ISD 318 principals report on first day of school

September 17, 2020

    The ISD 318 convened for its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Sept. 6 where several administrators were on hand to discuss challenges present during the first day back to school since last March.  

    Scott Patrow, Bigfork Principal spoke first.  Patrow said the first day of school was not without its problems but overall things went well.  Referring to the in-person, on-line and hybrid learning models, Patrow said, “You don’t put in three different learning models and not have a few hiccups.”

    Grand Rapids High School Principal Matt Dass reported that only freshman were at the high school on the first day and it gave his staff the chance to test the hybrid model.  Staff observed things that went well in addition to things that needed improvement.  He said that none of the things needing improvement were COVID-related.  Dass said that every single freshman was wearing a mask and he expected the same from their classmates.  He congratulated the staff at the high school in the planning that went into bringing students back saying, “I’ve never been part of something so complex and challenging in my career.” 

    Dan Adams, principal at the middle school, echoed the words of Dass on the planning aspect of creating three learning models. “It takes months to build a schedule and somewhere around the tenth of August we find out that we have to rebuild it in the course of about three or four weeks.”  Adams thanked the custodial staff for installing signs reminding students to practice social distancing as well as arrows to keep kids moving in the right direction.

    Jill Wheelock, principal at Cohasset praised staff for getting the newly renovated Cohasset school ready for the first day of school.  Wheelock drew laughter from those in attendance  when she said, “If you would have come to Cohasset a week ago, you probably would have wished you weren’t me because there was a lot to be done.”  She agreed with other administrators when she said that everyone pitched in to bring about a successful first day of school under trying circumstances.

    Ryan DeBay, principal at East Grand Rapids Elementary thanked teachers and support staff by name for getting the new building in shape for the first day of school.  “I don’t mean to sound redundant, but we need to be redundant.  These people need to be thanked,” he said. 

    Sean Martinson, principal at West Elementary, echoed the others saying, “Everybody had to step up and take a bite out of the sandwich that has become the last six months.”  Martinson and DeBay both indicated that there were some kinks to work out with respect to vehicle traffic, particularly at the end of the day.

    In other business, the board:

    • Accepted gifts to the District in the amount of $480,759.02 for the time period of April – June, 2020.

    • Approved the hire of three teachers, two ESPs, five bus drivers, three support staff, one coach and accept the resignations of one staff member, one bus driver, and accepted two teacher retirements.

    • Approved the varsity head football coach annual contract.

    • Set a date of Oct. 19 to conduct a public hearing in the matter of closing Forest Lake School.

    • Approved a lease agreement with the Boys and Girls Club of Grand Rapids/Greenway for one year, commencing Sept. 1 at a lease rate of $3,333 per month.

ISD 318 School Board briefed on MTSS

July 23, 2020

    At the July meeting of the ISD 318 School Board, High School Principal Matt Dass was on hand to brief officials on a concept called the multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS).

    Dass compared the MTSS to the operating system on a phone or computer. “It fires things up, it offers it for you, it’s right there, it’s a system, you can rely upon it, it pops up every time even when the screen is cracked. The apps work because the operating system is there. MTSS is the operating system.” Dass would go on to say several times in his presentation that MTSS will help teachers discover what students need.

    Dass next turned his attention to social emotional learning (SEL). He defined SEL as the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make responsible decisions. SEL dovetails into MTSS, and said that his team is working on SEL in tandem with MTSS.

    Dass said that all 4,123 students would be touched by the MTSS system in some way. He displayed a graphic in which 80 percent of students fall into standards-based classroom learning using core curriculum and positive behavior support. These are tier 1 or core students. The graphic showed that a smaller group of about 15 percent of students would need small group strategic instruction with rapid response and high efficiency. These students would fall into the tier 2 or strategic group. Finally tier 3 students would make up about 5 percent of the student population and require assessment-based intensive individual instruction.

    Dass said his team has been working on the MTSS project since the fall of 2019. In the winter of 2020, they decided to partner with the Center for Applied Research & Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. He said the team completed a comprehensive evaluation of the district’s systems in April and planned for summer meetings to develop a three to five year implementation plan. He said that Covid-19 was having an impact on the groups’ work but that his team was moving forward. He broke down costs associated with MTSS summer training which totaled approximately $16,000.

    Dass said that in the coming year, his team intends to develop a MTSS framework, and hire a MTSS Coordinator. He also recommended that specific practices be imbedded into the MTSS framework. The district has to discover what students need in order to institute equitable academic programming. He said the District should develop data to make assessments within the MTSS framework, and adopt a data management system to manipulate that data. Dass added that comprehensive testing would be essential to develop data for making assessments. Dass concluded his remarks by noting that a key piece of the MTSS program would be early intervention. “Early intervention cannot be overstated with how important this is.”

    Dass then open the discussion up for questions. Board Chair Pat Medure, asked about the cost of the program. “I appreciate that you are looking outside the general fund for resources, but at the end there is going to be a cost to this, and when will we know the cost of the full implementation so we can plan as a board budget-wise whether there are outside resources or not moving forward?” Superintendent Matt Grose fielded the question, saying that it would be sometime this year.

    Board Director Molly Miskovich then asked; “For me this MTSS is helping kids that aren’t engaged or don’t have the social-emotional learning. What about those kids that are engaged and gifted and talented? Give me an example of how this system helps them.” 

    Dass responded; “If we’re looking at a student who needs to be accelerated and scores off the charts, we need to work with that student too. This is not about just one constituency of students. This is about what do students need and how do we get it to them.”

    In other business, the board:

    • Recognized Mark Schroeder for receiving the Northeast Division’s High School Principal of the Year Award.

    • Approved the June claims in the amount of $10,443,488.30.

    • Appointed Sue Zeige and Malissa Bahr to the canvassing board that will convene on Nov. 9.

    • Approved the hiring of four custodians, five teachers, two staff members and accepted the retirement of one staff member.

    • Approved the 10-year long term facility maintenance plan.

    • Approved the 2020/2021 Invest Early Service agreement. 

    • Approved the School Resource Officer agreement for 2020/2021.

    • Approved the lease of the IRA Civic Center with the city of Grand Rapids.

    • Approve a purchase agreement with Itasca County for the transportation of foster youth.

ISD 318 receives $150,000 grant from the Blandin Foundation

July 02, 2020

    On June 15, ISD 318 received a grant in the amount of $150,000 to purchase additional technology for students. The funds will be used to purchase additional 1:1 student devices and supporting technology. 

