The Houston Public School Board met at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in the library of Houston Public High School. In attendance were Superintendent Krin Abraham and Board members Norlien, Bonner, Stillin, Krage and Wilson. Following the call to order and the pledge, the agenda was approved and the board opened to public comment. Seeing none, the board moved on to consent items, approving the last meeting’s minutes and payment of school bills. In regard to personnel, the board approved one increased contract, five hiring memos for spring coaches, and two resignations. The board briefly discussed a leave request from Katie Hatteburg, a teacher of history at the Minnesota Virtual Academy. The leave request centered around allowing six weeks of personal paid time off to be given for the birth of a child, and with the child being born when school is out of session, allowing the six weeks to be taken from the start of the school year. Superintendent Abraham explained that this has been the practice in the past, and the board approved the leave request unanimously.
The board then moved to discussion items, discussing the band and choir trip. Superintendent Abraham announced that the trip is planned to go to the Twin Cities, and will be included as old business to be voted on at the next meeting. Abraham noted that they were still “in the process of planning” and would have something ready for board approval by the next meeting. Next the board discussed the strategic planning meeting the board held on March 9, 2017. Superintendent Abraham said that the meeting “crafted four areas of focus” for the district going forward, which included “technology utilization, relevant course offerings and curriculum development, marketing our district, and partnerships with colleges, businesses, and other schools.” Each of the focuses has also been given a committee charged with continuing to develop each of the four ideas, being aware of and sensitive to students’ changing needs. The Technology Utilization will be spearheaded by the District Technology Advisory Committee, the Course Offerings by the District Advisory Committee, the Marketing by the Online Schools Committee along with the superintendent and board members, and the Partnerships will be charged to the principals and superintendent.
Board member Bonner raised the question of a timeline decided upon at the previous Strategic Planning meeting. The issue came from originally asking each group to report back by April, which the board recognized as far too quick to bring it all together. Stillin expressed some worry about letting it “linger out there,” but Abraham countered by saying “there’s letting it linger and then there’s trying to run a marathon at a sprint pace.” Stillin agreed to “loosen the reins” and the groups will be required to submit a progress report by June.
The board then moved on to Old Business, discussing the selection of a district auditing firm. After deliberation and presentations from five firms, the board decided to stay with the previous firm of Cifton Larson Allen. The board then moved on to a third reading of the Naming Rights and Memorials Policy. Superintendent Abraham noted that the policy has not yet gone to the lawyer, and the board is giving its final approval to send it to the district lawyer to look it over. Abraham also mentioned that the lawyer will only be looking over the policy, not the procedures, meaning only the policy requires board action. The waiting period from previous readings was still in the policy. The board moved to send the policy to the lawyer a week from the day of the meeting in order to give the board time to weigh in. The motion passed unanimously.
The board then read through a list of policies for second reading. There was a question about a stated budget line item in the Health and Safety policy, which was a leftover from an old Health and Safety funding mechanism. Bonner requested the policy be set aside and re examined until the old language could be revised. The board approved all other policies for second reading. The board then moved on to the issue of Marlene Schultz’s property: previous meetings had discussed the idea of an easement to allow Schultz to manage some of the property due to a misplatted road. Due to the error, two and a half feet of Schultz’s driveway was technically on school land. Superintendent Abraham, after speaking to a surveyor and a lawyer, relayed that the “cleanest thing is to not have any easements. The cleanest thing is to own land outright.” The board, on advice from the lawyer, then moved to engage in a “land swap” instead of an easement, deeding the two and a half feet to Schultz in exchange for a build-able, non-flowage triangle of her property near the bus garage, which could be used for extra school storage via a quick claim deed. Schultz agreed to the pay the legal fees, and the board voted to approve sending this plan to the lawyer for approval.
The board closed with a positive note from Ann Hendricks, a member of the Mankato School Board, who had been in town for the International Owl Festival. The board member told Superintendent Abraham that “as a district we should be very proud of what we have here and what we exhibited to the community during the Owl Fest.” According to Abraham, Hendricks praised the school, saying “she could tell there was high quality education going on just by what was on the walls.” The Houston Public School Board will meet next on Thursday, April 6, 2017 at the Houston Public High School Library at 6 p.m. Meetings are now being streamed live on YouTube and archives can be accessed at the Houston School District website.