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Dan Shirley joins ISD 166 school board

Dan Shirley takes the school board oath of office
Dan Shirley takes the school board oath of office

School District 166 held its annual organizational meeting on Tuesday, January 16. After administering the oath of office to new School Board Member Dan Shirley, the board got to work on a full agenda.
 
New fifth-grade classroom approved
Because of increased enrollment at the fifth grade level at Sawtooth Elementary, Principal Bill DeWitt asked the school board to establish a second fifth-grade class, starting at the beginning of the next semester. 
 
Overall, enrollment at ISD 166 is up by about 20 students. The school board asked where these additional students were coming from, whether they were moving into the county or transferring from other schools in the county. Principal DeWitt said it appears to be a mix.    
 
He and his staff put together a survey for Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School parents to ask why they are selecting ISD 166 as their school of choice. It is hoped that this will help with planning and scheduling in future years. DeWitt said he hopes to have the results soon. 
 
The board passed a unanimous motion to hire another fifth-grade teacher. 
 
Bond projects in progress
Superintendent Bill Crandall reported that the school district maintenance staff had gone through the new school bus garage with the contractor to review the punch list. Crandall said there are some things that will have to be done in the spring, but the garage is basically complete. Expenses were higher than anticipated.
 
Planning continues for the renovation of the school’s science and culinary arts spaces, as well as for middle school roof repairs. Ryan Erspamer of Architectural Resources, Inc. (ARI) was at the meeting to give an update. 

 

Erspamer explained that the culinary arts expansion includes an addition to the school building to allow construction of a commercial kitchen. And the renovation of the science rooms will create a “science wing.” He said much of the equipment for the new science area has been ordered through the school’s state contract at a significant savings. 
 
Superintendent Crandall noted that it appears the new projects will be under the budgeted amount of $3.3 million. He said that is why the school decided to combine all of the projects together in the bonding. The savings on the renovations will balance the budget over run on the bus garage. 
 
New Board Member Dan Shirley asked a number of questions about the renovations, including who was involved in planning. Crandall said the science and culinary arts teachers participated in the planning. Board Member Deb White and School Maintenance Director Tom Nelson were also involved.
 
The board passed a motion, authorizing ARI to seek proposals for the renovations. 
 
Board Member White asked about the time frame for construction. Erspamer said the contractor who accepts the job will have to complete the work by the beginning of the next school year. He said it is a fairly complex project and would be considered a “summer slam.” 
 
Principal DeWitt said the maintenance department would work with contractors as soon as possible to prepare for the renovations. If bids come in and are accepted, work could begin at the end of this school year. Everything possible will be done to avoid disrupting current classes. 
 
Lunde expressed appreciation to county taxpayers for voting yes for the school levy referendum, which enable the school district to complete these projects.
 
Changes to graduation credit requirements
School Counselor Kris Hoffman shared information on a proposal to increase the number of credits required for graduation from Cook County High School over the next few years. 
 
CCHS currently requires 24 credits for graduation and there would be no change for the current senior class. 
 
However, Hoffman noted that since the implementation of block scheduling, students could attain those credits before their senior year. So he recommended increasing the required credits for the Class of 2019 to 25.5. Then 26.0 for the Class of 2020 and 27.0 for the Class of 2021 and beyond. 
 
Board Member Carrie Janson said it is important to offer a “rigorous curriculum” but wondered if all students would be able to obtain the required credits. Assistant Principal Mitch Dorr said he believed they could. Block scheduling will allow students to take teleconference classes. And, Superintendent Crandall noted that credits could be earned through technical education classes, such as industrial and culinary arts. 
 
The board approved the increase of credits on the schedule as presented. 
 
Indian Policies and Procedures (IPP) approved
Grand Portage Education Director Maria Burnett was on hand as Superintendent Crandall presented the Indian Policies and Procedures (IPP) to the school board. Crandall explained the changes and said the IPP is a “fluid document,” that can be changed as either the School District or Grand Portage community saw fit. 
 
The board passed a motion to adopt the IPP. It will be reviewed by the Local Indian Education Committee (LIEC) and either adopted or returned to School District 166 for further discussion. 
 
Burnett said the LIEC will meet on January 24.
 
Board Member White, who represents the east end of the county, attends the LIEC meetings as the school board representative. She said a few years ago the full school board attended an LIEC meeting. She suggested the board do that again so everyone on the board understands the work of the committee. Her colleagues agreed that could be meaningful. White and Burnett will set a date for a meeting that all could attend. 
 
Policy to be set for naming district facilities 
In response to discussion at previous meetings, Superintendent Crandall provided copies of policies from two other school districts—Esko and Moose Lake—about the naming of school property. He said it would be good for School District 166 to have a similar policy for the sake of consistency for future requests.
 
Board Chair Sissy Lunde noted that the discussion started with a request to name the high school gym the “Pam Taylor Gymnasium,” in recognition of Taylor’s tenure as a teacher, coach, and athletic director at the school. Lunde said the delay in answering the request in no way reflects on Taylor.
 
Board Member Shirley said he understands that there is precedent for naming facilities before a policy was in place, such as Lyle Anderson Football Field and Arleigh Jorgenson Baseball Field. He said in light of that, the naming of the gym could also happen without a policy. However, being new to the school board, he said he would be okay with whatever the board decided.
 
Board Member Jenson said she had received an “intense outcry” from the public, from people who want to see the gym named for Coach Taylor. One note came from Arleigh Jorgenson, who urged the board to bestow this honor on Taylor. Jorgenson said the controversy around the request was regretful. 
 
White stressed that the concern was not because of the person being honored, but about the lack of a school district policy. She pointed to the language in the Moose Lake example and said Pam Taylor clearly meets the criteria. 
 
Board Member Chris Goettl agreed and said it would have been nice to be able to surprise Taylor with an unveiling of a plaque bearing her name at the upcoming graduation ceremony. 
 
However, Goettl concurred with his colleagues. Without a policy in place to let the public know how to make a request to name a facility, he didn’t feel that they had received an official request.
 
The board asked Superintendent Crandall to develop a policy for School District 166 similar to that of the other schools for adoption at the next board meeting.
 
Board payments stay the same
* The board passed a motion to keep its remuneration the same as last year, an annual stipend of $2,300. The board chair receives an additional $700. And appointed contract negotiators will receive $35 per negotiation meeting.