    “In planning for the coming school year, we want to ensure that our students will have access to iPads and hotspots if necessary,” said Teaching and Learning Director Sue Akre. “During the past school year’s distance learning period the iPads were our best way to connect with students. Beyond learning, the devices provided access to mental health supports and engagement with teachers and staff.”

    “We do not yet know what the coming year will look like,” said incoming Superintendent Matt Grose. “But we are planning for the future and will be ready to educate our kids regardless of the model.” The Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) has outlined three possible scenarios for the coming school year - in-person learning for all students, hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits, and distance learning only. “We are creating plans to meet the needs of students and staff in each of the three models,” said Grose. 

    “Regardless of what the coming year looks like, we are so excited to be able to improve the technology our students have access to with the support of the Blandin Foundation,” said Akre.

    MDE released guidelines to Minnesota districts to aid in planning the three scenarios on June 18. In a statement to the press, MDE said “This situation is fluid and decisions will continue to be reviewed in the best interest of public health, and specifically the health and safety of our school communities. As the situation evolves, decisions may change. That is why we are urging all school districts and charter schools to prepare for each of the three scenarios.” The announcement of which model of educational delivery will be implemented is expected to take place the week of July 27, 2020. ISD 318 will be meeting with district administration and teacher representatives to continue planning for the coming year throughout the summer.

    Additional information about the scenarios is available on the MDE website at

ISD 318 School Board updated on elementary building progress

June 11, 2020

    The ISD 318 School Board convened remotely for its regularly scheduled school board meeting on June 1. Shawn Lewis of ICS Consulting was on hand to discuss progress at the new elementary schools as well as remodeling efforts at Cohasset. He opened his remarks by stating that the project is within budget and ahead of schedule.

    Lewis said renovations at Cohasset were underway, noting that demolition of the gymnasium was scheduled to begin the following week. In addition, “selective demolition” inside the remainder of the Cohasset facility was about 99 percent complete. Windows will be replaced in the coming weeks while concrete work and site work are ongoing. Lewis shared several slides of the building’s interior that displayed work being done on acoustical ceiling tiles, cabinetry, and painting.

    At the west elementary building, cabinetry and tile work is about 50 percent complete. Lewis shared several slides of the both the interior and exterior. An exterior shot of the building showed that windows and brick work are complete. Carpet installation also was beginning.

    At the east elementary school, the building is in a good position - ahead of the west site by design. In particular, Lewis said that restrooms were moving along nicely. Several slides presented to the board showed carpet being installed, painted walls and the installation of acoustic ceiling tiles. Lewis also showed a slide of the parent drop-off loop being paved the week previous. Doors are being installed at the building and tile work is nearly finished. Painting is about 75 percent complete.

    Board Chair Pat Medure asked about case work that had been lagging behind. Lewis responded that the case work Medure was referring to was coming from a plant in Michigan and the plant had been shut down for about three weeks. Lewis said he was expecting the case work in a couple of weeks.

    Turning his attention to furniture, Lewis said that all of the purchase orders had been executed, and furniture was scheduled to be installed in August.

    In other business, the board:

    • Voted to hire eight teachers, three staff members and accepted the resignations of one ESP, two coaches, one principal, two teachers, and accepted the retirement of one ESP and one bus driver.

    • Approved the posting of an Assistant Principal at RJEMS.

    • Approved the sale of a property near Dixon Lake.

    • Approved ISD 318 participation in the Cooperative Purchasing Connection

    • Approved an agreement with Minnesota State University at Moorhead for student teacher placement.

    • Approved the purchase of services agreement for school psychologist services.

Bigfork declares May 30 BHS Senior Recognition Day, hears audit results

May 21, 2020

By Sally Sedgwick


    At its May 14 meeting by Zoom, the Bigfork City Council declared May 30 a day of recognition for Bigfork High School seniors, accepted the 2019 audit report, heard about financing options for the summer street reconstruction and will allow laying hens on residential properties with restrictions.

    May 30, 2020 has been declared the 2020 Senior Class Recognition Day in honor of Bigfork High School seniors who have “exhibited incredible strength, resiliency and Huskie Pride.” Because the pandemic has prevented a traditional commencement ceremony and pageantry, Mayor Boone urged residents to make noise at 3 p.m. on this day to celebrate the class and their successes and accomplishments.

    The 2019 audit report was a video presentation by Principal Doug Host, CPA of CliftonLarsonAllen. In summary, the city is financially stable. The report showed a small decrease in the general fund, largely due to city hall expenditures, a large excavating bill, and purchase of a new truck in 2019. General Fund revenues increased although tax revenues decreased by $5,000 and there was a net decrease in the balance of $35,000. There were four months of expenses available in the water fund and nine months available in the sewer fund as of the end of the year. 

    Joe Sutherland and Gail Leverson of Widseth, Smith and Nolting spoke on the financing options for the summer Ash St. and Rajala Mill Rd. project. The current expense estimate is $830,000 with $750,000 in funds available through the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Local Road Improvement Program. After investigating different grant sources, an application was made to the Minnesota Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation for $99,900. 

    There was discussion on the dog ordinance due to issues with dogs running at large. Currently violation is a petty misdemeanor, but could be changed to an administrative fine ($60 for the first violation). The ordinance was referred to the Planning Commission for revision.

    In other business, the council:

    • Approved April 17 and May 1 payroll, and claims paid and claims for payment of $48,169.94.

    • Approved a resolution for the Scenic Estates Second Amended Development Agreement. 

    • Approved an ordinance allowing up to 12 laying hens on residential R1 property with restrictions.

    • Approved a budgeted summer works position.

    The next city council meeting is scheduled for June 11 at 5:30 p.m. Venue will be announced.

ISD 318 adapts graduation plans to meet MDH guidelines

May 21, 2020

    On Friday, May 8, the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education announced new guidelines for graduation ceremonies. “Schools are seeking clarification and guidance on how they can safely observe and honor the occasion in alignment with public health guidance to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community,” explained the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) in their guidance document.

    “We recognize that we need to keep the health of our community at the forefront of our minds,” said ISD 318 Superintendent Sean Martinson. That’s why the district feels the need to withdraw plans for parades in Bigfork and Grand Rapids following the graduation ceremonies. 

