The Houston School Board met in the library of Houston Public High School at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, 2017. In attendance were Superintendent Abraham and Board Members Bonner, Stillin, Krage, Wilson and Carlson. Board Member Norlien arrived to the meeting after it commenced. Following the pledge, the board approved the last meeting’s minutes and opened to public comment. After receiving no public comment, the board then moved on to approve the meeting’s consent items, including one hiring, one leave request, and a resignation for Kathy Jumbeck from the position of paraprofessional in the Houston Early Childhood Family Education program. Superintendent Abraham read a letter from Houston Preschool teacher Jamie Woodard on behalf of Jumbeck, praising Jumbeck as “full of ideas” and “very knowledgeable about the program,” and “always willing to go the extra mile.”
“She continually promotes the benefits of our program out in the community and tries to recruit new families… parents and children both enjoy her, and she does a superb job in her role as an ECFE paraprofessional.
“Mrs. Jumbeck will be truly missed in the program and I am very saddened to see her leave,” the letter continued, calling Jumbeck “irreplaceable.” The letter was met with applause from the board and all consent items were approved unanimously. The board moved on to items for discussion, going over two proposals sent to the school district for auditing services. The board had sent out requests from five firms, and debated the benefits of staying with their current firm for the benefit of continuity. Board Member Krage recommended staying with the current firm, as he saw “no benefit moneywise to switching.” Board Member Carlson expressed regret that the board was not able to get presentations from all five firms, but agreed with Krage to stay the course.
The board then moved on to old business, discussing the Naming Rights and Memorials Policy from the previous meeting. The board had not yet discussed in the policy draft how repairs or maintenance will be assigned for memorials. Superintendent Abraham stressed the importance to avoid gray areas, urging the board to read over the policy again for clarity. Board Member Carlson asked if the three-year waiting period still applied to all aspects, and Superintendent Abraham clarified the re-wording that a memorial can be proposed right away, but will not be finalized until three years after an individual’s passing. Carlson stated that three years felt like a long time, and asked for clarification regarding a gift of money in the case of a death. Board Member Bonner replied that a structure built from a gift would not be built immediately, but Carlson did not see the sense of having a possibly unnamed structure at the school waiting for an official name. Board Members Krage and Stillin brought up that policies can be changed or overridden in future, and Abraham noted that any building, even with the money, needs first to be approved by the Minnesota Department of Education. Stillin and Bonner then asked the board and any interested public to look the policy over again and suggest edits before the policy is voted on.
The board, at the urging of Bonner, looked into “crossing the t’s” on the policy, discussing forms for the new policy. Carlson again brought up the issue of the three-year waiting period, asking for clarification of the timeline in naming a hypothetical new scoreboard. Carlson then asked why there would be such a long waiting period, saying that funds available now for a memorial would be put to a different use than funds planned to be used in three years. Board Member Norlien asked why a three-year waiting period is in the draft policy, and Stillin replied that it is meant to avoid an uncomfortable “emotional response.” Bonner clarified that the policy does not keep the memorial from being proposed or in conversation, but officially named for three years following the death. Abraham stressed the need to be as “objective as possible” on the issue of memorials, and Stillin again urged the board to look it over. Next, Superintendent Abraham discussed a planned meeting with Marlene Schultz regarding a property easement, and the board then introduced six new policies for a first reading: legal status, privacy of pupil records transportation of nonpublic school students, fund balances, credit cards, and the health and safety policy.
The board then moved on to announcements, announcing another Board Leadership Planning Session for 6 p.m. on March 9, 2017. Superintendent Abraham noted that today was the last day for the previously commissioned survey, and said she will release the results to the board to look over. Eighty-eight people out of around 170 people had responded to the survey, reported Abraham, and Bonner asked for a reminder email to be sent out to encourage more to take the survey. The focus of the planning session will be to take the survey’s input and use it to identify what strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats affect the district. Abraham asked the board at large if this planning session is to develop initiatives moving forward, or if that was the job of a special task force. The board replied that it is their duty to set the focus for the district, taking into consideration the survey results. The board also announced an Online School Committee meeting at 5 p.m. on March 16, and discussed the first steps toward a possible cafeteria and secure entry addition to the front of the elementary school building near the gym.
The Houston School Board will meet again for its regular meeting on Thursday, March 16, 2017 in the Houston Public High School Library.