At the regular Houston School Board meeting May 6, Mikayla Simmons was announced as the new Activities/Communications director effective June 7. Simmons will take on some of the duties that had been removed from the superintendent duties before the posting of the superintendent position, as well as the activities director position.
With Jill Diana resigning from her position as social worker at Houston Elementary and Preschool, the board will need to find a replacement. Diana was uniquely qualified; she has a degree in EBD (emotional behavior disorder) as well as in social work. During COVID, Diana conducted porch visits with students and their families. The pandemic and its associated anxiety and behaviors in students created a need for more expertise in EBD. Diana suggested posting for a behavior interventionist specialist who could also do teacher training rather than a social worker in order to better fill the needs of the students and the school.
MNVA saw a benefit with the instructional coach (digital navigator) this past year; as a result, Superintendent Krin Abraham asked that the board consider hiring a 1⁄2-time instructional coach for the on-site school. Such a coach could help teachers as they use data to drive instruction and would directly impact curriculum. Board member Mimi Carlson responded that she wanted to wait until the new superintendent was on board before making any decisions on this.
Abraham recommended having half days on Wednesdays next year with the afternoon to be used to work with struggling students in small groups and with students needing enrichment. Such a change would bring the need for another bus route midday. Abraham shared, “The high school has been innovative in using Wednesday afternoons.” Both high school and elementary staff asked that the board consider the schedule change.
The board was hesitant to make such a schedule change. Arlin Peterson said that while he understands the teachers, this would create a “major difficulty” for parents. He felt the overriding factor was the parental concern about supervision of their students. Board chair Tom Stilin asked if there could be a “happy medium” with all students remaining at school as teachers work with small groups. Richard Erdmann asked if perhaps every other Wednesday could be the answer while Mimi Carlson suggested merely extending the after school services to Wednesdays as well. Both Carlson and Josh Norlien expressed that they wanted their kids in school and learning those three hours a week. Carlson once again wanted to wait until new superintendent Mary Morem was on board before making a decision. Abraham pointed out that waiting until July to make a decision could cause staffing issues.
A possible change to the last week of school’s schedule was discussed. With Memorial Monday off, Abraham asked that the board consider making Wednesday a full day of school to help with the finals schedule. A decision will be made at the next board meeting.
With the recent state changes to COVID guidance, student athletes and observers need not wear masks to outside events. Graduation will not require the limiting of spectators or social distancing, but masks will be required. The ceremony will also be streamed on the Houston School’s YouTube channel.
Pfizer is on track for approval for 12-15 year-old vaccines. Schools will be able to register for vaccine clinics, but since Houston County doesn’t have freezer capabilities for the Pfizer vaccine, the school would not be able to do clinics. Both Winona and Fillmore County do have such capabilities so perhaps an agreement could be made to take students to those counties.
Executive COVID orders will be sunsetting as of July 1; as a result, distance learning will not be an option unless a current bill in the legislature passes. Snow days will not be distance learning days, but rather e-learning days.
High School Principal Michael Mangan reported on a flurry of spring events. The outdoor prom was declared a success, band and choir concerts will be held at the Nature Center, a May 16-22 D.C. trip will happen as well as the seventh grade trip to Eagle Bluff. Awards Day will be May 28 and graduation June 4. The musical Chicago will be presented June 11,12, and 13.
Rick Bartz shared that MCAs are wrapping up. The elementary will be conducting a general education summer school program this summer as well as the usual SPED summer school.
MNVA will be streaming both graduation and a reception online; those interested in viewing should request a link from Angela Specketer.
Donations were accepted from the American Legion ($3,000) and the Joseph Krage Estate ($1,128), for the D.C. Trip; from Inez Abraham ($30) for prom; and from Blaine’s Farm and Fleet (hand sanitizer) for classroom use.
The next board meeting will be held in the high school media center May 20 at 6 p.m.; it will also be streamed on the school’s site. The public is welcome to attend.