Kingsland officials discuss proposed student Spanish trip


GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE Kingsland Spanish teacher Morgan Jacobson explains what students might experience on a trip to Spain if they go in 2021. Superintendent Jim Hecimovich listens while on his computer.
By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Kingsland School Board members met on the eve of the Nov. 5 property tax levy referendum Monday for the board’s monthly work session, hearing last-minute election concerns and reviewing the Spanish trip proposed for the summer of 2021.

Board members discussed for the final time efforts to communicate properly the intent of the referendum – that it was an operating levy being posed and not a building project being funded just after the district finished overhauling its heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and upgraded some other parts of infrastructure this past summer. 

Board Chairwoman Jackie Horsman expressed her appreciation to all of her fellow board members, telling them that their work to inform the public as to the district’s needs would be recognized even if the referendum failed the following evening. The results that came the next evening made apparent that it did not fail when nearly two-thirds of voters gave their approval for the measure.   

Spanish trip

The board heard a presentation from Spanish instructor Morgan Jacobson regarding a proposed trip to Spain in 2021.  She highlighted the successful trip she had led to Costa Rica using the same tour company that she intends to use this time, noting that students had educational experiences and enjoyed traveling abroad. 

She informed the board that she’d given this year’s Spanish students choices of Spanish-speaking countries as potential tour destinations, with their first choice being the Galapagos Islands.  However, that option turned out to be extremely cost-prohibitive, making a second survey of students’ travel aspirations necessary. They opted for Spain, which would cost approximately $4,000, quite a sum compared to the $2,350 that the Costa Rica trip required. 

As of last Monday evening, Jacobson had 18 students interested in going to see Barcelona and Madrid and other Spanish cities, as well as those cities’ cathedrals and neighborhoods, while establishing personal independence within boundaries of school travel guidelines.  She pointed out that not only did her Costa Rica travelers gain personal independence skills, but they also met other students from Texas, illustrating that intercultural experiences are not limited to meeting people in another country.

Qualifications for students to participate are specific, Jacobson added, and students must meet those qualifications by the time they depart.  She related that she’d held a meeting with parents to outline all the details, including that she’s aiming to avoid conflicts with the 2020 Washington, D.C., community education trip that will set the biennial schedule for that venture. 

Horsman thanked Jacobson for her thorough presentation, going on to state that some of the parents who’d attended the parents’ informational meeting had shared dismay at the $4,000 price tag and that they’d given their children a choice between taking the trip to Washington or to Spain, or between going to Spain and having a graduation party if they will be a senior.  No fundraising had been discussed during the meeting, according to Horsman, who cited that some of the parents had told her that the amount to be deposited each month to save for the trip would be equal to a car payment. 

Jacobson replied that for the previous trip, students had manned a parking lot across from the Olmsted County fairgrounds to earn money, as she felt that providing a service in exchange for fundraising monies is both more appealing to her than selling items – and more profitable – and that what was earned was divided among those who worked at the fundraiser. 

Board members concurred as they went on to debate whether to set a ceiling for school travel costs or to hear individual presentations and make decisions based on what’s explained each time. 

Board member Leah Stier remarked on the difference between the Costa Rica tour of an agricultural-based country to that of Spain, a place with metropolitan centers. 

“If you look at the experiences of this trip compared to Costa Rica, they’re completely different experiences, so the cost will be different,” she said.

Board member Maranda Emig felt that the $4,000 expense would be too much for most.

Horsman – while thanking Jacobson again for her preparation before bringing the proposal to the board -- commented that she would have liked to have had more details about the trip before it was presented to students and parents. 

“I think this is an amazing opportunity, but what do we go back and tell the parents?” she asked. “The parental feedback I got was that there was no fundraising involved, so I have to say that there has to be planned fundraising.  There’s a big difference between $2,500 and $4,000.” 

Ultimately, the board chose tentatively to proceed without setting an expense cap for school trips, keeping in mind that the fundraising of which Jacobson spoke is a possibility and that there remains a short window of time to reassess the destination and associated costs. 

Other business

Kingsland Superintendent Jim Hecimovich then reported on business manager Amber Uhlenhake Herbrand’s update to the board.  He relayed to board members that the district’s finances are in the middle of annual auditing and that the audit will likely be given in November in the coming school years, instead of in October, apparently due to a shift in financial forecasting and other tenets. 

“Once we have the audit done, we’ll have clean numbers,” he said. “Amber is feeling pretty good that we’re not going to be deficit-spending.” 

In building and maintenance news, Hecimovich shared that building and grounds director Jason Thompson is working to straighten out punch-list items left over from the summer construction, issuing forms to teachers who are better acquainted with what might have been missed as the project concluded.  Additionally, Thompson is still seeking to hire custodians to join his crew.

Personnel matters upcoming at the regular board meeting will include granting maternity leave for Lindsey Montesano and accepting the resignation of Brent Stinson as head football coach. 

Elementary school principal Scott Klavetter said that he would likely hire a long-term substitute to fill in Montesano’s position while she is on leave because that seems to be the best course of action. 

District residents who attend Christmas on Historic Broadway in Spring Valley early next month will be pleased to see that the School Board has agreed to decorate a Christmas tree for display in a tree trail in one of Spring Valley’s parks. Horsman shared the invitation from organizers and arranged for board members to set up the tree and decorate it to show Kingsland’s school spirit and pride. 

Kingsland’s regular School Board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the choir room. The next Kingsland School Board work session is set for Monday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. in the Kingsland Elementary School conference room.  The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, call 507-346-7276 or log on to the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us.  

 

  

Comments

I am so upset over the Spanish trip and I feel like the board did not listen to any of us!!!! We live in spring valley, we JUST said yes to increasing taxes for our kids and they don't even care so a Spanish teacher can have her way because 'she' wants to go to spain. My kid and others have worked hard in class for 3 years for what? Double the bill? Thanks for nothing!