ninth through 12th graders of the consequences of irresponsible or distracted driving. The mock crash is held every three years in advance of prom.

Paulson stated there are also numerous students in his building deserving of recognition – the Rube Goldberg team bringing home its second first-place national win, the FFA chapter earning kudos at the state convention, the Knowledge Bowl team taking on other top-ranking teams at the state Knowledge Bowl meet, and eighth graders Peyton and Sydney Ellis advancing to the state speech finals. He noted that two advisors also received honors – speech coach Rachel Schieffelbein was chosen as the Section 1A speech coach of the year, and FFA advisor Stacy Fritz was given an honorary FFA degree during the state FFA convention.

Personnel issues

In personnel matters not listed in the consent agenda, the board thanked longtime teacher and technology integrationist Kristy Cook for her service to the district as she departs for the Stewartville School District. Cook, who spent several years in a sixth grade classroom as a teacher, took the role of tech integrationist when the district chose to implement iPads and notebook computers, and her position has come to the end of its intended time period. Harris and the board wished her well.

Also, board members were pleased to be able to rescind the nonrenewal of two probationary teachers’ contracts, as changes to the situations of other teachers working in their respective grade levels affected their status. A vote was taken and passed to reinstate Kelsey Gwidt and Angela Fitzpatrick.

Next up was debate on whether to grant a leave of absence to math instructor Travis Bartels, and the board met that request with skepticism. Board member Matt McMahon explained that he would not be voting in favor of the action because he had understanding for situations such as maternity leave or when an instructor steps out to further their own education as a way of professional development, but he felt requests such as Bartels’s didn’t warrant the same treatment because Bartels apparently intended to explore another occupation.

McMahon maintained the same position he has held during other discussions about granting leave of absence to teaching staff – that it is difficult to find qualified replacements to fill the position for one year because of the short engagement.

“Either you want to be in education or go after a different career. I don’t think you can be half in or half out,” McMahon said.

Board Member Scott Backer remarked that while he had voted to allow several other staff members to pursue other endeavors, he would also be voting against the leave because it didn’t seem to align with the district’s needs.

“This is about what’s best for the kids,” Backer added.

The board then voted 5-1 against the leave, with member Katie Priebe voting for it.

Other business

The consent agenda included approving the renewal of the district’s foodservice contract with Taher for one year, approving the resignations of Title I instructor Julie Young, high school paraprofessional Nan Lesser and ALP teacher Zach Slowiak.

The board approved posting the positions for a high school paraprofessional, an ALP and social studies teacher, and a junior varsity dance coach.

Additionally, Brenda Nelson was hired for varsity dance, and summer school hires included Mitch Lee for grades seven through 12.

Chatfield’s School Board meeting is held the first Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Forum room. For more information, stop in at the district office in the high school on Union Street, or log onto the school website at