    “In discussions with school and community leaders and looking at the experiences of other cities, we realize that we cannot hold a parade without expecting a large crowd to attend,” said Martinson. “MDE has also indicated that gatherings such as this are not considered safe at any size.” 

    Both Bigfork and Grand Rapids High Schools will still hold socially distanced ceremonies for the graduates and their immediate families. On the morning of Friday, May 29, seniors will arrive at the civic center parking lot at a specified time. In small groups of 10, cars will move to the GRHS parking lot. Each student will still have the opportunity to walk across the stage, pick up their diploma, have their picture taken by a professional photographer, and be cheered on by family and faculty, all within social distance guidelines. The presentations will be streamed live on the district YouTube channel. Morning Show announcers Tim Edwards and Sheldon Willis will provide information and entertainment between presentations. Student speeches and the presentation of the graduates will be delivered electronically in partnership with ICTV.

    At Bigfork School, a similar ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 30. Graduates and their immediate families will be invited to a graduation ceremony that will take place in front of Bigfork School. With a smaller graduating class, families will view the graduation ceremony in its entirety from their cars, including speeches given by the Salutatorian and Valedictorian. Students will again be invited to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, followed by a photography session. The Bigfork ceremony will also be streamed live on the ISD 318 YouTube channel.

    “We knew that we may have to adapt our plans as new information about the virus and an increase in cases reached our area,” said District Nurse Angela Elhard. “Our most important priority is keeping our students and families safe and healthy.”

    Both plans are still subject to change based on recommendations from the Governor and Minnesota Department of Health. The current guidelines from MDE and MDH are available at We will keep students and families informed of any changes via phone/email, the school websites, and social media.

ISD 318 School Board updated on distance learning plan

January 01, 2020

    At last week’s ISD 318 school board meeting, directors and other participants again attended remotely. 

    Director of Teaching and Learning, Sue Akre updated the board on the district’s distance learning plan. She began by reminding the board that distance learning has been in place since Monday, March 30. 

    The Minnesota Department of Education has issued “living guidance,” a plan that is applied daily to make adjustments to the district’s approach to distance learning. Akre said that teachers and principals have been eliciting feedback from students and families regularly. The district gave another comprehensive feedback loop last week that was individualized by each teacher. The questionnaire sought to determine whether teachers were striking the right balance with homework assignments, as well as identifying supply shortages.

    A new survey would be sent out the day following the board meeting aimed at evaluating technology access and any needs in terms of devices. Akre said the survey would also include information on emotional support, mental health services, food needs and other information.

    The district received information and guidance on grading policy that is specific to the distance learning plan. The board can expect to receive a policy to consider at its May 18 meeting.

    At the conclusion of her presentation, Akre asked for questions. Board Director Sue Zeige spoke first asking “There might be some classes like weight-lifting. How do you deal with something like that?” 

    Akre responded by referencing the constant feedback loop, saying that each teacher was helping each student as much as they could. She added, “In terms of weight-lifting there are coaches that are really trying to coach students but remember our main concern is mental health.”

    Board Director David Marty asked about the number of students that the district could not contact or connect with. Akre said there were five students that the district could previously not account for, however, Akre said two of three elementary students had been sighted and they were safe. There were a number of reasons preventing staff from finding out about the other three. Akre added that she was confident in the whereabouts of the three students due information from other individuals, but indicated that it would be desirable to get visual confirmation. 

    Akre concluded her remarks by saying; “Quite frankly, we’re feeling really good about the other three.” Marty responded saying “But out of the total of 4,000 and some odd students, we’ve virtually had our paws on nearly everyone.” Akre responded “Yeah, isn’t that extraordinary. I know.”

    In other business, the board:

    • Approved a one year unpaid leave of absence for Missy Bildeaux for the purpose of additional education.

    • Approved an agreement between the district and Southwest Minnesota State University for student teacher placement.

    • Approved a project labor agreement between iron range building and construction trade council, Peterson & Companies, and the District for the Noble Hall field turf project.

    • Approved a resolution of concurrence with the American Indian Parent Advisory Committee.

    • Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Arrowhead Economic Agency for School-base host home program.

    • Approved the hiring of one teacher, four support staff, two layoffs, one coach, and accepted one staff resignation, one teacher resignation, one bus driver resignation, and terminated one Food and Nutrition employee.

Graduation plans announced for Bigfork and Grand Rapids High Schools

May 07, 2020

    There is no denying the Class of 2020 has had a school year unlike any other. And their graduation will be singular as well, but in the best way possible.

    “Graduation is a milestone event. We know how important this event is to our students and their families. Our high schools have come up with plans for special events that recognizes the outstanding accomplishments and achievements of the Class of 2020,” said Superintendent Sean Martinson.

    Both Bigfork High School and Grand Rapids High School have created events that allow students to walk across a stage and receive their diplomas in front of immediate family members. Both events will also culminate in parades that allow extended family and the community to honor the Class of 2020.

    At Grand Rapids High School, students will sign up for time slots that allow them to graduate with friends and teammates. On the morning of Friday, May 29, seniors will arrive at the civic center parking lot at a specified time. Groups of 20 cars at a time will move to the GRHS parking lot. Graduates will leave the car and line up with clearly marked 6-foot spaces between them. Each student will have the opportunity to walk across the stage, pick up their diploma, have their picture taken by a professional photographer, and be cheered on by family and faculty, all within social distance guidelines. 

    At 5 p.m. that evening, seniors and their families will parade through the community beginning at RJE Middle School and following the Tall Timber Days route. Community members are invited to cheer the graduates and their families on while keeping safely apart from each other. Student speeches and the presentation of the graduates will be delivered electronically and broadcast on KOZY.

    At Bigfork School, a similar ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 30. Graduates and their immediate families will be invited to a graduation ceremony that will take place in front of Bigfork School. With a smaller graduating class, families will view the graduation ceremony in its entirety from their cars, including speeches given by the Salutatorian and Valedictorian. Students will again be invited to walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, followed by a photography session.

    Immediately following the ceremony at 3 p.m., graduates and their families will be led on a parade through the community. Banners will be erected in the city along the parade route, each featuring a different graduate.

    “The challenge lies in creating events that follow guidelines set by the CDC and the Minnesota Department of Health,” said District Nurse Angela Elhard. “Both Bigfork and Grand Rapids have created events that will keep students safe and honor their achievements.”

    Both plans are subject to change based on recommendations from the Governor. We will keep students and families informed of any changes via phone/email, the school websites, and social media.

