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Fire at Fillmore Central High School handled well by all involved

Fri, May 28th, 2010
Posted in Education

During the Fillmore Central School Board meeting on May 25, high school Principal Heath Olstad gave the board an update about the recent fire at the high school building. The fire occurred on Wednesday, May 19, during the lunch hour, and it started in the boiler room. Olstad explained to the board what exactly happened and how smoothly everything went. The building was evacuated, and students and staff went to the Community Center.

Olstad said the sheriff's department and the inspector went through the boiler room and found the cause of the fire to be an electrical failure in the control panel for the air handling system. This system moves fresh air into the classrooms. Superintendent Myrna Luehmann explained a spark set the manual and service logs on fire, as they are kept inside the boxes. It also burned off the end of the solenoid, which brought more air into the box, feeding the fire even more. It all happened very quickly.

"I can't compliment the students or staff enough," said Olstad. He said there is a student at the school who needs assistance getting out of the building during an emergency. There is a team of students who have been trained to help him, and have regular practice during fire drills. Several members of the team showed up to help him, but the student was outside with a staff member at the time of the fire.

Olstad said that he and Nate Carlson, the P.E. teacher, were in the basement trying to put out the fire with fire extinguishers for a short time. They have discovered that it was a heat sensor that tripped the actual fire alarm that brought the fire department there. After watching the surveillance videos, Olstad determined that it was exactly nine minutes from the time the alarms went off until the fire department was there to fight the fire.

Olstad also complimented Mark Scheevel from Harmony Transit for arranging the transportation for the early dismissal. Parents were called and informed that school would be let out early. Olstad said the staff did a great job, and the students were very patient as they waited at the Community Center.

"Now we know why we do all those drills," said Olstad. He also complimented the Harmony Fire Department, as well as the Harmony and Preston ambulances. The board also gave their compliments and their thanks that everyone was safe.

Olstad said the total damage done will not be known for a while yet. There will be insurance adjustors inspecting the fire area. He said they will need a new compressor, as the old one is not fixable.

Community Education Report

Community Ed. Director Holly Kanengeiter gave her report on how things went throughout the year and some plans for next year. She said the Early Childhood Family Education program is growing, and this year they had three classes per session instead of the usual two. They are looking to hire an assistant coordinator to go along with the parent educator position.

Youth Enrichment worked with kids through Homework Help after school, which will continue next year. Kanengeiter said they might have to look at transportation due to younger kids attending the high school. SAC (School Age Child Care) had many more kids than they expected for the summer, so the numbers are great.

Kanengeiter also said the daycare is going to be close to breaking even this year, which is a first. School readiness registrations for next year are already coming in, and the spaces are filling up faster than ever. They are going to offer a "Preschool Plus" program for three year olds who may not be ready to attend preschool twice a week. It will be once a week and have a parent component.

Kanengeiter said they are working on forming a Fillmore Central Foundation. They are working together with the Preston Area Foundation and the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation.

Principal Reports

Olstad gave the board a list of plans the seniors have for next year. Of the 40 students, 15 are planning on attending a four-year college. There are seventeen kids attending a two-year college, seven who are starting employment, and one going into the military.

Chris Mensink, dean of students at the K-8 building, said the 6-8 graders had their orientation at the high school for next year on May 5 and 12. Kindergarten Assessments were held in May as well. There was a Community Service Day on May 14 in which students helped out people in the community with yard work and other cleaning projects. Mensink said this was very successful and the people were very appreciative.

Athletic Committee

Sikkink said Athletic Director Jane Montgomery recently attended an Athletic Director meeting. She found that Fillmore Central's sports policy about first-time drinking offenders is stricter than the Minnesota State High School League policy. The committee decided to go with the MSHSL policy to avoid confusion. The policy for first-time offenders will be a suspension for two games or two weeks, whichever comes first. The school's policy for second- and third-time offenders was the same as the MSHSL policy.

Policy and School Calendar

Board member Sue Sikkink is on the Policy Committee, which met recently and discussed the Emergency Closing Days policy. A survey had been sent out to the faculty about their opinions on how emergency snow days should be handled or made up. Sikkink said the committee was proposing there be one free snow day that will not have to be made up. There will be five days added on to calendar at the end of the school year, which means school will be finished on June 10. The board will meet at the end of April and decide if those days need to be used for make-up or not. If there have not been any more snow days, school will be let out earlier.

Luehmann said there were two snow days this past school year, which is an average amount. Olstad felt the extra days would be useful days, because if there were snow days, the teachers would have plenty to do.

The first reading of the policy changes was approved.


The board approved the hire of two new teachers at the high school. Carrie Mathison will be taking over the full-time art position. Daniel Beck was hired for the .33 FTE Physical Education position.

The board also approved a three-year contract for Michelle Breitsprecher. She is the special ed. director as well as the Root River Program Director. There will be an increase in salary and some added responsibilities in her contract.

The position of media center paraprofessional, held by Mary Hatfield, will increase from four hours a day to five hours a day. Melanie Olstad, the guidance assistant and district assessment coordinator, will be working four days a week during the school year instead of three.

There was a wage increase approved for all paraprofessional, office, and media support staff. The contract shows that for 2010-2011, there will be a two percent increase. There will be no increase for the second year.

Community ed. staff was also approved. There will be students working with kids on summer rec. Brain Wolfgram was hired for SAC (School Age Child Care), as well as Jennifer Quandahl for the student SAC worker. Charlene Mensink, who is phasing into retirement, will be working part time in both the daycare and the pre-school rooms. Kathy Tesmer will be working with the pre-school kids.

Other Business

A retirement plaque was presented to Laura Armstrong for her 34 years of dedicated service to both Harmony schools and Fillmore Central.

Board member Craig Britton said the boilers have been removed from the middle school, and everything is going well for the project.

The board approved the following items:

•The resignation of Tara Corson from community ed. She will still be teaching 3/4 preschool.

•Child care leave for the fall for Jodie Daniels

•The Taher Food Service contract with no changes and no increase in prices

•An open enrollment request from a family in Lanesboro with two children

•A multi-coverage insurance contract for 2010-2011.

School Board meetings will take place at the high school media center in Harmony during the summer months due to construction at the middle school.

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