On December 7, the Kingsland School Board held their monthly “work session” meeting. Members in attendance included Jackie Horsman, Noella Lund, Tiffany Mundfrom, Maranda Emig, and Kyle Rader. Natasha Howard was absent. Also in attendance were Superintendent Jim Hecimovich, Principal Scott Klavetter, Athletic Director Mark Fitzpatrick, Building & Grounds Director Jason Thompson, and Business Manager Amber Herbrand.
The board shared information that Kingsland is currently in an instructional model referred to as Distance Learning Plus. In this model, the vast majority of students do not come to school, but participate only via remote technology. The current plan is for Kingsland to stay in this instructional model through the Christmas break, and a determination will be made and announced in late December, regarding plans for January. A report submitted by Principal Scott Klavetter explained that “There will be a very small number of students in our school building at any given time during Distance Learning Plus. According to page 18 of the MDE Safe Learning Plan, school districts are encouraged to prioritize in-person instruction for students with disabilities, English learners, students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care, and students who are struggling academically… Transportation is being provided for these sessions for those who need it, and all in-person sessions will be limited to no more than two students from different households (or daycares) to limit our contacts.”
Klavetter also shared that Elementary Social Worker Annie Pendl “will be reaching out to students and families in the next couple days, looking to put together some virtual game nights for elementary kids.” He said this is intended as a way to offer socializing, with staff supervision, during Distance Learning and the Christmas break.
Superintendent Hecimovich updated the board on his efforts to find some resolution about what he described as “extortion” by the Minnesota State High School League. Hecimovich reminded the board that the MSHSL has added a fee for all member schools, to make up for lost revenues due to the pandemic. He said the main problem is that the fee is being unfairly administered, with some larger schools paying about $7.50 per students, while Kingsland’s fee equates to four times that.
Hecimovich said he has tried to get an explanation from MSHSL, but essentially he’s been told that schools must either pay the fee or they won’t be able to remain in the MSHSL. He shared with the board regarding his anger that there was no regional information gathering prior to the MSHSL announcing this new fee, and he intends to reach out local legislators for their assistance in handling this issue. He summarized, “It’s difficult for me to swallow a $4,000+ bailout for no service received or justifiable explanations.”
Jackie Horsman said she shares the superintendent’s anger on this issue, and she stated that she doesn’t like the fact that if Kingsland pays the fee, it would clearly be taking funds away that could otherwise be benefitting students and their educational needs. The board discussed the impact if Kingsland were to drop from the MSHSL. No formal action was taken, but the board consensus was to continue disputing the need to pay the fee.
Representing the accounting firm of Smith Schafer & Associates, Jason Boynton gave the board a summary of Kingsland’s recent annual fiscal audit. Boynton stated that the audit resulted in an unmodified “clean” report, with no Minnesota legal compliance exceptions. His report showed that, as always, enrollment is the major factor impacting Kingsland’s revenues and expenses. Kingsland’s enrollment, as measured by “Average Daily Membership,” has decreased slowly but steadily since 2010. The ADM was 706 in 2010, and was 565 for 2020.
Roughly two-thirds of Kingsland’s revenue comes via State Aid, with the next largest piece, Property Taxes, accounting for 19%. Four percent was Federal Aid, and the remaining 11% was Other Sources. These percentages have remained fairly stable from year to year.
Because of the pandemic, Kingsland’s revenues and expenses both decreased. Boynton pointed out some areas that were uniquely impacted by the challenges of 2020, but said overall the school district is budgetarily sound.
Athletics and Activities Director Mark Fitzpatrick submitted a written report that stated, “Football and volleyball have both wrapped up and had equipment turned in. We did this in the safest way with a contactless drop off for students. Basketball is on hold for now until we have more information from Governor Walz. Start date is December 19, this might be pushed back by SEC until after Christmas break.” He also reported that the Dance team has been practicing via virtual technology, even though it’s very tough to choreograph a group without meeting in person.
The board has received a notice of resignation from board member Tiffany Mundfrom. Hecimovich explained that the board vacancy will need to be filled via the board appointing someone to replace her. He suggested the board may wish to publish a notice in the local newspaper, including an application for interested citizens to fill out and submit. He said the board then could consider any applicants, and possibly appoint a replacement in January. The board agreed to this plan.
The Kingsland board’s next meeting will be a regular meeting on December 21, at 6:01 p.m., beginning with the annual Truth in Taxation hearing.