Grand Rapids School Board debates turf installation

April 30, 2020

    The ISD 318 School Board convened for its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, April 20 with board members attending remotely. 

    The board returned to the topic of turf installation at Noble Hall Field. The project was approved in March at a cost of $1,328,000. At Monday evening’s meeting, District Business Manager Ben Hawkins recommended that the board transfer $958,685 from the transportation fund to help pay for the turf project as well as a cold storage facility. 

    In a separate discussion, the board approved the low bid of $208,000 for construction of a cold storage building. The cold storage building will be needed when Forest Lake Elementary is turned over to the city of Grand Rapids because the basement in that building is currently used for cold storage. Later in the meeting Hawkins said the total cost of the cold storage building would be $234,000. Hawkins’ request would cover the cost of the cold storage facility and an additional $724,000 to be dedicated to the turf project.

    Hawkins said that fund-raising for the turf project had reached about $470,000. He said that $134,000 of that money could be expected by Sept. 1 with an additional $120,000 coming at a later date. He did not indicate when the remaining $216,000 would be made available.

    The current balance in the transportation fund is $2,384,000. Hawkins said that if the board approved his request, the remaining transportation fund balance would be $1,425,000. All other donations would be transferred back to the transportation fund over time.

    Board member David Marty made a motion for the purpose of discussion. Molly Miskovich seconded the motion. Marty asked Hawkins how much money the district was committing to the turf project. Hawkins said that if everything went as planned, the District would fund $600,000 of the project. Hawkins said there were two organizations that would benefit from the project greatly, but said that neither organization had committed to any funding. Hawkins declined to identify either organization.

    Board Chair Pat Medure said that when the board was approached about the project, it agreed to help fund the turf project if fund-raising were to reach a minimum threshold. Medure said that minimum had been surpassed. Board member Melissa Barr countered that her recollection was that the fund-raising committee would supply matching funds rather than payments over time. Said Barr, “Is that still true?” Medure reiterated that he recalled agreeing to help fund the project if a minimum threshold by the fund raising committee could be reached.

    Board member Molly Miskovich noted that the board had previously committed to $600,000 but the request was for $724,000. “This just puts us in an awkward spot because we’re deficit-spending and now we’re making up for their portion of the ask,” said Miskovich. Hawkinson responded, “That’s why we’re going from a fund that has a balance and not really the general fund to bankroll this.”

    Medure indicated Marty had participated in fund-raising activities and asked him about the direction the group was taking. “There was clearly an understanding that the group had met the criteria for the matching funds that the turf committee was going to come up with. It’s primarily a matter of timing as to when some of those funds are available.”

    Marty asked if the motion could be tabled to allow the two unnamed groups to be approached. “The board voted on this; we’re committed,” said Hawkins. Barr asked if the project could be delayed to allow student-athletes one last chance to use the facility before it is torn up in the event schools reopen on May 4. The board’s consultant on the project, Kent Korbitz, said the facility would be off limits while under construction due to safety concerns. 

    In a roll call vote the board approved the transfer unanimously. After the vote, Medure said he would connect with Interim District Superintendent Sean Martinson to make arrangements for meeting with the two unnamed groups. 

    In other business, the board:

    • Appointed Mindy Newrain to fill the remainder of Tom Peltier’s position on the school board. The appointment will take effect June 1.

    • Approved the appointment of Darrin Hofstad to the position of Assistant Principal at Grand Rapids High School.

    • Authorized posting a 0.6 FTE Grand Rapids High School math teacher replacement position.

    • Approved certification of the District’s Chief Financial Officer.

    • Approved the low bid from Hawk Construction for long-term facility maintenance projects at the middle school.

    • Accepted changes to policy 414: Mandated Reporting of child neglect or physical or sexual abuse.

    • Accepted changes to policy 524: Internet and acceptable use and safety policy.

ISD 318 Selects Matt Dass as GRHS principal

March 05, 2020

    ISD 318 is excited to announce Matt Dass has been selected as the lead GRHS principal, pending Board approval on Monday, March 2.

    “I am honored to be named the next principal of Grand Rapids High School,” said Dass. “Grand Rapids possesses a strong tradition of offering our students a quality education; I am eager to continue working alongside our gifted student body and our very talented staff of educators to maintain this tradition.”

    Dass has served as the assistant principal at GRHS since 2015. In that time he has worked tirelessly to promote student achievement and enhance educational opportunities for Grand Rapids students. Prior to his position at GRHS, Dass was the Assistant Principal for Remer Elementary School and has served as a school counselor and dean of students.

    “We know that Matt will bring his leadership, professionalism and enthusiasm to the position as he leads our GRHS students and staff to success,” said Board Chair Pat Medure. “We’re pleased to have him lead our Thunderhawk team.” 

    Dass was selected by a team composed of teaching staff, administrators, and the incoming Superintendent Matt Grose. He will begin his new duties on July 1, 2020.

    “Schools anchor our communities. I am proud to be a part of the team that guides our community’s young people towards academic achievement and upstanding citizenship,” said Dass.

    Administration will present the process for filling the Assistant Principal position at the School Board workshop on March 9. 

ISD 318 School Board

March 16, 2019

    The ISD 318 School Board convened for its regularly scheduled meeting in Bigfork on Monday, March 4. 

    Superintendent Joni Olson said that bids for the east elementary school had been opened, tabulated, and placed on the district’s website on Tuesday, Feb. 26. According to the website, a total of 78 contractors bid on 21 contracts. Each contract reflected an area of specialization such as earthwork, mechanical or electrical work.

    Most of the contracts had at least two bidders. Two contracts did not. Hawk Construction was the sole bidder for the general construction and carpentry work at $1,465,900. Anderson Ladd was the sole bidder for the wood flooring work at $172,439.

    The contract for demolition, earthwork, and utility work was one of two contracts that drew attention from seven contractors with bids ranging from $2.1 million to $3.4 million. The contract for installation of structural steel and metal fabrication also received seven bids and had the widest variation in bid pricing with a low bid of $70,000 from Red Cedar Steel Erectors and a high bid of nearly half a million dollars from Calgano Construction.

    The district considers any bidder within 80 miles of Grand Rapids to be local. By that measure, 46 percent of the bidders were local contractors. 

    Local contractors submitted the low bid on 10 of the 21 contracts or 48 percent. Collectively, the 10 bids are worth about $13.7 million. 

