The Monday, September 17 Rushford-Peterson School Board received several complaints from local childcare providers. During the time for public comment, Heidi Halvorson and Chellsey Olson brought forth a number of safety concerns for the children under their care utilizing the district’s bussing service.
According to Halvorson, this year, Bernard Bus Service has begun to drop off students at a designated location rather than at her childcare center, as has been done since 1993. The children range from three to five years of age. “There have been four incidents this year in the first eight days of school,” she said in a statement to the board. “That’s not a very good track record.”
The students wear a sticker designating which child care center they are to be bussed to. However, Halvorson maintains students are being dropped off a block or more away, in an area with no sidewalks. She further added that students have been dropped at the wrong child care location, missed busses which have arrived earlier than scheduled, and have been left with or walked with no supervision.
She suggested the district use one of 17 vehicles registered to the district to bus the children or modify routes to better accommodate the children’s needs. She further suggested the district contract with a different bus company that will comply with drop off specifics. “It is not very good odds. Please can we do something to take care of the safety of these little ones?” she asked.
Olson’s comments were similar, noting five incidents in the first 10 days of school. “I have the same concerns,” she began, before describing the incident of one, young student. “It was his first day of school, his first day at my daycare, and his first day on the bus; that’s not a very good first day of school,” said Olson. “Why is the driver not checking the sticker that’s right on their shirt?”
Olson went on to note that she’d spoken directly to Bernard Bus Service requesting the children be dropped at her center. “I was told that if I told anyone he was accommodating my concerns, he could change it right back. I don’t put up with threats like that. That is not what’s best for the kids.” Olson noted she had not spoken to Halvorson about the concerns.
“That’s five incidents in 10 days; 50%. If you were performing at 50%, I don’t know if you’d have a job very long,” added Olson. “Please keep in mind this company and the service, or lack thereof, when deciding what’s best for the district.”
Superintendent Chuck Ehler indicated he would discuss the matter with Bernard Bus Service and find a workable solution.
In other news, the board has formally approved a policy for the trapshooting team. An issue for several months now, district administration, including Ehler and Athletic Director Dan Bieberdorf, and trap shooting coach Colby Lind, have developed a policy regarding the team, its status, and any funding.
The team will maintain its status as a recognized school event. “The district will assist the trap shooting team participants and coaches in securing donations. We hope to have the volunteer coaches (from the previous year), and others to assist with the program. Through a collaborative and cooperative effort, a positive fund balance can and will be achieved and maintained by following these guidelines,” read the policy.
Participants will pay a $125 fee and an online registration fee of $35. Actual costs to participants will likely be reduced by fundraising. For the state Clay Target Tournament, participants will pay the entry fee, lodging and meal expenses. These costs may be offset by fundraising as well. For the state high school Clay Target Competition, the district will provide transportation, lodging, and a $10 per meal stipend.
When it comes to pay for coaches, they will reimbursed for all expenses incurred for the team. If the season ends with a positive fund balance, after event and competition expenses are met, the board will consider pay for coaches. This includes one head coach, two assistant coaches, and one range safety officer.
“The criteria is spelled out,” said Ehler. “In the event that we’re in the black and able to reimburse the coaches, we will do so.”
Board Director Dean Mierau, who has previously noted his support of paying trap shooting coaches similarly to other activity coaches, made reference to a vote by the board to approve $3,500 for part-time positions, including choreographer, musical director, vocal director, and assistant technical director, related to the upcoming school musical. “I think it’s only fair that we do the same for trap shooting.”
Ehler acknowledged Mierau’s concerns, but no further discussion was held. “I feel confident we can make that work,” said Ehler. “It takes away some of the gray areas; everything is spelled out.”
The board also discussed the timeline for the hiring of a new superintendent. Ehler will not seek renewal of his contract at the end of the 2018-2019 school year. A tentative timeline has been detailed and includes the mailing of flyers and posting of the position November 26. Applications will be due January 11 with review of applicants to begin the following week, narrowing applicants to three to five candidates. Interviews will begin the first week of February and by the end of February the committee will expect to have finalized their choice.
Ehler suggested school and community visits for the candidate by conducted with any second interviews held in March. A final recommendation is tentatively scheduled for mid-March with the board approving the new hire at the March 18, 2019 board meeting.
Also suggested were possibilities for the selection committee. Ehler suggested five members of district leadership, all school board members, four teachers, one paraeducator, one custodian, three members of district office staff, the district administrative assistant and school social worker.
“With a new school, I would think we could find some good candidates,” said Board Director John Linder.
Board members Jon Pettit and Bonnie Prinsen suggested the committee possibilities were heavy on administration and district staff, rather than teaching staff or community members. “I’m trying to look at the big picture and think community input is important. You can represent an area without the entire area there,” said Prinsen. “I think there’s some other considerations in making the committee workable.” The committee suggestions will be finalized in the coming months.
In the Superintendent’s Report, Ehler discussed recent enrollment data. Last year, there were 645 students K-12, and an additional 28 students, ages four to five, in the School Readiness program, three students in Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE), and three foreign exchange students. Thus far in the 2018-2019 school year, numbers indicate 685 students K-12, with an additional 22 students, ages three to four, and 45 students, ages four to five, in the School Readiness Program, six students in ESCE, and two foreign exchange students. The increase of 40 students, grades K-12 this year is a notable achievement for the district. “It’s our highest enrollment in the last ten years,” said Prinsen. The district is estimating 2019-2020 enrollment at 676 students.
The school board has approved setting the preliminary 2019 levy at the maximum amount. That decision is based off recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education and financial consultant Ehlers & Associates. This can be lowered before certifying the final levy to Fillmore County in December, however, it cannot be raised beyond that amount.
An informational public meeting for the Operating Referendum will be held Monday, October 1, at 6:30 p.m., in the R-P auditorium.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, October 15, at 5:30 p.m., in the forum room. The public is encouraged to attend.