Kingsland Board reviews student accounts, lunch prices during workshop

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy
Spring Valley Tribune

Kingsland’s School Board held its May workshop Monday, May 7, discussing various items of importance, including the potential establishment of student accounts, how much to increase the cost of lunches, whether to replace kitchen appliances and equipment, and how important it is to retain a school social worker’s services.

Kingsland Activities Director John Dols informed the board during his report that he has been working to overhaul the items that students have been selling as fundraising merchandise, finding that residents are more likely to buy water bottles or foldup bleacher seats than a bag of beef jerky because they’re able to reuse the bottles and bleacher seats for which they paid $20. 

Board member Jackie Horsman had pointed out at a previous meeting that some area school districts set up a student account to accrue funds for students to use when going on overnight class trips such as to Washington, D.C., or Disney World, as do Chatfield’s students. 

“Most start contributing to their accounts in seventh grade,” she said.

Kingsland Interim Superintendent and High School Principal Jim Hecimovich said Chatfield has set an annual senior class trip that has the same cost every year – about $1,300.  Kingsland students have gone to Chicago, Mall of America and Costa Rica for various trips that aren’t on a regular basis. 

“I talked with Chatfield’s principal, Randy Paulson, and he says that their student accounts are a hybrid — they don’t allow students to get by without doing something,” said Hecimovich. “They’re expected to fundraise if they can’t contribute and want to go on the trips.  What if we had a hybrid for athletics?  That would allow parents to write a check so their kids don’t have to fundraise.”

Board member Heather Betts questioned, “When they graduate, do they get their money back?” 

Kingsland business manager Amber Uhlenhake-Herbrand informed her that legally, that student’s travel fund has to be closed when they graduate, as opposed to years past when the money was pooled to fund class reunions. 

Horsman commented that she’d witnessed “parent sticker shock” from parents that approached her with concerns and complaints about the cost of school trips and she hoped to find a way to mitigate their sticker shock.  “It’s been longstanding in Chatfield, where I grew up, that every year, we were going somewhere,” she said.

“Maybe we have to lock in one trip,” Hecimovich remarked. “We’re not there yet with class fees, and we don’t have locked-in class trips yet.  Athletically, I think each sport could decide they want to fundraise or donate.” 

Board member Ann Oeltjen suggested they could start out with athletics.

“We need to get better at regulating what athletics spends the money on,” Dols stated. “By August, I’d like to have all the coaches bring me a list of what they want funds for and I’ll bring it to you at the August board meeting.” 

Board member Tiffany Mundfrom, who has in the past expressed her frustration with having her children fundraising due to the frequency, said, “If people know what we want to buy, they’re more likely to buy from the fundraisers.”   

Budget outline

Uhlenhake-Herbrand gave an outline of the projected 2019 fiscal year budget, noting that there are approximately 562 students enrolled for the coming year, but that the district is unable to ascertain how accurate that number is because of the alternative learning center (ALC) operated by the Southern Minnesota Education Consortium (SMEC) being relocated from the former Kingsland Intermediate School in Wykoff following the closure of the Wykoff building. 

Lunch prices debated

Additionally, she related, as had Hecimovich while reviewing lunch accounts earlier in the workshop, that the district’s lunch balances are within $300 of being paid.  The district has to determine whether it will return a form to the government that will detail its intention to raise lunch prices and how much, if it does. 

Uhlenhake-Herbrand said that the minimum amount that the district would have to raise prices is 10 cents, even if its prices are behind by more than that.  The question, therefore, would be whether to raise prices up to meet the full amount or to remain at the minimum dime increase.  The district has made an effort to encourage anyone who might be eligible for free or reduced lunch rates to apply, as it shows the state and federal governments that there is need in the district, a need that translates into greater funding for Title I programming.

“The most important thing is that kids get to eat, because for some, this is the only two meals they get each day, breakfast and lunch at school,” Horsman interjected.

Hecimovich reported the district is at about 30 percent free and reduced, and “most, if they’re not eating, it’s by choice, because the ones who choose not to eat (regular lunch menu) have money for a la carte.”  

Conversation turned toward whether the district can replace kitchen equipment, as Dols, who also serves as the district’s building and grounds director, outlined that some of the kitchen equipment is nearly 10 years old and is either in need of replacement or repair. 

Betts asked whether there was still usable kitchen equipment in the Wykoff building.

Dols and Hecimovich answered that that equipment is aged even further beyond that at the Spring Valley site.  Some of it still uses pilot lights instead of electronic ignition, posing gas risks. The two said they felt that more information is needed on the cost of equipment. 

That would mean increased taxes for district residents, and Horsman, while acknowledging that the district must maintain safe and functional facilities, questioned, “How do we know the replacement costs?  Why put that on our families if it’s not necessary.  I don’t want to see an increase in lunch costs cause our unpaid accounts to go up.” 

Board chairman Doug Plaehn asked, “Are we going to start replacing, or are we going to wait until things start breaking to replace them?  Or are we going to get things on a replacement cycle like we have our athletic uniforms?  We need to have that replacement cycle.”

The board came to no conclusion regarding lunch prices or kitchen equipment.

Social worker need

Kingsland Elementary Principal Scott Klavetter told the board how indispensable having a school social worker is to his role as principal.  He addressed the impending retirement of social worker Kay Haugerud, which he noted will leave a vacancy in the department and a loss of years of experience handling students’ mental health needs. 

Haugerud briefly served as a teacher on special assignment administrating at the intermediate school in Wykoff, and fellow social worker Ann Halloran also served in that capacity before the district returned to having two principals.  However, Halloran was placed on unrequested leave of absence as the district rearranged its administrative positions, and the district has since given her the opportunity to return if she should choose. 

Klavetter commented that the district has kept Haugerud busy over the past months.  “We definitely need somebody in there,” he said. “I strongly advocate that we keep a social worker.  We need them for students’ mental health.” 

Wykoff building contents

Decommissioning of the Wykoff building earlier this year means that there is surplus furniture and equipment, and Dols inquired of the board as to how to go about deciding what must be sold or disposed of if the district proceeds with holding a garage sale.  He asked that the board notify him of its decision before he begins cleaning buildings for the coming school year so that a date for the sale can be set and he can determine how to approach the summer cleaning schedule. 

His plans for the Spring Valley site include cleaning the basement of the 1957 building first, then working on the elementary hallway, sealing and filling the parking lot, retrofitting showers in the locker rooms and other repairs. 

Artwork, staffing

Hecimovich commended students whose artwork had been entered in a Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) art competition, showing the board slides of the students holding their award certificates, as art instructor Linda Wangsness has encouraged students to explore their artistic abilities further.     

Staffing changes to be discussed further during the regular meeting include the resignations of special education paraprofessional Connie Morger, drama club advisor, one-act and spring play director Megan Hammon and seventh through ninth grade math teacher Erin Kappers, as well as the hiring of varsity football coach Brent Stinson, varsity girls’ basketball coach Steve Hauser and varsity boys’ basketball coach John Fenske.  Official approval of the staffing changes will be made during the meeting.    

The regular board meeting is set for Monday, May 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland choir room, and a meeting to canvass the recent facility referendum was slated for today, May 16, at 5:45 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, log onto the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us, or call the district office at 507-346-7276.