    In other business, the board:

    • Accepted one administration retirement, one ESP resignation, one staff resignation, one coaching resignation and agreed to hire three coaches, and one support staff.

ISD 318 School Board reorganizes

January 17, 2019

    At its annual organizational meeting on Jan. 7, ISD 318 Board Chair Tom Peltier welcomed the newest school board member, David Marty. 

    Marty thanked Peltier and said that it would be his goal to be as open, transparent, and supportive as possible. Marty added; “I stand on the shoulders of true giants. This has been a very successful board over the years and I look forward to learning from all of you.”

    The election of officers was next on the agenda. Pat Medure was named board chair and will serve in the position for the next four years. 

    Molly Miskovich was named board clerk and Malissa Bahr was named treasurer. Julie Rasmussen was appointed as the Superintendent’s Confidential Assistant. 

    Board members serve four year terms. Each Board member will be compensated at a rate of $2,500 per year plus expenses with the exception of the chair who will be compensated $2,925 per year plus expenses. The board will conduct 18 meetings this year and board members can miss up to three of those meetings.

    Following 2019 committee assignments, the board declared District Business Manager Pat Goggin its Chief Financial Officer. Superintendent Joni Olson then read the list of official district repositories for the coming year. That list included U.S. Bank, Grand Rapids State Bank, American Bank, MSDLAF, Wells Fargo, and First State Bank of Bigfork. The Herald Review was designated official newspaper and KOZY /KMFY was named official radio station.

    In other business, the board:

    • Hired one ESP, two coaches, and one support staff while accepting the resignation of one coach.

    • Voted in favor of declaring Columbus Day a non-legal holiday.

School board updated on new elementary buildings project

November 22, 2018

    Kent Koerbitz was on hand at last week’s meeting of the Independent School District 318 board meeting to provide an update on facilities design work for the two new grade schools. 

    Koerbitz started out by noting that land acquisition for the two new elementary schools was complete. The site plan layout had been completed for the east site and traffic handling options at the east site are under review by the city of Grand Rapids. In addition, a land exchange agreement between the DNR, City of Grand Rapids and the District is moving forward. The city has been informed that a buried electrical cable on the east side of the site must be rerouted in the spring. Finally, Koerbitz noted that soil borings have been completed and “everything looks very good.”

    Turning his attention to the west site, Koerbitz said the site plan layout was complete. Traffic handling options are under review by Itasca County personnel. There is a gas line on the property that would be moved in the spring and the gas line was not listed in the abstract by the title company the district contracted with to do the work. Koerbitz said that the presence of the gas line would have impacted the price of the land exchange, and therefore they would be approaching the title company to press it to pay for rerouting the gas line. Soil borings here also have been completed and that there were no surprises.

    At the Cohasset Elementary site, the site plan layout is still being finalized, said Koerbitz. Itasca County is also planning on making improvements to County Road 227 or Columbus Ave. that runs on the west side of the school. Connections from the existing structure to the planned additions were under review. Soil borings are scheduled here but have not yet been completed. 

    Koerbitz wrapped up his remarks by noting that 44 user group meetings had been conducted and that interaction with the community and teachers has been good. He also said that architects working on the project gathered a lot of information during meetings with the ADA group and Safety and Response crisis group.

Concluding his remarks, he said that the project was currently on budget and that the board would be updated on the budget again in a couple of weeks. 

    In other business, the board:

    • Approved the Grand Rapids High School Interact Club field trip request to Morocco in June and July of 2019.

    • Certified the Nov. 6 School Board election results.

    • Approved a resolution authorizing issuance of Certificates of Election and directing School District Clerk to perform other election-related duties.

    • Approved a resolution for Minnesota State High School Form A: Grant Application.

    • Approved the resignation of three coaches and the hiring of seven bus drivers, one staff member, and three coaches.

    • Approved the designation of Superintendent Joni Olson as Local Education Agency representative.

    • Approved the appointment of Pat Medure to the RAMS Board of Directors.

ISD 318 principals report on first day of school

September 13, 2018

    Various personnel from Independent School District 318 were on hand to discuss the first day of school at the Sept. 4 board meeting 

    Grand Rapids High School Principal, Mark Schroeder delivered remarks on behalf of Bigfork and Grand Rapids. Schroeder said that Bigfork began the school year with assemblies and a lock-down at the grade school.

    In Grand Rapids, Schroeder said that the first day of school is open to freshman, new students and exchange students. The district welcomed 331 freshmen to the high school this year. First day activities included picture-taking, acquiring iPads and an activities fair that students could attend to discover the extra curricular opportunities available to them. At the conclusion of his presentation, Board Director Pat Medure asked Schroeder about the availability of activities to students at the high school. Schroeder responded there were 27 sports and between 15 and 18 clubs, depending on the year.

    Dan Adams, principal, gave the presentation for the middle school. Adams said that the first day of school at the middle school was a great day and that the kids were excited and energized. Adams also shared a poster that was the result of a task force that was formed in the spring. The task force was assembled to discuss expectations of students. The results were tabulated and listed on a poster. Some of the items on the poster included keeping hands and feet to yourself, giving privacy to others and appropriate use of technology. Schroeder said the posters are up and that he is receiving positive feedback on the posters.

    Clayton Linder, principal at Southwest, gave the report on behalf of the elementary schools. Linder said that the first day of school was a very electric day and that he was proud to be a part of it.

    In other business, the board:

    • Hired one band advisor, and one volleyball coach and accepted resignations from one ESP and one student council member.

    • Approved a design and construction agreement with the city of Cohasset, making ISD 318 the fiscal agent for construction activities at Cohasset Elementary.

    • Approved a contract with Hawk Construction for office renovations and secured entry upgrades at Bigfork.

School pantries in new elementary buildings mulled by ISD 318 School Board

July 26, 2018

    At last week’s ISD 318 School Board meeting, Deb Page and Jan Larson, representatives from Second Harvest Food Bank, were on hand to advocate for providing space in the two new elementary schools as well as Cohasset for school pantries. 

    Page, who coordinates volunteer efforts and performs advocacy work, said that the idea of school pantries was first nurtured by ISD 318 Curriculum Director Rochelle VanDenHeuvel, Food Bank Executive Director Sue Estee, Page, and food bank board members as a way to access much needed food.

