Former board member returns to fill Mabel-Canton vacancy

By : 
Barb Kerns

The vacancy created by the resignation of Liz Hershberger was addressed at the Tuesday, May 21, meeting of the Mabel-Canton School Board.

One application had been received for the vacancy and the applicant had met with Superintendent Gary Kuphal and the board chair prior to the regular meeting. Kuphal reported that this application had subsequently been withdrawn and since there was no additional interest, the possibility of securing a prior member to serve the remainder of the term until the November election was again discussed.

Kuphal stated former board member Chris Loppnow had been contacted regarding the vacancy and had agreed to accept the board appointment if it was approved. Loppnow had not sought re-election in November 2018.

After this discussion, the appointment of Loppnow was approved. Loppnow will be eligible to participate in board matters 30 days after the appointment.

Solar power presentation

Brok Johnson, from Novel Energy Solutions, presented a power point on the background of the company and merits of solar power as well as potential benefits to the district. For non-taxable entities, the power is purchased from the company with a reduced cost to the district.

Johnson stated the system would still be operational for a span of 25 years and projected a usage estimate of a 25% savings over the cost of utility company rates, initially estimated to be $5,411 for the first year, based upon current costs.

An additional benefit includes the positive impact of solar power on the environment through the reduction of harmful emissions.

The proposed location of the system would be on the rooftops of the existing building. Since the company owns the equipment, any damage costs and insurance coverage would be carried by Novel.

Johnson also stated other districts in the area have taken advantage of the solar program with Novel Energy, with the closest located in Winona and Hayfield. Novel also provides educational presentations in the classrooms regarding solar power.

There was no action taken on this presentation as it was informational only.

Reports

Lana Hollar, Mabel-Canton school counselor, presented information regarding the use of funds received from the $300 Lions Club Grant.

Hollar stated grades K-6 have been using the community safety workbooks and a bike safety rodeo was held in collaboration with Fillmore County Public Health as well as Cougar Mentors. Thanks were expressed to the Lions for their generosity in funding this ongoing effort.

Other school events outlined by Hollar included the National Honor Society induction, held in conjunction with scholarship night, the sixth and seventh grade transition day to be held on Wednesday, May 22, and a presentation by Brenda Pohlman from Fillmore County Public Health. Pohlman will be presenting a program on the dangers of vaping.

Preliminary promotional videos designed by Paul Tollefsrud's digital design class were presented to the board for review. Suggestions were made as to improvements to both the elementary and high school presentations.

Consent agenda

Consent agenda items presented included monetary donations from the Mabel-Canton Booster Club of $300 for six new baseball helmets; from family and friends of Mel Ruehmann of $500 for the benefit of the band program; from Mabel Sportsmen’s Club of $400 for arrows for physical education class and from the Mabel Fire Department for $200 for cheerleaders for completing the ditch clean-up.

Also presented were resignations of Tiffanie Goad as special education paraprofessional, Dave Inglett as custodian and Claire Thompson as choir director. Family and medical leave was approved for Nichole Halverson, paraprofessional, from the present through Sept. 30.

Approvals were given with thanks to the community for their generosity and to the departing staff for their service to the district.

Principal’s report

Principal Michelle Weidemann expressed thanks to Hollar for her efforts organizing National Honor Society and Scholarship Night and also to the area churches for their assistance with baccalaureate.

Weidemann also reported on the Mabel Telephone Company’s grant application for $8,200 for additional laptops and $2,800 for smart technology for classrooms. The board expressed its appreciation to the cooperative for its ongoing school support.

The principal reported summer school opportunities for credit recovery are scheduled and wished good luck to all sports teams still participating in the end-of-season games and matches. Congratulations was voiced to the track team on its successful showing at the True Team State Meet.

Weidemann also reported the summer SAC (school age childcare) program survey results have been finalized. The initial response of 11 students interested dropped to two students registering, so the program will not be continued into the summer.

Superintendent’s report

Kuphal noted that a strategic planning meeting was scheduled for May 22 with three board members, administration members Weidemann, Kuphal and several staff members to be present.

This meeting will serve as a basis for establishing district goals for the next five years.

Superintendent Kuphal stated he had met informally with Jim Westby regarding a possible Legion fundraiser for a new gym floor as a part of their discussion.

Kuphal also stated preliminary staff negotiations are in process with increases for all staff anticipated.

Teachers on Call

As a follow-up to the April meeting item, a Teachers on Call report from district secretary Heather Kleiboer was presented. Kleiboer reported she and other school secretaries in other districts had positive feelings about the program. Kuphal also reported updated information was sent to the district’s current substitutes regarding the planned changes in the substitute scheduling process.

Food service contract

A one-year renewal of the Taher Food Service contract reflecting a $7,500 increase of 4.46% was discussed. There was some discussion as to cost of meals regarding pricing of entrees. It was explained this charge reflects reimbursement.

Also in question is the history of increases and any potential action that can be taken to keep costs down. The transition to the contracted service many years ago was touched upon to explain the reasoning behind the change.

This was discussion only; the contract renewal was tabled for superintendent follow-up with Taher.

The price increases for school lunch items were approved after discussion as a separate item. Some items were increased by a dime, others by a nickel. It was noted that kindergarten milk increased by $15 for the year, but this is a reimbursable cost.

Other business

The standard contract with Fillmore Central regarding the wrestling program was approved to allow for any interested student participation.

The board approved advertising for a full-time summer custodian.

Advertising for a .2 FTE art position presented at the April meeting as well as a 1.0 FTE fifth through eighth grade science position was approved.

Extended technology time for Paul Tollefsrud, up to 40 hours, for summer updates was also approved.

Superintendent Kuphal requested a 2% salary increase plus a $1,000 additional contribution to the superintendent's 403B retirement fund for the upcoming year. This increase was approved.

Capital facilities projects were explained, with a cost of $28,534 for operating capital and $54,645 for long-term facilities maintenance. The maintenance items were reviewed and approved for items with known costs. There will be follow-up on items needing attention with unknown costs.

The July regular board meeting was discussed due to Kuphal's planned absence. It was tabled until June to determine if rescheduling is necessary.

Calendar items included noting the last day of school is May 30 with a 12:15 p.m. dismissal. The next school board meeting will be held on June 18 at 6 p.m.