School Board again puts middle school up for sale, tweaks curriculum for next school year

By : 
Scott Bestul

The ongoing quest to sell the middle school building in Peterson entered yet another chapter at the May 20 meeting of the R-P school board. The board also approved recommended changes to the high school curriculum, approved the 2019-20 school calendar, and updated several partnerships.

Peterson school sale

In the only Old Business agenda item for the evening, the board learned that the district is back to the drawing board when it comes to the sale of the middle school building in Peterson.

Supt. Ehler informed the board that the checks submitted by Roger Anderson, as part of a second failed purchase agreement, had been returned to Anderson. Those checks included the $3,000 Anderson had promised the district as a penalty in the aftermath of missing the deadline for the first agreement.

Though no explanation was given regarding the return of these checks, it appears the R-P district’s relationship with Anderson is now over. Ehler also informed the board that a preliminary interest in purchasing the site by the Hiawatha Valley Education District (HVED) had now apparently cooled.

That prompted Chairman John Linder to recommend placing the building up for sale once again. “This time I think it’s best to require 10 percent of the bid value down as soon as the district accepts the bid,” he said. After a brief discussion, board members agreed and Director Grindland moved to put the middle school building up for sale, with a June 24 deadline for accepting bids. The motion passed unanimously.

Advertisements of the sale will be published in area newspapers and other outlets next week, and the Facilities Committee will hold a special meeting to open submitted bids on the evening of the June 24 deadline.  

Math curriculum sequence restructure

High School Principal Jake Timm and math teacher Dena Mathison presented their recommendation to adjust and streamline the high school math program.

While the state only requires high school students to obtain three credits in math before graduation, the R-P district has required four. Under a proposed redesign of the math curriculum, the math requirement would be dropped to 3.5 credits, still above the state requirement.

More importantly, while the redesigned curriculum would still follow the same basic sequence, course offerings (especially electives) would change slightly to more accurately reflect the needs of students. “Right now, seniors who don’t want or need to take a math class are often forced to,” Timm said.

Under the proposed curriculum, the change in the sequence of math offerings would be:

• Freshmen: Algebra IA and IIB, Geometry

• Sophomores: Algebra IIA and Algebra IIB

• Juniors: Applied Math, Pre-calculus

• Seniors: College Algebra, Statistics, Intro to College Algebra, Calculus

According to Timm, “The new schedule allows for easier adjustment to the ebb and flow of class sizes, especially as we try to schedule for the upper level math class offerings.” Timm noted that the students most affected by the new system would be current sophomores. The board voted unanimously to approve the proposed change in the math curriculum.    

In another curriculum change, Timm requested the board’s approval to add Nutrition as a Science elective. “We currently offer other electives, such as animal/meat science, health care, fish/wildlife, that are part of our CTE (Career & Technical Education) courses that help students achieve the three science credits they need to graduate,” Timm said. “This would be an addition to those classes.”

Timm noted that Nutrition is part of the district’s Health Care Core that is offered in conjunction with Good Shepherd Lutheran and is taught by Erin Thompson and Dana Thompson. Students who complete the Health Care Core also achieve CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) certification, a requirement for anyone seeking a career in nursing. The board voted unanimously to add Nutrition as a science elective.

Winona Health Sports Medicine contract

In other new business, Activities Director Bieberdorf requested the extension and broadening of an existing contract with Winona Health Sports Medicine. According to Bieberdorf, R-P first contracted with Winona Health in 2015 for a two-year contract, then renewed that agreement in 2017. “We started with a scaled-back schedule of well-checks, plus a select schedule where they’d supply a trainer at certain games,” he said. “We’ve had very good service from, and communication with, them. They treat not only our athletes, but those from visiting teams. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback about the program, even from parents at other schools.”

Bieberdorf requested another two-year contract with Winona Health that would include an even greater level of service. “Going forward we’d like to have them at all home 7-9th grade, JV and varsity events for the sports we had in the previous contract,” he said. “In addition, their trainers will make twice-weekly visits to the school. This allows coaches, athletes, and parents to schedule an appointment with a sports med trainer at no cost.”

Bieberdorf’s proposed contract would include the appearance of a Winona Health trainer at over 60 home events annually (34 more than the previous contract), with an increase of only $1,020. The board approved the agreement, with effective dates August 1, 2019 thru July 31, 2021.

The board also voted to extend an agreement with Hiawatha Valley Mental Health Center, which provides “school linked mental health services and support to school staff, students and parents.” The annual contract (effective dates July 1, 2019 thru June 30, 2020) fee is $11,182.08.

Board members also adopted the extension of a “memorandum of understanding” with Luther College, which supplies student teachers to the district.

Other business

The board also:

• Approved the hire of John Loney, who will replace Bieberdorf as Activities Director and also serve as a Middle School Special Ed. teacher. After Director Michel inquired about Loney’s compensation, Supt. Ehler informed the board that his salary would be $64,884 for the 2019-20 school year. Some discussion occurred about whether this figure was on the high side, Ehler noted that finding someone of Loney’s qualifications (Master’s degree, 20 years experience) and the combination of special ed. and activities director experience was very difficult to find. The board approved the hire of Loney, as well as Erin Thompson (credit recovery instructor; a position formerly taught by the retiring Cheri Vix) and Aspen Hartmann (elem. Special ed).

• Approved the list of 2019 graduates, as well as the calendar for the 2019-20 school year calendar. While the calendar will still retain 174 student contact days and 182 teacher contract days, it will feature one less conference day (spring, 2020). Instead of an April parent-teacher conference day, teachers will use that day to pursue an eight-hour professional development opportunity relative to their area of specialty/interest.

Schedule  

The next meeting of the R-P School Board is scheduled for June 17 at 5:30 p.m. All members of the public are encouraged to attend.