    Page said that the first school pantry was established at Murphy Elementary in 2016. In that first year, 481 individuals were served. In 2017, 2,445 individuals were served and so far in 2018, a total of 3,526 individuals have been served. Page said that the school pantry has grown so quickly that it has outgrown its allocated space at Murphy. School pantries contain nonperishable fresh and frozen food items. Some have basic household items like toilet paper, paper towels, toiletries and laundry soap.

    “Passage of the referendum allows for expansion of the program to include designated space in the two new elementary schools as well as Cohasset, the middle school and Grand Rapids High School,” said Page.

    Jan Larson, Second Harvest Child Hunger Coordinator, added that the Food Bank serves individuals across seven counties, including Itasca. She said the food bank has 115 partners who helped to distribute 4.5 million pounds of food last year. More than 17,000 people use Second Harvest food shelves throughout the food bank’s coverage area.

    Larson noted:

    • It is estimated that there are 1,920 children who are food insecure in Itasca County.

    • Almost one out of five children live in a household that does not consistently know where the next meal will come from.

    • Hungry infants and young children suffer from iron deficiencies that affect their cognitive and physical development. 

    • Hungry children are more likely to experience headaches, stomach aches, ear infections and colds, and lower math scores. 

    • Hungry children are twice as likely to repeat a grade and three times more likely to be suspended from school. 

    • Hungry teens are twice as likely to suffer from depression and five times more likely to commit suicide.

    Larson concluded her remarks by asking for collaboration and a partnership with the district. For its part, the district would provide dedicated space in the two new elementary schools, Cohasset Elementary, Bigfork, the Middle School, and Grand Rapids High School. The district also would support fundraising efforts, as well as a staff person at each school. Second Harvest would provide a mechanism to accept donations, provide assistance in setting up the pantries, equipment and shelving, ongoing support and training as needed.

    At the conclusion of her presentation, Larson asked for questions. Board Director Sue Zeige asked how the food bank intends to disseminate information into the community regarding acceptable donations. Larson said that information could be sent home with the students. Director Pat Medure urged fellow board members to support expanding the program into the new buildings, and Director Ben Hawkins added that the idea has already been presented to the architects. 

    Zeige also asked Murphy Elementary Principal Sean Martinson how a principal becomes involved once a student in need is identified. Martinson responded by saying that prior to the creation of student support specialist positions, he would find out through a teacher or student referral. “But now we have Student Support Specialists who happen to be licensed councilors or licensed social workers,” he said.

    No official action was taken on the matter at last week’s meeting.

    In other business, the board:

    • Approved the hiring of six support staff, three coaching positions, two teaching positions, one elementary principal, and accepted retirement notifications from two support staff, one school bus driver, and accepted the resignations of one support staff and one coach.

    • Approved posting for one additional kindergarten teaching position.

    • Approved the language arts curriculum.

    • Approved the University of Wisconsin-Superior Student Teacher Placement Agreement.

ISD 318 moves ahead with property acquisitions

June 29, 2018

    The ISD 318 School Board convened for a special day meeting on Thursday, June 21 at the Administration building. At the meeting, District Business Manager Pat Goggin outlined the next steps to acquire land for building new schools previously approved by voters in an April referendum. Goggin emphasized that the day’s actions were procedural and that any decisions would be made by the board at a future date. Goggin said that the day’s proceedings were the next step after a public meeting 30 days previous to outline the district’s intent for acquiring property adjacent to one of two building sites for the elementary schools.

    Board Director Ben Hawkins outlined the five steps necessary to acquire property adjacent to the northeast Grand Rapids building site. Hawkins said that the board would have to vote on each of the five measures. Hawkins said the first step would be to accept the recommendation of the EFT community-based group and acquire three parcels of land on NE 11th Avenue. The three parcels currently have occupied homes on them.

    The second measure authorizes the ISD 318 business office to acquire the parcels needed for the project. The measure stipulates that the board will have final authority on all purchase agreements.

    Hawkins said that the third part of the plan authorizes the district’s consultant, ICS in conjunction with the business office, to begin voluntary negotiations with the three property owners.

    The fourth component of the process authorizes the board to offer relocation assistance, services, payments and benefits to the three land owners. The business office is authorized to enter into those negotiations and must abide by Minnesota statute. The board will have final approval on all agreements.

    The fifth and final step would require the board to reconvene if voluntary negotiations were unsuccessful. At that time the board could leverage eminent domain to obtain the properties.

    Each of the first four provisions of the measure passed unanimously. The fifth stipulation of the measure received a “no” voted from Board Director Pat Medure while the four remaining board members voted in the affirmative.

    In other business, the board:

    • Approved the resignation of one school bus driver, two coaching resignations, one support staff resignation, one bus driver retirement, one support staff retirement, two teacher hires, one school bus driver hire, one Principal of Special Services transfer hire and two support staff hire.

    • Approved the 2018 STEM coordinator contract.

    • Approved the revised 2017/2018 budget.

    • Adopted the 2018/2019 budget.

    • Approved the 10 year long term facilities maintenance plan.

    • Accepted a memorandum of understanding with the City of Grand Rapids with respect to Legion baseball field.

    • Approved the 2018/2019 school resource officer agreement.

    • Approved the 2018/2019 Minnesota Rural Education Association membership.

ISD 318 voters will pay less for schools thanks to premium bid

June 14, 2018

    At the June 4 meeting of the Independent School District 318 Board of Directors, Greg Crow of Ehlers was on hand to update officials on the issuance of bonds to help finance the remodeling of the Cohasset elementary school and the construction of two new elementary buildings. 

    Crow said that he received eight bids on the bonds and going in, there was an expectation of a 4.25 percent interest rate, which was used in making calculations in the run-up to the election. 

    The low bid received was 3.37 percent from Citigroup out of New York. Crow said that the bidding was very tight as the high bid was only 3.44 percent. The difference between the 1st and 2nd bid was 1/10,000 of one percent. 

    Crow pointed out a number of $65,440,00, which he contrasted with the amount the voters approved, which was just under $69 million. Crow explained that the difference was due to a premium bid from Citigroup. 

    Previously, Crow had characterized a premium bid as one in which the bidder pays more than the face value of the bond. Crow said the additional money provided by the premium could be used to finance part of the capitalized interest for the first year’s interest payment, and pay for up to $75,000 in construction costs. Crow said the premium bid allowed the District to borrow $65 million to finance $69 million worth of construction.

