School Board updated on district survey results

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield School Board members and administration prepared for the coming school year as the board held its regular meeting last Wednesday evening, Aug. 7.

Superintendent Ed Harris related that a survey of the community that asks local taxpayers if they agree or disagree with an increased operating levy of $375 to bolster the district’s operating finances has been returned at approximately 36 percent, a notable return on patron surveys, given that most school districts receive far fewer replies.

“About 40 percent support an operating levy increase of $375,” he added.

Earlier in the meeting, a rural resident registered concerns that she and her husband had not received a copy of the mailed survey. The board heard her and concluded that it is likely that her Fountain address left her on the fringe of the mailing’s boundaries. Board members assured her that efforts would be made to adjust mailing lists and include everyone.

Harris then spoke about facility matters, including that the routine summer cleaning of both buildings is underway, that a section of roof on the high school needs attention before the district closes out expenditures for the renovation project that came to a near-end at the beginning of last school year, and that reengineering of the high school’s front entry landscaping apron that hides the school’s electrical plant is on schedule to be completed.

He asserted, “It is on schedule to be done, and none of the funding is coming out of the general fund. Some who have answered the survey are under the impression that the building project is being paid for out of the general fund, but they’re completely separate funds. Also, had we not done the construction project, those funds would be the same. We can’t take from the general fund to spend on any type of construction…it’s against (financial policy).”

Chatfield High School Principal Randy Paulson reported on activity at the high school, welcoming new staff and sharing about transitions between the elementary and high school, such as counselor Sara Duxbury taking former high school counselor Lindsey Olson’s place and Jay Harstad replacing Travis Bartels.

Paulson extended his appreciation to the high school administrative support staff as they settle into new roles following the retirements of administrative assistant Sharon Manahan and business manager Karyl Lyon, and to social studies instructor Adam Archer as he pursues new adventures.

Paulson announced that students’ schedules are nearly ready, that seventh and ninth grade orientations are on the calendar at the end of August, and that the district appreciates the donations from the Chosen Valley Mini Grant Program that allots funding for projects and ventures that students might otherwise not have the opportunity to experience.

Chatfield Elementary School Principal Shane McBroom was on vacation and absent from the meeting.

Board member Lanny Isensee registered that he had been part of the discussions regarding the removal and replacement of no parking signs along the softball field, as they had been taken down by the city for a brief time and put back up when missed. He pointed out that he was glad to see the signs reinstalled because of the potential for injuries and accidents. “This was a collaboration between the school district and the city for safety,” he added.

Several school district policies were on the agenda for annual and first reading review, but the board chose to table those reviews until some of them could be further examined.

The proposal for purchase of fiber optic cable service has also been tabled until Aug. 21 to allow the board to read up on the proposal before making a decision.

The board set the annual truth in taxation hearing for Dec. 4 at 7 p.m. in the Chatfield High School Forum room, then went on to vote in favor of a purchase of service agreement for the transportation of children and youth in foster care placement.

The consent agenda included approving new hires – fifth grade teacher and eighth grade volleyball coach Kaitlyn Ellringer, part-time elementary nurse Anna Pence, and B squad football coach Adam Hurley.

Also in the consent agenda, the board accepted the elementary and high school student and staff handbooks and the high school discipline matrix.

In personnel issues, the board accepted the resignation of social studies teacher Archer and approved rehiring high school social studies teacher Zach Slowiak to replace Archer. Slowiak was hired at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year but let go as part of staff reductions. He will also serve as History Day advisor and junior high football coach.

The next Chatfield School Board meeting is set for Wednesday, Sept. 4, at 7 p.m. in the high school Forum room. The public is welcome to attend.