The Houston School Board met for its regular meeting in the library of Houston Public High School at 6 p.m. on Thursday, September 21, 2017. In attendance were Superintendent Abraham and Board members Bonner, Wilson, Carlson and Evenson. Board member Norlien arrived shortly afterwards. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the board approved the night’s agenda unanimously. The board then opened the meeting to public comment, of which there was none, and approved the evening’s consent items unanimously, which included one contract, three hiring memos, and one resignation.
The board then moved on to discussion items, first looking at a report on Enrollment by Site from Superintendent Abraham. Abraham reported that full time enrollment in the Minnesota Virtual Academy was down by about 70 students, which Abraham explained had to do with closing the enrollment period early. Abraham also detailed a text message campaign aimed at helping prospective students finish their applications in time for later enrollment. Abraham noted that there is a cut-off dates in September, October, and November to enroll, and after those deadlines the next possible enrollment date is January 2018. Abraham did admit to having more students withdraw as “summer leavers” who had been enrolled the previous spring, but did not finish the enrollment process for the fall. Abraham noted that some of the withdrawals came from families moving out of state, but stated that students have not been leaving due to any changes made by the school. The board requested data on the enrollment changes, and Abraham cited increased competition from other school districts going online, along with some good enrollment numbers coming out of the preschool. “The majority of kids are going to preschool,” Abraham noted, calling that information “absolutely fantastic.”
Abraham also fielded questions from the board regarding logistics and class shuffling at the elementary, saying “we’re making it work.” The existence of some larger classes in the elementary are making it necessary to split grades into multiple sections, which is putting a crunch on everything currently being offered in the spaces available at the elementary building. Due to fire code, the elementary is not able to install a portable classroom on site without placing it in an area Abraham said the school had decided was “educationally sound.” Abraham explained that plumbing and internet facilities for those areas would have made the idea of portable classrooms unworkable without placing a facility in the elementary school playground area.
Next, the board looked into interviews for potential board members. The new board member will be replacing board member Joe Krage, who had to resign from the board due to redistricting. Abraham reported to the board that the school has received one letter of interest for the position, and interested applicants have until 4 p.m. on September 29 to submit a letter in person, by mail or digitally. The board then moved on to Old Business, approving six policies on second reading including Student Discipline, Bullying Prohibition, Student Sex Nondiscrimination, Internet Acceptable Use & Safety, Credit for Learning, and Counseling. The only piece of new business for the evening was a certification of the proposed tax levy for 2018. Abraham explained that two items can be adjusted down without having to reconvene a new meeting: Long-Term Facility Maintenance Funding and Local Option Revenue. With the planned reductions, the proposed levy worked out to $424 per pupil unit, which includes the online school. Abraham explained that this plan provides “less burden on our taxpayers,” and that the same plan had been enacted the previous year. Board member Wilson summed up the plan by saying the taxpayers “will see a proposed increase, but it’s not the actual.” The board approved the plan unanimously.
Superintendent Abraham then presented a commendation to Houston High School for closing a reading achievement gap. The board issued thank you’s to the Caledonia Veterinary Clinic for a girls basketball donation and to the Violet Belter Memorial for Wayne Peterson and the Rushford Bank for a scoreboard.
The next Houston School Board meeting will take place on Wednesday, October 18 at 6 p.m. in the library of Houston Public High School. The meeting will be on a Wednesday due to there being no school on the regularly scheduled Thursday date of October 19.