    Jodie Zesbaugh, also of Ehlers, discussed the impact of the bid on the average home owner. She said that on a $150,000 home, prior to the election, the impact was estimated to be $93.00 or $7.72 per month. Citigroup’s bid now puts the tax burden on the same home at $82.00 annually or $6.81 per month.

    Both Crow and Zesbaugh cited the District’s A+ bond rating as a contributing factor in securing the favorable interest rate on the bond. 

    Zesbaugh noted that the S&P rating agency noted the District’s strong reserves, good financial management, strong market value per capita, and good to adequate income levels in affirming the bond rating. S&P did note a moderately concentrated tax base, and the district’s plans to reduce reserves over the next two years as well as other factors but those factors were not enough to move the bond rating.

    The board passed a resolution accepting the bid from Citigroup unanimously. The district will receive the funds on June 28.

    In other business, the board:

    • Accepted one staff resignation, one teacher resignation, one staff hire, one staff retirement, one staff hire, and voted in favor of two layoffs.

    • Approved the 2018-2019 Food & Nutrition meal prices at their current levels.

    • Approved the transfer of funds from Fund 3 to Fund 1 to finance the purchase of the Hoolihan property in 2017.

    • Approved the District’s Lead in Water management plan and test results.

    • Accepted the second reading and approved policy 614: School District Testing Plan and Procedure.

    • Approved the Arrowhead Regional Computing Consortium invoice and services contract for 2018-2019.

Invest Early discussion on the agenda in ISD 318

April 26, 2018

    Jan Reindl and Sonja Merrild were on hand at last week’s ISD 318 Board meeting to present an update on the Invest Early program. Merrild said the reason for the presentation was three-fold - Invest Early wanted to thank the board for making classrooms available; make the board aware of what the program looks like; and the reasons behind the program’s success.

    Reindl noted that Invest Early program was in its 13th year. She characterized the program as a collaborative of school districts and Head Starts serving children from six weeks old to kindergarten entrance. The program currently serves 515 children in Itasca County. Reindl added that Head Start and Invest Early collectively employ 152 staff. The program operates on a $6 million annual budget with funding streams coming from federal, state, county sources as well as the Blandin Foundation. Invest Early is the largest rural early care and education program in the state of Minnesota. Reindl said the focus of the program was based on quality, intensity, evaluation, and wrap-around services.

    Reindl acknowledged that the rural setting of the program came with its own challenges but said, “Our advantage is that we build relationships, and reach out to each other rather than tackle issues in our own little silo.” She attributed part of the program’s success to its housing in IASC. “We don’t think in terms of what might work in Greenway, or in Deer River but what are our goals for all of our programs and I think Grand Rapids benefits because of that.”

    Reindl said she wanted to recognize the contributions of Scott Patrow and Sean Martinson for their partnership in hosting Invest Early classrooms. She also recognized Melanie DeBay, a member of the program’s leadership team as well as Lynn Rajala.

    Merrild informed the board that the program could use more slots. She said that has heard numbers as high as 500, but said that she thought 200-300 was safe. Merrild said that she has talked with groups such as area churches and the YMCA to formulate a solution to the space shortage. 

    “I know we’re in the legislative session; we’re not here to lobby but we are here to encourage you to those in the legislature who care about these things, and broadly continue to carry the message that investing in early childhood care is still worth doing,” Merrild said. 

    Board Chair Tom Peltier asked if there was talk of all day early childhood care in the legislature. Merrild said that there is legislation on the table that has been made available through past legislation. Peltier then asked Reindl if the program continued to see transportation issues for parents. “Absolutely,” said Reindl. “We depend on the AEOA busses and we’ve been very fortunate that they’ve dedicated a bus to us.” 

    Board Directors Sue Zeige and Ben Hawkins both expressed concerns over difficulties that area families have when trying to get on the program’s waiting list. Reindl responded, saying applications were ranked by income and risk factors. 

    The presentation concluded with Pat Medure expressing his frustrations with the perception that the program consisted of nothing more than day care. Both Reindl and Merrild said that the education component was key, and that the program employs several teachers who specialize in early childhood education. 

    “Early on, the reason the Blandin Foundation was willing to step in and fund Invest Early to the tune of $2 million dollars a year was because the quality component which is the same as the education, was there,” Merrild said. 

    In other business, the board:

    • Certified the results of the April 10 referendum.

    • Authorized the hiring of an attorney to address various permitting needs associated with elementary school construction.

    • Approved a proclamation recognizing volunteers in public schools.

    • Approved hiring seven replacement teachers, five support staff members, one custodian and accepted the resignation of one coach, five support staff, and one assistant principal.

    • Accepted the first reading of policy 533: Wellness

    • Accepted the second reading and approved policy 899: Naming of schools and facilities. 

    • Approved the annual review of policy 806: Crisis Management

    • Approved CESO/k-12 Transportation Management Services, LLC contract.

Business Manager presents budget savings options

March 29, 2018

District Business Manager Pat Goggin was on hand at last week’s ISD 318 school board meeting to make a presentation on the budget. He kicked off his presentation by noting the district was in good shape financially, but also noted that it has been deficit spending. 

Goggin said that he would like to see the district build the general fund back up. In a previous meeting, he had stated the district could save about $500,000 per year in retirement savings and compensatory awards from the state for getting families signed up by the deadline of Oct. 1 for free and reduced lunches.

Last week, Goggin went into more detail about how he would like to see the district go from deficit spending to adding money to the general fund over a three-year time span. He first took aim at the district’s utility bills. Heating and electricity cost the district nearly $1 million per year. Conservation efforts could result in saving $20,000 a year if devices that were not being used were turned off.

The district is also combining two positions into one. The Buildings and Grounds position will be combined with that of Custodial Director. The move will result in the need for an additional maintenance position but nonetheless will mean savings of $25,000 annually.

Scrutinizing professional service contracts is another cost savings tactic, the business manager reported. He said that some contracts that won’t be extended into next school year.

Goggin did acknowledge that the district would be spending more money in some areas. He said this year’s graduating senior class consisted of 246 students while next fall’s incoming freshman class would be about 325 students. He commended district officials for keeping increases in staffing to 0.1 FTE to accommodate the extra 79 students.

A new mental health care program called social emotional learning program will proceed but Goggin is hopeful its costs will be reimbursed by the state. The district also is looking at training opportunities that teach staff how to react in the event of a crisis. He cited a program called ALICE as an example of what the district is looking for.

