Houston Public Schools will soon be beginning their first year without a contract with HVED (Hiawatha Valley Education District) and provide their own special education services. Amber Kulig, director of SPED for the Houston District, addressed the board at their August 3 regular board meeting.
A SEAC (Special Education Advisory Council) will need to be established for Houston Schools as required by Minnesota law. The SEAC will serve to advise and advocate for special education students and not decide policy. It will consist of 50% parents, and 50% staff, with a school board member on it as well. The group will meet quarterly and include MNVA parents as well.
SPED parents are encouraged to get involved; the school wants parent input. Mark Swenson volunteered to be the board representative to the group and Richard Erdmann will be joining SEAC as a parent.
Kulig shared that the school’s goal is for parents to see more of the SPED staff support for their children.
Another state statute requirement is the TSES (Total Special Education System) manual. This lengthy manual uses language based on what MDE (Minnesota Department of Education) requires. This documentation was formerly done through HVED.
Live stream services
Superintendent Mary Morem asked the board to consider options for live-streaming of events this coming school year. Currently, the school uses NFHS including equipment from them. Another option would be HUDL; the coaches have been using HUDL for some time and like the service, finding it to be very user friendly. Live-streaming and the services used by the coaches could be bundled at $8,000 per year with a three-year contract.
Morem asked if the board wanted to continue to provide the livestream to the public at no charge. Consensus of the board was to continue to provide free streaming.
Possible benefits of moving to HUDL could be connection to the school TV station. Ads could be included, with the school receiving all the profits.
Mimi Carlson asked about the sound on the current NFHS system, commenting that sound was often missing. Additional equipment may be needed to improve that. Morem noted that customer service from NFHS has been great with 24-hour support.
The board decided to stay with NFHS for the upcoming year due to time constraints. HUDL may be explored as a possibility in the future. Morem will find answers to the board’s questions about HUDL and at sometime may bring in HUDL for a presentation of the option.
New school year
Fall sports are beginning with football starting August 7 and volleyball on August 14. August 30 will be back to school night at the high school with a focus on transition students (new students and seventh and eighth graders).
Elementary information will go out this week. The elementary school will begin with one day and one evening for testing. Bus routes will be sent out later, closer to the beginning of the year.
The board approved the required annual MDE verification of district and school sites information for the year 2023–2024 as well as the foster care transportation agreements.
Comments on the referendum
Board member Nickki Johnson addressed the board regarding comments made by a citizen at the previous meeting. Johnson was absent from the meeting which included a lot of discussion about the referendum. One person had asked why she was absent from the meeting, implying that she was too cowardly to attend.
Johnson replied that she “was not too cowardly to attend or address referendum questions as it was implied in the statement.” She went on to explain that she “was out of state seeking medical care for a family member”; on that date her family was her priority. She attended the meeting virtually from her motel room. She knew the other board members as well as the representative from Baker Tilly and SiteLogiQ would be able to answer any questions from the public. She encouraged people to reach out to her directly with any questions.
Mary Morem answered some questions asked from the previous meeting. To the question “Why now?” Morem said it was a good time to secure and lock in funding and book contractors. She noted costs to improve and build anything will continue to go up.
The school will continue to use flyers monthly to communicate with the public. She pointed out that the Fillmore County Journal reports on all meetings and the meetings continue to be streamed on the school website.
According to Morem, there have been several drawings in the past for school building projects, but this is the first time it has been brought forward to the public for a vote.
Morem shared that the well-built and well-cared for buildings are expected to last for more than 30 years and are worth the investment.
She explained that half of the East Campus building (formerly owned by ABLE) is used by K12 Stride which manages MNVA and the other half is used for Summit Learning. Both entities pay rent; the building makes money for the district. The Hurricane Hub (formerly the Catholic Church) is used for classes as well as club and community meetings and is available for private use. Morem answered that either or both of the buildings could be sold if the board decided to do so. Morem also commented that the board could indeed consider a totally new building if that was what the citizens wanted.
There were no citizen comments during the offered public comment period.
There will be a special meeting on August 17 to canvas the votes from the August 8 referendum; results from the referendum will be available online at MDE a few days after the vote.
The next regular board meeting will be held September 7 at 6 p.m.; the public is welcomed.