Kingsland School Board reviews referendum communication, water issues

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Kingsland’s School Board convened for its July work session last Monday, July 1, handling referendum communication and annual fiscal year business and designations as well as reviewing several other items of importance.

The board first spent quite some time discussing the upcoming Nov. 5 operating levy referendum and how to share information about the referendum with district patrons and residents at various upcoming events and meetings.  Board members perused opportunities to tell others during Ag Days in Spring Valley and at Wykoff’s Fall Fest, as well as attending township meetings in all the district’s townships. 

Board member Kyle Rader has been responsible for the development of informational material regarding the referendum, and he reported that he felt confident that the input the rest of the board had provided would be useful as the board works to share its message that the referendum is meant to bolster the district’s operating finances, not build anything new. 

Water in basement

Superintendent Jim Hecimovich spoke about the long-term facility maintenance (LTFM) indoor air quality (IAQ) project underway since the beginning of the summer and how, during the work to carry out that project, water was discovered in the school’s basement. 

“It’s not caused by new construction, but just by the age of the building, so it leaks,” he told the board. “There are only two solutions to this – we can put in a thin set of studs and sheetrock it, put in a vent, and there’d be the potential for mold development that we’d have to abate, or the second option is to excavate from the outside and waterproof the exterior.  The first is about $15,000, and the second, waterproofing the entire length of one side of the ’57 building, is about $75,000 – worst case.” 

Board Chairperson Jackie Horsman expressed her opinion that the board should approve the excavation because as a taxpayer and parent, she felt that it would be the most sensible use of funding and prevent the need to further repair the building. 

Board member Maranda Emig registered, “If you’re talking about just furring out the wall, you’ve got to remember that there is a computer lab, so there’s electrical….” 

Horsman stated, “It’d be less money right now, but more problematic in the future for it to be torn out again and again.” 

Hecimovich observed that the district’s general contractor, Knutson Construction, already has crews onsite for the IAQ project that will be filling in holes that they’ve used for bringing materials into the basement, so it would be sensible to take advantage of the moment. 

Horsman agreed, “They’re already here, it’s already dug up.” 

The board will seek final cost estimates and vote on the matter during the regular meeting later this month.

Another water issue

Hecimovich then brought up the exterior covering of the courtyard walls, as there had been no flashing installed to direct water away from where the covering emerges from the ground.  Specifications in the plans for the 2008 elementary school addition to the high school building called for flashing, but none had been added to the structure. 

“We can put it in and try to go after the company…it’s two years from discovery, and we just discovered that,” he said.

Horsman remarked that attorney’s fees may outweigh the cost of seeking damages, but that she felt that the public would not object to the district holding contractors accountable for their work or lack thereof.

“I’ll talk to (attorney) Kevin Rupp.  It may be a done deal and easy as a letter, or we may be going to court,” Hecimovich said.

Fundraising tracking

Conversation also centered on the development of a policy governing adult groups whose purpose it is to fundraise or support Kingsland’s students, namely how those groups should track the handling of funds donated to the school but passed through their hands. 

Hecimovich acknowledged that organizations such as Kingsland’s post-prom committee do not collect funds directly donated to the district, therefore, they do not likely fall under the adult support group policy, as might those that do collect funds in that manner. 

More discussion is upcoming. 

Annual business

As far as annual designations and fee schedules, Hecimovich stated some of the items will be shifted to January because it’s supposed to be done in January, according to the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA), but the board reviewed them now and will get back to it in January. 

The board previewed setting substitute pay at minimum wage for non-licensed teachers and at $110 per day for licensed substitutes, an increase from $100 because many of the board members noticed that it hadn’t been raised in nearly a decade, and competitive pay draws substitute teachers willing to return to the district when staff members are unable to be in school. 

Horsman cited that neighboring districts do pay higher rates than Kingsland historically has, and more recently, Kingsland has employed Teachers On Call (TOC), a service that is meant to assist in lining up substitutes. The board came to the conclusion that while the district does use TOC, finding someone to fill a teacher’s shoes for a day or more is difficult because there aren’t as many qualified substitutes in the area as there might be, causing stiffer competition for the willing candidates.  

Next on the list were athletic and extracurricular fees at a flat fee of $65 for seventh through 12th grade students, an increase of $15 for parents of seventh and eighth graders.  Board members perused the $25 Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) fee for activities such as the robotics team, drama program and more. It also considered the 2019-2020 school age child care (SACC) fees as $275, 2019-2020 facility rental fees at $60 for a half day in the gymnasium or Kingsland Café or $80 for a full day, although it would be $200 a day if admission is charged and $300 a day for both the gym and Kingsland Café if admission is charged, and classrooms rent at $15 per day. 

Lunch and breakfast prices had to be raised by a dime, but a new mandate means that students have to be given portions relative to their grade level or age.  Kingsland Elementary Principal Scott Klavetter commented on the dilemma of realigning lunch hours to coincide with students allotted specific portion sizes for their grade level, particularly fourth graders’ lunch hour because it’s not at the same time as the grades that have the same specified portion sizes.  The schedule will receive further examination as the new school year approaches. 

Further designations business previewed for the regular board meeting encompassed: setting board member compensation at 0.0514 percent of the teacher’s master agreement salary and the 2019-2020 mileage rate at 36 cents per mile; designating the Spring Valley Tribune as the official newspaper; naming Minnwest Bank, Home Federal Savings Bank and MSDLAF+ as the official depositories; authorizing payment of bills for utilities and contracted services, the superintendent to invest school district funds as per law, the district to use electronic funds transfers for state and federal taxes, Public Employees Retirement Association (PERA), TRA, BCBS, Minnesota child support, P-Card, life insurance, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, AFLAC, TSA and Select Account; setting the 2019-2020 miscellaneous fees for copies, faxes and returned checks; allowing continued memberships in the MSBA, Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA), the Southeast Service Cooperative (SSC), Southeast Minnesota Network, STEM Forward, Kiwanis and SEC; choosing Rupp, Anderson, Squires & Waldspurger, P.A., as its legal firm; and designating the posting places as the district website, district office, Kingsland Elementary and High School doorways. 

Evaluations

The board spoke about the superintendent’s and board’s evaluations.  Hecimovich said that he felt that an open meeting for his evaluation would be just fine, and Horsman went on to cite that the board self-evaluation is important. 

“I feel strongly about it because there’s always turnover in the board, and if we want to evaluate an employee to give them an opportunity to grow, we certainly can use an opportunity to grow,” she said. 

An online self-evaluation for the entire board would cost $900, Hecimovich said, and the funds would come from a professional development fund separate from the one designated for teachers. 

Board members turned toward Leah Stier, who had agreed to remain on the board for another year to finish out Heather Betts’s term, and asked her opinion on the subject because of her impending departure.  Ultimately, the self-evaluation will most likely be done after the end of her term, as the board isn’t certain who will be filling Stier’s seat. 

Applications for position

Lastly, Hecimovich reported that there had been two applicants for the district’s vacant activities director position, but that at this point, no decisions have been made. 

The next regular Kingsland School Board meeting will take place on Monday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m. in the temporary SACC room – just east of the elementary office.  The next work session is set for Monday, Aug. 5, at 6 p.m. in the temporary SACC room as well.  The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, log onto the Kingsland website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us.