The Houston School Board met in the library of Houston Public High School for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 7, 2017. In attendance were Superintendent Abraham, along with Board members Bonner, Wilson, Stillin, Evenson, and Carlson. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the board unanimously approved the night’s agenda and opened the meeting to public comment, of which there was none. The board then moved on to consent items, which included nine new contracts and 18 hiring memos for teachers, coaches, club advisors, and long-term substitutes at both Houston Schools and the Minnesota Virtual Academy. There was also one listed resignation, which Abraham noted was the result of a “miscommunication with HVED,” and will continue to provide services as an employee of the Hiawatha Valley Education District, but not of Houston Schools. Following discussion, the consent items passed with one abstention from board member Carlson.
The board moved on to discussion items, starting with the proposed levy that will have to be certified at the September 21 meeting. Abraham noted that they had not yet received numbers from the state Department of Education, but as soon as the numbers are given it will go to the Finance Committee who will then present their findings September 21. The board then discussed the district’s stated goals, which included a state-set 90% student proficiency benchmark for 2025. Board member Bonner expressed frustration in understanding some of the concepts and methods, and Abraham replied that the school is following state guidelines and legislation on the issue. Board chair Stillin noted that the board will have to make sure that the community understands the programs, and Bonner countered that the board should be ready to explain the district goals at an upcoming “World’s Best Workforce” meeting. Stillin recommended to put together information regarding the meeting in the local newspaper to help give the community knowledge before the scheduled meeting. Abraham then spoke regarding the superintendent’s evaluation, producing a model evaluation sheet for the board to look over prior to the meeting on September 21. The board will finish its 2016-2017 evaluation and look at setting up the evaluation timeline for the 2017-2018 school year.
The board then moved on to New Business, beginning by acknowledging former board member Joe Krage for his service to the board. A recent redrawing of districts placed Krage’s home out of the district, and as a result Krage was forced to resign. The resolution was introduced by Stillin, motioned by Wilson, and seconded by Evenson. The resolution passed unanimously, and the board moved on to deal with Krage’s vacancy. At the last meeting, the board had discussed allowing for applications for any interested new members, and Stillin mentioned that it be made clear for all applicants the nature of the position, the applicant’s purpose as a board member, and the reasoning for joining the board. The board further discussed the fine details of what would be required of the applicant, how the interview process would go, and which members of the board would evaluate applicants. The board will hold its first interviews at the first October meeting, with an appointment being made by the board at the second October meeting. The public then has 30 days to weigh in before the new member is sworn in at the end of November or the beginning of December. The deadline to send a letter of intent to serve on the board will be Friday, September 29.
The board then looked over six policies for a first reading, and Abraham noted to the board that the second meeting in October will be on Wednesday, October 18 at 6 p.m., due to the normal Thursday being a non-school day. The board then heard committee updates, where Board member Carlson noted the online attendance has decreased about 30 seats from the 2016-2017 school year. However, Carlson did note that all other matters were going “really amazingly smoothly.” Abraham gave updates regarding yearly testing, noting that longer testing windows were causing disengagement among the students. Board member Bonner asked Abraham about the additional testing computers requested by the school, and Abraham replied that the extra computers are to ensure more students are taking the tests at the same time. Abraham then reported to the board that, at the next meeting, they will be asked to approve the HVED 10-year maintenance plan. Agreement to the plan does not require funding, and Abraham reported that she asked for a recalculation for the district to exclude online students who cannot use school buildings. The recalculation dropped Houston’s percentage of the total project from 18% to 4%.
The board moved on to Old Business, hearing from Gail Gilman from the Minnesota School Board Association. Gilman was brought in to assist the board in its self-evaluation session. The session, which lasted nearly three hours, had the board discussing shared experiences and working together to better serve the district. Following the session, the board voted to adjourn at 9:42 p.m. The Houston Public School Board will meet for its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. in the library of Houston Public High School on Thursday, September 21, 2017.