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School board issues letter to the newspapers

Fri, Dec 17th, 2010
Posted in Education

The bullying issues that have plagued Lanesboro schools recently were discussed during the school board meeting on December 16.

Chair person Dave Lawstuen said he had drafted an open letter to parents and patrons regarding the recent articles and letters to the editor regarding the bullying. He asked the board members to look it over and make suggestions. He wanted to make the letter public record, and after it was approved, it would be sent to the newspapers.

The board members made a few suggestions regarding the language, and Lawstuen read the letter out loud with the changes. The letter spoke about the policies that are in place, the bullying prohibition policy, the positive behavior program, and the second steps program. He also mentioned that the board is comfortable with what the administration is doing about the bullying. He said there are privacy rights that do not allow them to disclose information regarding the people involved, but they support the superintendent in his administration of these policies.

Lawstuen then opened the floor for patron comments. There were several people at the meeting, including students. Becky Stocker spoke about her three children who attend Lanesboro School. She said her son had some bullying issues that would not stop, and she spoke to the principal about it. The family received a phone call of apology from the person doing the bullying.

"I don't mean to minimize the pain of others," said Stocker. "But the press the school has received has been incomplete. Good things do happen at our school."

Stocker added that they do not live in the district, but choose to have their children attend Lanesboro.

Karen Neneman then spoke to the board again about the bullying her daughter received. Her daughter Sabrina is now doing online school. She said she asked about having her daughter attend band and choir so she could be with her friends, and was told by the online school she would have to receive a waiver. She said Lanesboro schools have never contacted her, and she has heard nothing from them.

Boggs said they did discuss the waiver at one time, but Neneman said she had to call him, he never called her.

Lawstuen said he was sure she would receive a call the next day, as they would like to keep the extra-curricular activities open for children who are home schooled or who do the online schooling.

"I didn't intend to make this a big deal," said Neneman. "But the office didn't back her up. She was just doing what she was told to do."

Neneman said her daughter was told by Principal Brett Clark that she needed to know the difference between bullying and somebody not liking someone. Neneman said she could not let her daughter come back to school until she knew she would be okay.

Barb Schramm asked the board about making things more open for parents to discuss problems, as she said it was pretty scary, and almost antagonistic. Board member Steve Snyder told her not to be afraid. Board member Sara Decker said she encourages people to talk to the administration.

"There can't be a problem solved if we don't know about it," said Decker.

Lawstuen said it was difficult living in a small town and seeing each other everywhere, but people need to learn to be civil with each other, not hold grudges, and to be forgiving of others.

Budget and Levy

The school board approved the budget for 2011, as well as the levy. The levy was set at $524,423.63. Superintendent Jeff Boggs explained most of the district's revenue comes from state aid. It also comes from the levy and other sources such as Special Ed. and debt services. He also explained the two ways that property values can increase. One way is that there are new homes built in the area, increasing the tax base and the property values. The other way is an increase due to sales and tax rates. With this way, there is the same number of people but they are paying a larger amount of taxes.

Boggs said there are levy limits set by state law or voter approval. Right now there is a referendum that will expire next year. The board has to decide whether or not to let it expire or ask the voters for another one at that time.

According to Boggs, the money they are getting from the state gets smaller every year. He said the worst case scenario would be they would receive $500,000 less next year, and they would have to dip into their reserves. When asked if there was a delay on the state aid next year, Boggs said there was. Since they have a good reserve fund, he said the state would hold back $1.3 million, which they should get at the end of May.

"I don't want to paint too bleak a picture," said Boggs. "We always do better than that, but it could be that way."

Flexible learning year

Boggs spoke to the board members about the idea of a Flexible Learning Year. He explained that there are several districts in southwest Minnesota that have formed a consortium and applied for the ability to start the school year two weeks early. Boggs said there are two main reasons for their wanting to do this.

One reason is to give the students more classroom learning time before the state standardized testing in the spring. Another reason is to align the calendars with other schools. This could open the possibility of sharing people hired for trainings and reducing costs. Boggs said there are other benefits, but those are the two main focuses.

According to Boggs, there are several schools in southeast Minnesota looking at the possibility, but they have not decided yet if Lanesboro wants to be a part of it. He said there is still more to be learned, but he wanted to let the board know it is something being looked at.

Lawstuen said the topic was discussed at a meeting of local school board chairs. They also discussed other ways the school year could be broken up. Lawstuen said at some point they will need to have more days in the year that kids are being taught.

Other Business

The board publicly thanked the residents who made monetary donations to the district to offset costs of the football team going to the state tournament. The costs included busing and meals. They also recognized the accomplishments of the football team for making it so far. Lawstuen thanked the team and the coaches for the enjoyment and pride they brought the school.

The board also recognized the fact that Bea Burmeister received a Retired Educator of the Year award. Burmeister taught music at Lanesboro schools.

The board approved the contract of Holly Clark for the junior class advisor position.

An amendment was approved for the Flex Plan and the HRA (Health Reimbursement Account) to include children up to the age of twenty-seven.

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