School board reviews communications policy, makes no changes

Jordan Gerard

As per the request of a group of parents from last month’s meeting, the Spring Grove School Board reviewed its district policy regarding communication protocols, but did not make any changes in the way it notifies parents. 

In general, the district publishes a district newsletter four times a year; a weekly newsletter (Lion’s Roar); updates its district website, teacher websites, Google Classroom and Schoology; uses email, Facebook and Twitter as a method of communication and has regular board meetings each month. 

Also the district uses individualized communication included phone, email, text and conferences twice a year or as needed. 

However, board members asked if it were possible for the school to send out notifications about incidents without giving identifying details. 

Board member Kelly Rohland suggested talking to other school districts in the area about their notifications and communications policies.

“What do you do if it’s an isolated incident or something that affects the whole student body?” she questioned. 

Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said the law makes it very clear for the district what rules it needs to follow regarding communications. 

“We communicated pursuant to the guidelines, if we had done something else, that’s when we get into trouble on the privacy side,” she said. “It’s very challenging.”

According to the district’s policy on public and private student data, public data includes directory information, which is defined as “information contained in an education record of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.”

On the private side, education records that are classified by state law are “accessible only to the student who is the subject of the data and the student’s parent if the student is not an eligible student.”

If any investigation is ongoing, it cannot be discussed until it is closed, board member Stephanie Jaster said. 

Superintendent’s report

Udstuen reported the school would start considering the option to replace the wooden bleachers on the north wall in the game gym. The bleachers could be replaced in June 2020. 

A planning grant is in the works for Safe Routes to School, for which the district will send a letter of support.

Little Gnome will no longer be using spaces in the school for their program, as the students missed their toys at the center, Udstuen said.

A baseball hat fundraiser was swapped out for a coupon book fundraiser in the spring.

Udstuen announced the district was chosen for a Minnesota Departments of Human Services and Management and Budget behavioral wellness grant along with a number of other schools that will offer a social emotional learning-based curriculum to promote positive mental health and prevent substance abuse. 

Life Skills Training (LST) provides schools and districts the opportunity to implement an evidence-based curriculum that promotes positive mental health and prevents substance use and risky behaviors in middle school students, and training materials for instructors to integrate it into existing courses (health, physical education, social studies, etc.), Udstuen later clarified to the Herald.

Fiscal report

The board approved end-of-the-year adjustments to the 2018-19 Long Term Facilities Maintenance Plan.

They also approved closing out old student activity accounts and moving them to the general fund, a recommendation that came from the district’s auditors due to a change from the state Legislature.

The board approved an agreement with Hiawatha Valley Education District (HVED) to purchase education services for the 2019-20 school year. This would include targeted services or satellite programs such as Each One Teach One.

Finally, the board approved a contract for speech services with HVED that will allow Speech Therapy Express instructor Carrie Lundell to work with students who need speech therapy. The class is taught through an online platform and ITV (similar to Skype).

Other news

The board approved Stefanie Rud as a long-term substitute paraprofessional for Mona Olson.

The board also approved World’s Best Workforce report, which focuses on goals set by the state to prepare students. The school is allowed to set the parameters of the goals. The board is required to report five of the goals to the state.

Those include maintaining or increasing the number of pre-k students who receive a “Transition to K” assessment from 96.2%, show a three-year trend for third graders who are proficient on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) II Reading Assessment that will increase from 74.1% to 76.1%, close the achievement gap between student groups by 3% across the board, all students career- and college-ready by graduation from 92% to 94% and finally, all students graduate.

Of those five goals, three were not met, which include pre-k students transitioning to kindergarten, third grade MCA reading proficiency and all students career- and college-ready by graduation (maintained but not increased).

Udstuen said a few of the goals are more applicable to the district than others. 

In other votes, the board approved a bid from Viking Electric, Inc. for $29,660 for converting lights to LED in the band room, choir room, art room, kitchen, lower hallway and also raising up outlets in the office. 

The work is expected to be done over break, and Viking also offered to have a second shift of workers without charging the school extra. 

The board approved a second reading of Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) and approved a resolution establishing a combined polling place, though there are currently no plans to hold an election this year. It’s a safeguard if the school needed to conduct an election, Udstuen said. 

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Spring Grove School Board will be Dec. 16, at 5:30 p.m. in the Media Center. The Truth in Taxation meeting will be held at 6 p.m.