Kingsland Board discusses elementary art possibility, operating levy referendum

By : 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Spring Valley Tribune

Kingsland’s School Board had plenty of pre-Independence Day business to handle during the July 3 board workshop, beginning with the matter of how to shape its elementary school science and art departments after learning that Project Lead the Way (PLTW) instructor John Schulz had submitted his resignation.

Kingsland Superintendent and High School Principal Jim Hecimovich and Kingsland Elementary School Principal Scott Klavetter broached the subject at the workshop’s opening. 

“There’s a lot of redundancy in the sixth grade science and PLTW…if you’re going to keep PLTW, we should look at scaling back our science,” said Klavetter. “There’s been some interest from some teachers in putting in some kind of art classes.” 

Board member Tiffany Mundfrom registered, “That’s one of the things I get asked about — ‘Why don’t we bring in some kind of art cart once a month?’” 

“It’s now STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math, versus STEAM, or science, technology, engineering, art and math,” said Klavetter. “I see a lot of redundancy, and we ought to look at scaling back our science or PLTW.” 

Hecimovich pointed out that to replace Schulz or find a general education teacher who can be trained in PLTW will be rushed since there’s only six-and-a-half weeks until kids are back in school. 

Klavetter suggested it might be easier to find an art teacher than a PLTW teacher. 

“How common is art in in the elementary?” board member Leah Stier asked. “I look at what my first-grader learned in PLTW that he’s not going to learn in art….” 

Mundfrom interjected, “Art develops other things.” 

Hecimovich noted the district could hire someone for art and put that person through PLTW training. 

Klavetter agreed that that could be a possibility and that if the district were to do so, the candidate would be asked to commit to the district for a certain number of years to make a return on the taxpayers’ investment. 

Teachers’ passion for teaching their classes — or how invested they are in what they do in relation to the things they’re required to do in the classroom — came up, and board member Jackie Horsman remarked, “Either way, there’s redundancy, and this is something that we need to take a look at because of class time…for students.” 

Klavetter, Hecimovich and the board chose to further investigate what the district’s needs are and pursue a solution before the beginning of the school year. 

Operating levy

The district’s operating levy is still up for discussion even though the facility referendum for a new gymnasium held May 8 did not pass. 

First, board members visited the list of items that are underway that do not require taxpayer approval, such as indoor air quality (IAQ) projects, in relation to the state’s requirement for the district to submit a 10-year long term facility maintenance (LTFM) plan and the budget associated with that.

Then they discussed the proposal to revoke and replace the current operating levy of $427.82 per pupil that was accepted by voters in 2010.  Hecimovich showed the board members a slide that listed the operating levies of each of the 330 districts in Minnesota, illustrating that Kingsland’s operating levy amount stands at number 193 out of those districts — some districts gather as much as $1,100 or more per pupil. 

Board chairman Doug Plaehn directed the board’s attention to the $427.82, citing that the district has never actually received the full potential of the current operating levy because of declining enrollment. 

Board member Heather Betts inquired as to how much longer the district could hang on without being declared in statutory operating debt, and the answer she received was that it won’t be long. 

Hecimovich observed that Aug. 24 is the last day that the district is allowed to file for a new operating levy referendum to be held during the Nov. 6 general election. 

Wykoff proposal

Wykoff City Council member Richard Gleason, acting and speaking on his own behalf because the City Council had not yet discussed the matters he was bringing up at the School Board workshop, had a new proposal for the board for the sale of the former Kingsland Intermediate School (KIS) in Wykoff, which was decommissioned by the School Board last June. He told the board a Wykoff group would like the City of Wykoff to purchase the school for redevelopment.

The district and the city have been in negotiations regarding whether Wykoff could acquire the building and/or its grounds.  Previously, the Wykoff City Council negated the acquisition of the building itself based on the projected costs of maintaining the building but expressed interest in the playground and the baseball field that are part of the property. 

