By Ben Bisbach
The Mabel-Canton School Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 16. Present were Superintendent Gary Kuphal, District Secretary Heather Kleiboer, Principal Michelle Weidemann, board members Traci Livingood, Jason Marquardt, Chris Miller, Cristal Adkins, Diane Wilder, Dustin Tollefsrud, and Mark Weidemann, and Student Representative Matt McClimon.
McClimon gave a report on prom – it was a successful event and everyone was glad the rain held off. He reported tremendous excitement among his fellow seniors with graduation just around the corner. Superintendent Kuphal and the other board members thanked McClimon for his service as student representative, and congratulated him on the imminent completion of his high school career.
Steve Sallee, Executive Director of the Southeast Service Coop, addressed the board. Established by Minnesota law in 1976, the Coop is a public non-profit agency that provides a wide range of services to public school districts. These include professional learning for teachers, promoting STEM, student enrichment, facilities management services, cooperative purchasing, operating the Minnesota Healthcare Consortium (a healthcare purchasing pool for districts), and coordinating with local governments. Additional initiatives this year include helping teachers gain ESL credentials, and promoting student career pathways into high demand trades that don’t require a college degree.
Principal Weidemann gave the principal’s report. High school awards will be presented Wednesday, May 31. The spring sports event will be that evening. Graduation is June 2, at 7 p.m. Discussion then turned to class sizes and offerings, based on projected enrollment numbers. Overall, it appears enrollment will remain stable or increase ever so slightly. However, the status of the agreement with Decorah may change this. Currently, M-C has an agreement with Decorah which allows students who live closer to Mabel to cross state lines and attend school here. The Decorah superintendent recently sent letters to the 11 families (22 students) who do this, informing them he was not recommending continuing this agreement. Superintendent Kuphal has reached out to the effected families and is setting up times to meet with them to consider what their options may be.
After a long search a new custodian has been hired – Dana Vesterse. He is interested in getting his boiler license, which will be very helpful.
Following these discussions, the board moved on to action items. Cooperative agreements with Lanesboro for track and boys golf, and Fillmore Central for wrestling, were renewed. The dean of students position was increased from two to three hours/day. Revisions to the calendar were approved – early dismissal days will now end at 12:30 rather than 12:15. The Capital Outlay and Long-Term Facilities Maintenance recommendations were approved.
The new two-year contract with the teacher’s union, which was recently ratified by the union, was approved by the board. It includes increases in the district contribution for health insurance, increases in pay for teaching online courses, and an increase in base salary.
Superintendent Kuphal raised the topic of e-learning, specifically as a way to mitigate the loss of instruction time on snow days. Currently, M-C does not utilize e-learning on snow days. The school would need to establish a formal policy, which would take time. Board members had a wide range of opinions. Board member Livingood, observing that the tradition of snow days is one of the great things about Minnesota winters, was emphatically against. There were questions on the efficacy of e-learning, especially for elementary schoolers, and a general consensus that more perspective was needed form teachers and administrators as to how such a policy could work. At this time there is no plan to establish an e-learning policy and no action was taken; Kuphal simply wanted to gauge the opinions of the board.
The next meeting of the board will be on June 20, at 6 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.