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Sixth-graders’ move to NR approved; Cyr sniffs out bargain on band uniforms

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SCHOOL BOARD — The current NRHEG Board of Education. Front from left: Lori Routh, Michele Moxon, Karen Flatness and Lis Kormann. Back: Mike Moen, superintendent Kevin Wellen, Rick Schultz and John Harrington. (Star Eagle photo by Chris Schlaak)


Staff Writer

At the Tuesday, January 17 meeting, the NRHEG school board approved the purchase of new band uniforms, the move of the sixth grade to New Richland, and a February 15 joint meeting date with the New Richland City Council.

Joint meetings with New Richland City Council

Last month’s discussion with Jeff Reese led the board to consider arranging a meeting with the New Richland City Council to discuss the poor condition of the jointly-used Legion Field ball fields. 

After discussion with City Clerk Wayne Billing, a date of February 15 was proposed for a meeting of the full city council and the full school board, for the purpose of determining a possible agenda of items the school district and the city could collaborate on working on at future meetings.

What topics could be considered? “Not just the ball field,” said Superintendent Kevin Wellen, “but anything that could be discussed or shared, anything where we have a common interest.”

This might include crosswalks, parking, or traffic issues, among numerous possibilities.

The board approved the date, so the NRHEG Board of Education and the New Richland City Council will meet jointly on Wednesday, February 15 at 6:30 p.m., at the New Richland School Media Center.

Band uniforms

The early (was scheduled for next year) purchase of new band uniforms was influenced by two factors: first, a $6,140 donation from the Band Boosters, and second, a remarkable bargain on uniforms located by High School Principal Paul Cyr with an expected price tag of $24,561.60.

“Ten years ago,” said Wellen, “these uniforms would have been in the $100,000 neighborhood.”

The uniforms will be purchased immediately but will be listed on next year’s budget. The supplier will not bill until July 1.

Sixth grade move approved

The board approved such actions as will be required to move the sixth grade to New  Richland, as per previous discussion.

Wellen asked board members and visiting staff if there had been any comments on the planned move, pro or con. All agreed there hadn’t been much talk.

Fourth grade teacher Lanae Thorstad told the board there was support from the faculty.

“It will be good to branch out and have a little room,” she said.

Wellen said he’d had one question asked him: “Is the move temporary, or permanent? Will the sixth-graders be moved to New Richland, and then back to Ellendale when the numbers change again?”

No, he answered. The schools are being reorganized, and the sixth grade will then become part of a 6-7-8 middle school, much like it was before the recent consolidation of the grade schools.

Rescheduling of classrooms and materials, staff assignments, re-planning the lunch program, changes to the contracts of existing administrators, and the possible hiring of an additional administrator will be among the jobs necessary to complete the move, but there’s much more.

“There are a lot of things to sort out,” said Wellen.

Grants Available

Wellen told the board that Monsanto will again be offering technology grants to Minnesota schools.

This year, there are two options. First, a district may be nominated by area farmers for one of seven $25,000 “American Farmers Grow Rural Education” competitive grant. Second, a $10,000 grant may be applied for by each district.

“It can only be one or the other,” Wellen said. The district can apply for the $10,000 or try to get nominated for the greater amount.

The Tech Committee is currently preparing a report for the board recommending a pilot program of iPad or equivalent support for two grade levels.

A $35,000 USDA renovation grant is also available. The district could use this money for a kitchen or food service related project. Wellen suggested a walk-in cooler at Ellendale as a possibility.

Organizational Meeting

The board held its organizational meeting this month, having previously moved the organizational meeting from July to January to permit organizational decisions to coincide with the calendar year and the election of new officers.

Officers and committees remained the same as last year:

• Chairman – Rick Schultz

• Vice Chairman – Michele Moxon

• Clerk – Lori Routh

• Treasurer – Mike Moen

• Finance Committee – Karen Flatness, Mike Moen, Lori Routh

• Policy Committee – John Harrington, Rick Schultz, Lis Kormann

• Building and Grounds Committee – Michele Moxon, Rick Schultz, Mike Moen

• Transportation Committee – John Harrington, Rick Schultz, Michele Moxon

• School Activities Committee – John Harrington, Michele Moxon, Lori Routh

• Negotiations-Paras – John Harrington, Mike Moen, Lis Kormann

• Negotitations-AFSCME – John Harrington, Rick Schultz, Karen Flatness

• Negotiations-Certified Staff – Rick Schultz, Lori Routh, Michele Moxon

Calendar and in-service days

The principal decision about the school calendar is the number of in-service days scheduled. In recent years, the Staff Development Committee has pushed for more such days, to deal with increasing staff duties such as Curriculum Mapping, Response to Intervention, and other data analysis chores. 

The district previously had two in-service days but this year added a third. Wellen suggested that for the coming year the board keep the three days and consider a fourth.

“How much trouble would it be to go back to three if we added a fourth?”

“This is a board decision,” answered Wellen. “We’ve gone back to zero days, then back to two and then three.”

Wellen stressed the importance of making the decision now.

“I’ve had the Staff Development Committee come with changes in the middle of the year, and I’ve said no. It’s done when the calendar is being planned.”

Thorstad told the board there was no question an additional day would be beneficial, with teachers having trouble finding opportunities to work together.

“Many of us are coaching, so after school isn’t an option,” she explained.

Board chair Rick Schultz voiced the reservation that in-service time always be balanced against the value of the classroom time lost.

The board decided to request a calendar with three in-service days and decide whether to add a fourth next month.

Reductions unlikely

As part of the regular January agenda, the board approved the Resolution for Reduction of Programs and Positions, empowering the Superintendent to make necessary cuts.

“I have told the staff that I do not anticipate making any reductions this year,” Wellen said.

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