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Fillmore Central bus costs skyrocket


Fri, Jul 25th, 2008
Posted in Education

PRESTON - Transportation costs, community projects, and handbook changes were important issues at the Fillmore Central School Board meeting, held at the middle school on July 21.

After several Transportation Committee meetings over the past few months, an agreement covering the final two years of a four year bussing contract with Harmony Transit was reached. Board member John Torgrimson noted that volatile fuel prices made it very hard to find what was right for both parties, noting that diesel prices that day were at $4.50 per gallon compared with the last two years when the agreement used $2.75 per gallon as the base price. Torgrimson said 23,000 gallons of diesel are consumed annually.

"The agreement would have been reached a long time ago if it wasn't for the fuel prices," said Superintendent Myrna Luehmann.

Judging by today's diesel prices, transportation for the year will cost the school $30,000 more than it did last year. Torgrimson said the agreement calls for a 2 percent increase in the base contract with Harmony Transit in each of the next two years. A fuel formula was also created where the district will pay for diesel costs above and beyond the $3.00 per gallon base price set for the next two years.

The board voted unanimously to approve the transportation contract.

Another major fuel-related issue was the subject of the late bus, which is available for kids needing transportation after sports practices. After discussing the possibility of cutting down the route or implementing a payment program for the families using it, the board decided to keep the late bus operating like last year but to monitor the number of students using the service so that necessary adjustments can be made if needed.

Tennis Courts

A presentation about Preston Community Recreation Projects was given by Doug Keene and Wayne Dreier representing the Preston Tennis Committee. When MNDOT removed the tennis courts north of the elementary school for the Hwy 52 project, the school was compensated for the loss of land and facilities. The board agreed to set aside $30,000 of that amount for recreation projects in Preston as part of a settlement of the tennis courts which was built in cooperation between the district and city. The City of Preston conducted a survey and decided to put $5,000 towards the new playground at the ballpark and $25,000 towards the new tennis courts. Keene noted that the tennis courts, which are under construction, should be open by the last week of August.

Board member Ron Stevens initiated the motion to pay the city $30,000 minus $1,300 in disputed legal fees. Some board members were upset at what they believed to be unnecessary legal questions that were raised by Preston's attorney when the agreement was written up a year ago. This necessitated the district's attorney billing the school for extra legal services.

The motion passed, with board members John Torgrimson and Deb Ristau voting against the measure. The motion authorized the superintendent to work with the Preston city administrator to reach an agreement on the $1300.

Street Assessments

Joe Hoffman, Preston City Administrator, attended the meeting to answer questions on improvements to be made on Chatfield Street (which runs in front of the middle and elementary schools). Assessments for the district are estimated at around $26,000.

Board member Craig Britton questioned assessments for the new sidewalk that will be built to the tennis courts. Britton felt that because the tennis courts are part of an easement with the city, that the district shouldn't be assessed for that improvement.

Hoffman suggested that the district write a letter to the city council asking that those fees be waived.

Staffing

The board accepted teacher resignations from:

Brenda Lentz, who was contracted to teach Kindergarten, but will now be working in another district.

Janet Prinsen, who submitted her resignation as pre-school teacher in order to be hired as the district's Title 1 teacher.

Justin Treptow, who recently signed a contract to teach middle school math, has been offered an administration position in another district. Because of concerns with the amount of time left to hire a replacement teacher, the board decided to accept the resignation on the condition that a quality replacement be found.

It was also noted that Matt Kevan, who split his time teaching American Sign Language at Fillmore Central and helping a deaf student at Kingsland, has resigned. The Kingsland school district holds the contract for the position and Luehmann noted that it will be very difficult to find a certified person to fill the job because of the unusual licensure requirements.

German classes at Fillmore Central were suspended a few years ago, so students will be left with only one foreign language option [Spanish] without American Sign Language. High school principal Heath Olstad told the board that he hopes the position will be filled because of such high interest in the sign language classes.

The following full-time positions were approved for hire at the elementary school: Julie Siebenaler--K-4 special education, Janet Prinsen--Title 1, and Mary Beth Armstrong--Kindergarten.

Superintendent/Dean of Students Job Descriptions

Job descriptions and a list of duties for the Dean of Students (Chris Mensink) and Superintendent/Elementary Principal (Myrna Luehmann) positions were given to the board members, and no significant questions were raised. Luehmann and Mensink agreed to keep a detailed documentation of their year and give a report to the board every three months on progress. This information will be used to monitor how well the new administrative is working.

Luehmann also made a request for an increase in the Dean of Student's stipend from $2,500 to $3,500 considering extra duties expected of the position. But the motion by Craig Britton was defeated, as some members wanted to wait and see how much extra work the position will have.

Handbook Changes

A second reading was completed on changes made to the student handbook. The most highly-discussed issue was the use of cellphones and electronic equipment. While it was agreed that students will be allowed to use their cellphone/electronic equipment before school, after school, during lunch, and between classes, any use of those items during class will result in strict disciplinary action.

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