The Houston Public School Board met for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 20 in the Houston Public High School Library. In attendance were Superintendent Abraham and Board members Bonner, Krage, Wilson, Stillin, and Evenson. Board member Norlien arrived at approximately 6:16. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the board approved the agenda and opened the meeting to public comment, of which there was none. The board considered its consent agenda, and Board member Bonner asked to move a section of the consent agenda dealing with retirements in order to act on it separately. The board approved the changes and the amended consent agenda, and moved immediately into the retirements.
Board member Bonner entered a resolution of commendation for the retiring Georgia Rehbein after 14 years with the district. Reading from the commendation, Bonner read that Rehbein will be remembered as “a cornerstone of special ed, MNVA, K-5,” and “an extremely patient, caring and supportive special ed teacher.” Bonner then read from a similar commendation for Dionne Schoh, a special ed teacher in the district for 26 years. Bonner read that Schoh “has always demonstrated great care for students and their parents,” and that “Dionne willingly supported every student to the same level every year.” The board approved both resolutions of commendation, and moved on to discussion items.
Superintendent Abraham presented staff and student handbooks to the board for Houston Elementary and High Schools, along with the Summit Learning Center and the Minnesota Virtual Academy. Abraham mentioned that, as part of new legislation, an opt-out form for the MCA test needed to be included in the handbook, and all future versions of the handbook will be amended to include the form for final board approval. Board member Bonner praised the organization and standardization of the handbooks across all district schools, but raised a few suggestions for clarity. The board will continue to look over the handbooks and suggest any changes before voting in a final version. The board then discussed the district’s service agreement with Hiawatha Valley Education District for Special Ed oversight. The board raised questions about getting their fair share in the agreement, to which Abraham replied she has been working hard to ensure a fair share for Houston, and that things are “getting better.” The board also discussed its membership in the Minnesota School Boards Association, with Superintendent Abraham citing policy service with legal fees in the past that has made the membership cost-effective. The board will vote on all discussion items at a later date, currently scheduled for the next board meeting on August 3.
The board then discussed the MSBA self-evaluation form, which had the best scores in “engaging the local community, setting high standards and creating a climate for student success. After reviewing the data, the board talked about whether or not to discuss the results in a board retreat, or hire MSBA for a board inservice to deal the issues raised in the self-evaluation of accountability & responsibility as a governing body. Superintendent Abraham was then asked by the board to find out when MSBA would be available for the inservice sometime after mid-August.
The board then moved on to Old Business, approving 25 computers for the Business Lab. Board member Bonner expressed frustration with the board’s representation and collaboration with the district tech committee, asking that a process be made to get that information to the board for review. After a short discussion, the board approved the purchase of student Chromebooks and new computers for the library that meet the technical specifications of MNVA online classes. The board also approved the district’s use of the Schoology Student Management System, and also voted to paint the ceilings at Houston Elementary School, along with approving a policy for Student Surveys.
The board then moved on to New Business, approving the 2017 Literacy Plan, the yearly renewal of the district’s Ten-Year Plan, and approving second quarter board pay. The board had four policies for first reading, including Curriculum and Instruction Goals, Curriculum Development, Textbooks and Instructional Materials, and School District Accountability. Superintendent Abraham then made announcements regarding registration for the MSBA Summer Seminar and MREA Annual Meeting, and the meeting adjourned at 7:34 p.m. The Houston Public School Board will meet again at 6 p.m. in the Houston Public High School Library on August 3, 2017.