He shared with the board that he had been approached by a group of Wykoff residents who have suggested that Wykoff be given first option for the sale of the building so that it can be developed into a community asset by the group. 

Gleason’s noted that the group might be “late bloomers,” but he appreciated it came up with an idea for an effort to redevelop the building. Gleason informed the board that the group is “looking at a transfer” of the building if anything.

The board concluded that it wants to sell the KIS building before winter to be spared the expense of heating it, therefore the board doesn’t want to hold onto it while the group uses a three-month extension to seek a developer, and also does not want another school entity to buy it and pose competition to the local public education system.  Additionally, reaching a conclusion regarding how to parcel out the property — including the structure, the bus garage, playground and ballfield — garnered debate because a purchase agreement must be drawn up by the district’s attorney to allow anyone to proceed. 

Hecimovich stated that he would contact the attorney for details on what can be sold as is, such as the building with its mercury-based gymnasium floor and the bus garage with its history of vehicles being repaired there, and to outline a purchase agreement for the property. 

The board reached the conclusion that the Wykoff’s council could still bid for the building if it so chooses, and that a contribution of surveying the property’s boundaries should the district decide to donate the playground and ballfield to the city would be reasonable and appropriate. 

Hecimovich spoke about the playground and ballfield when he said that he would contact the attorney for an agreement on the parcels. 

School trophies

Wykoff and Spring Valley high school trophies came up because Horsman shared that she had encountered individuals in Wykoff who were concerned that Wykat trophies were to be destroyed.  She requested that the board consider taking action to preserve the remaining Wykoff Wykat and Spring Valley Wolves trophies in a case onsite at the high school to show that the districts had their own history but are now part of one family. 

The Spring Valley Historical Society has some of the Spring Valley High School memorabilia, but it was found that quite a few trophies were sold to an individual quite some time ago.  Hecimovich posited that the school’s shop class could build a trophy case for any trophies that could be rounded up from each town, and the board expressed its approval of the idea.                

Substitute teachers

Substitute pay garnered some extra attention, as the district has been using a substitute location service, Teachers on Call, to find qualified substitutes to work in classrooms when staff is unable to be in school or is on vacation.

Hecimvich noted that the district belongs to Teachers on Call, which finds substitute teachers and charges the district $25 on top of the wages paid, which comes to a total of $126.50.  If the district were to increase the substitute pay to $125, it would still have to pay Teachers on Call, he added.

“We have had parents with degrees sign up — you have to have a four-year degree and a license.  If we could build the local pool, we could get away from using Teachers on Call,” Hecimovich told the board.

“There are pros and cons to using that service,” added Klavetter. “When the system doesn’t find anybody, it doesn’t find anybody.” 

Hecimovich cited that if the district could round up a pool of 10 to 15 substitute teachers, the possibility exists that it could step away from using Teachers on Call. 

A board member suggested that if the district were to set up a booth at the annual meet-the-teacher conferences to inform parents of the requirements of being a substitute, the district might fare well in meeting new candidates and be better able to pay those who agree to be available.

Other business

In new business, the board reviewed designations and rates for the coming fiscal year, including board member compensation — which will remain the same, as will the 36-cents-per-mile mileage reimbursement rate.  The Tribune will continue to be the district’s official newspaper; Security State Bank, Home Federal and the Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund Plus will be the official depositories; preschool and school-age childcare (SACC) fees will likely go unchanged, and the district is considering the matter of 2018-2019 facility rental fees because of the infrequency of such event.  Principal and superintendent contracts are also being considered. 

Consent agenda items included hearing staffing updates, such as the potential hire of Erik Bicknese to serve as junior varsity football and junior high boys’ basketball coach, and the impending resignation of Al Williams as varsity softball coach. 

The next Kingsland School Board regular meeting is Monday, July 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland choir room, and the next work session is set for Monday, Aug. 6, at 6 p.m. in the Kingsland Elementary School conference room.  The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, log onto the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us, or call 507-346-7276.