Kingsland may have its own early childhood special education program

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Southern Minnesota Education Consortium representatives Dan Armagost and Denise Kennedy speak to the Kingsland School Board about establishing programs in the Kingsland district.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Kingsland’s School Board entertained visitors during the Monday, April 1, board workshop, welcoming Dan Armagost and Denise Kennedy from the Southern Minnesota Education Consortium (SMEC) to the meeting table to tell about the district’s opportunity to have its own early childhood special education (ECSE) programming supported by SMEC.

The pair introduced the First Step ECSE program that serves children who are emotionally, physically or developmentally delayed, explaining that preschoolers who are in the program often are referred to it through preschool screening.

“It’s kids who are severely delayed emotionally, physically or have cognitive delays,” Kennedy said. “A lot of these kids are referred to our Level 3 programs for students who need speech or occupational therapy. You’re going to have a special education teacher and a para. We’ve been serving a lot of Kingsland kids, to the point where you can support your own program.”

“You had a lot of kids going to Southland, and that was a lot of revenue leaving Kingsland,” Armagost remarked. “The number of students going to Southland can come back here, and Southland can go back to having a Level 3 program part-time…our goal is always to have students come back to their resident districts.”

Kingsland Superintendent Jim Hecimovich observed that the district pays a membership fee to SMEC, but that with the return of its students to a program that operates within the district’s borders, Kingsland will not have to pay as much for services.

Before the pair departed, Armagost updated the board on the construction of SMEC’s new facility near Rose Creek and about how SMEC will be raising its own revenue once that facility is completed.

Crisis management

Hecimovich then turned the topic toward the development of a crisis management team to handle problems that arise during the day that require more than just sending a student to the office.

“We need to clearly identify who’s available in an emergency, like when a fourth grader runs away from school – who can drop everything to help,” he said.

Hecimovich cited that that team might include principals, teachers, paraprofessionals, the building and grounds director and other individuals, and that the district is still working on the matter.

Personnel changes

Personnel issues came up next, as the workshop’s consent agenda included the upcoming resignations of retiring kindergarten teacher Denise Erichsen and of preschool paraprofessional and school age child care (SACC) assistant Ronda Andersen and preschool teacher and SACC assistant Klarissa Schoppers. Board member Leah Stier commented on the turnover, especially on how the preschool’s staff has resigned.

“There have been a lot of people leaving. What’s with that?” she asked.

Hecimovich and board Chairperson Jackie Horsman informed Stier that Schoppers is moving away and getting married, so congratulations are in order, but that they understood Stier’s concern that parents met Schoppers during a recent preschool open house and might have been given the impression that she would remain in the district’s employ.

Horsman stated that conflicts between preschool staff and SMEC have apparently caused discord on both sides and that it is attributed to lack of communication.

Facility repairs

Building and grounds director John Dols reported that his crew has relocated items stored or used in the basement and that he needed all available hands from Knutson Construction to assist with preparing for the asbestos abatement project that is set to begin this month. The Title I program has been moved upstairs, and students have been settled into their temporary space for the rest of the school year.

Hecimovich said that he would lead the effort to provide a grounds and building map for parents and staff to navigate the construction as it launches and is the cause of an early end to the 2018-2019 school year.

“We will get a map out to parents and staff to show what will be available, and there will be some changes and signage up,” he said. “The bus loop will be closed, but there will be no major issues.”

Staff reductions

Administrative reductions came up because the district is working to keep its finances in order, and presently, there is a bubble of students graduating through fifth grade into sixth that has created the need for three sections.

Kingsland Elementary Principal Scott Klavetter and Hecimovich elaborated on the situation, relating that the district is looking specifically at the current fifth grade class and whether to reduce those three sections to two as they proceed to sixth grade or to maintain the teaching staff for them to be taught in three classrooms in sixth grade, taking into account that once the students leave the elementary wing to become seventh graders, a third section will not be necessary.

The administrators commented that they felt that if the district hires to fill a teaching position for a third section, it must be made clear to the applicants that it is a one-year position, but the question persisted as to how many people would commit to a one-year contract and whether the district could attract the best possible candidates under those conditions.

A recommendation was made to move forward with two sections of sixth grade because of it making sense academically.

Tenure recommendations also garnered some attention during the work session, and at least three teaching staff members are being recommended for tenure, with a fourth being reviewed.

The April regular School Board meeting is slated for Monday, April 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the Kingsland choir room. The public is welcome to attend. For more information, log onto the Kingsland website at, or call the district office at 507-346-7276.