At their regular February 18 meeting, the Houston School Board discussed the work done so far on the superintendent job description. Mimi Carlson and Board chair Tom Stilin met with Superintendent Krin Abraham to pare down the superintendent duties. Abraham had taken on additional duties over the years which could and should be assigned to others. Acting Board chair Mimi Carlson presented the concept of creating an additional non-teaching position which would be included in the professional group. The position would be a combination of communications director, athletic & activities director, and possibly transportation scheduler. The person in this position would take over Education Matters, the school’s newsletter which is published quarterly. The principals would take over more of the curriculum under the new superintendent.
The MSBA superintendent search representative, Barb Dorn has requested a special meeting of the board to take place on February 23. Dorn will be on Zoom; the rest of the board will be in person. Abraham will facilitate the Zoom, but will not participate in the meeting. This meeting will have one topic only — the discussion of the attribute priorities the next superintendent should have.
Abraham informed the board that there still has been no allocation of the ESSER funds; information should be released around March 1.
The COVID case numbers are falling for both the county and zip code. The recent announcement by the governor has no effect on Houston Schools since they are already operating in person and are adhering to the stipulations of the Safe Learning Plan.
The school still needs to find five locations across the state to hold MCA testing for the MNVA. Teachers at MNVA are hoping to receive the vaccine before needing to supervise the MCA testing sites.
Prom and graduation guidances have not been released yet; supposedly MDE is referencing other large gathering guidances already created as they make a plan.
Abraham told the board there is a bill in the legislature that would allow any district to offer distance learning next year without needing to meet the requirements currently met by online schools such as MNVA.
New course offerings
Abraham presented the new course offerings she is suggesting for next fall. Since the seventh and eighth grade reading classes have not had the desired impact, reading will be emphasized more in every class. A life skills class will replace the eighth grade reading and writing prep. This class will develop skills for personal growth and independence including budgeting, goal setting, decision making, and application of technology.
The seventh grade offering will be digital citizenship in which students will learn to keep themselves safe online, differentiate between fake and real news, and recognize how technology affects social and emotional health. Abraham enthused, “This will be a very valuable class!”
American Literature will be offered both junior and senior years, which will help ease scheduling difficulties. Additional classes to be offered will be mythology and speech/drama for both juniors and seniors. A speech/drama class was offered in the past; Abraham noted there were many positive results of the class still in evidence at the school.
The board will make a decision on the offerings March 4.
The board decided to purchase Nevco model 2750 scoreboards for the high school. This wireless model can be used for volleyball, basketball, and wrestling; the old cages can be reused. The final cost will be around $8,000 with the school responsible for installation. Several Houston community groups are willing to donate to the purchase. The boards will be installed before the end of the year.
In other business the board:
• Set the MNVA cohort dates for the year 2022; these are the dates when enrollment changes can occur;
• Learned Snow Days Week will occur next week;
• Heard that Abraham appeared before Gene Pelowski’s committee to ask for a tax incentive for businesses to partner with schools; the MNVA heavy equipment classes have such an incentive. The health and IT classes have no such incentive for businesses.
The next regular Houston School Board meeting will be March 4, 2021 at the high school media center and streamed online. Citizens are welcome to attend and submit comments on the school website.
• At a previous meeting (February 11), Superintendent Abraham had mentioned the possibility of an offer to purchase the St. Mary’s Catholic Church. This was apparently a premature offer; the church membership has not officially decided to sell the building at this time. If and when they decide to offer it for sale, the school would be interested in further discussion.