The middle school is requesting an additional custodian position, he noted. Goggin said that when the school was built, it required 6.5 FTE positions to keep it clean. Since then, however, 25,000 square feet have been added. There are currently 6 FTE positions assigned to the custodial staff there. The district hopes to offset some of those costs by billing outside entities for use of the facility. A part-time custodian position at Bigfork is being requested to be converted to full-time and additional custodial time also is being requested at the elementary level.

Goggin concluded his presentation by noting that the changes outlined would cost the district about $700,000 this year, about $400,000 the next year and in the year after that the district would be putting back about $200,000 into the general fund.

In other business the board:

• Accepted two teacher retirements, and voted in favor of six teacher replacement hires, and one staff hire.

• Approved posting of a 0.3 FTE Social Studies position, and a 0.4 FTE Communications Arts & Language position.

• Approved a resolution relating to probationary teacher non-renewal.

ISD 318 business manager highlights opportunities for cost savings

March 15, 2018

Monday, March 5, the ISD 318 School Board convened for their regularly scheduled meeting at the Bigfork High School. District Business Manager Pat Goggin updated the board on the District’s finances. 

Goggin started off by talking about enrollment. He said the current budget was adopted with an assumed kindergarten enrollment of 265. Goggin said the actual kindergarten enrollment was 301. The 301 number represents 64 percent of the births five years previous which he characterized as higher than average by 2 percent. Next year, it’s expected that about 273 students will be enrolling in kindergarten.

Goggin also spoke about the district’s budget. He said that the district had to move $1.4 million to the general fund to balance the budget. The move was “by design” in order to pay for the mental health initiative, and some of the hiring to meet special education goals. Goggin indicated that the district could not continue to borrow money from the fund balance to balance the budget. If the district continues to spend down reserves at a rate of $1.4 million per year, that would result in only $3 million in reserves by 2020. Goggin indicated that this was a red line he did not want to cross.

Goggin did enumerate some opportunities for saving money. He pointed out that the district had recently accepted 12 retirements and projected that replacement hires would save the District about $400,000. In addition Goggin said the district would receive an additional $100,000 in compensatory aid next year due to families turning in paper work in a timely manner last fall.

Finally, Goggin offered his perspective on the district’s finances. He said that the district was in good shape financially. He added that he would like to see the savings that he discussed previously go back into the fund balance. He said that having a good fund balance allows the district to add new programs going forward. “I’m not advocating to cut anything. I’m just advocating to get into a little savings mode and where we can save, we’ll save,” he said.

In other business, the board:

• Accepted two staff resignations, one coaching hire, one teacher resignation, one staff replacement hire and one staff retirement.

• Approved the Coordinator Unit contract with raises of 3 percent for 2017/2018 and 1 percent for 2018/2019.

• Approved the slate of election judges for the April 10 referendum.

• Accepted the first reading of policy 899, ”The naming of new schools and facilities.”

• Accepted the second read of policy 601, “School District curriculum and Instruction goal.”

ISD 318 receives audit results

December 28, 2017

The ISD 318 School Board convened its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, Dec. 18 at the administration building. Jennifer Smith from Wipfli in Duluth was on hand to deliver the district’s audit. The district is required to submit an audit to the state auditor and department of education by the end of December every year. Smith said that the purpose of an audit is to render an opinion on the financial statements of the district. 

The first half of Smith’s report was broken down into four sections. In the first section, she issued an opinion on the District’s financial reporting. Smith said that the audit contains an “unmodified opinion,” which she characterized as an opinion grounded in the belief that the district’s financial statement are true and correct and can be relied upon by outside readers to be an accurate representation of the district’s finances.

The second section centered around internal control over financial reporting. Smith said that her firm issued a material weakness as it relates to material audit adjustments. Smith said that in the course of the audit, it was necessary that her firm propose to the district significant adjustments in order to arrive at the unmodified opinion she referenced earlier in her presentation.

There was also a material weakness in performing timely bank reconciliations. Smith said that it was an integral control that the district reconcile its bank accounts on a monthly basis and within 30 days of month’s end. She noted that the district had fallen behind in performing regular bank reconciliations. Smith said that she had to propose significant adjustments to the district’s bank reconciliation practices to arrive at the unmodified opinion. 

The third portion of Smith’s presentation dealt with compliance and internal controls over federal programs. Specifically, the firm tested Title 1 and special education funding. Smith said her firm did not discover any irregularities over the use of those federal dollars.

The last portion of the presentation concentrated on state statutes. Smith said that there were no non-compliance issues in connection with state statutes. 

Smith moved on to talk about the district’s funds. For fiscal year 2017, the district had revenues of $47,992,552 in its general fund while total expenditures for the same time period were $49,997,486, a difference of $2,004,934. Smith said that the deficit reduced the general fund balance to $9,851,726.

Food service fund revenues exceeded expenditures by $87,775, increasing the fund’s balance to $531,525.

In the community service fund, revenues exceeded expenditures by $67,477 for fiscal year 2017, leaving the fund with a balance of $323,656.

Smith noted that the district has two debt service funds. In the first fund, expenditures exceeded revenues leaving the district with $566,397 to pay for middle school bonds. That fund will go to zero when the district makes its final payment on Feb. 1, 2018.

The second debt service fund is for OPEB bonds or post-employment bonds. This fund has a balance in excess of $30,000,000, however $29,966,485 will be used to retire old bonds, leaving approximately $446,995 to pay off bonds that were refinanced at a 2 percent interest rate. Those bonds will be paid off in 2025.

The final fund Smith discussed was the building construction fund. She said that normally expenditures from the fund are reimbursed and that the fund has a balance of zero but in fiscal year 2017 the board voted to spend funds from the general fund to complete construction at the Reif Center resulting in the deficit to the general fund.

At the conclusion of Smith’s presentation, Board Director Pat Medure asked the District’s Business Manager, Pat Goggins, when the district could expect a policy on bank reporting. Smith intervened, saying; “Perhaps policy is the incorrect word but an internal control procedure would be more appropriate to ensure that this is done.” 

In other business, the board:

• Approved the 2017/2018 and 2018/2019 Service Employee Association contract.

• Approved the 2017/2018 & 2018/2019 Educational Support Professionals (ESP) contract.

• Accepted the 2016/2017 Audit Report.

• Approved the Final 2017 Payable 2018 Levy.

• Approved a resolution establishing combined polling places for special elections.

• Approved a resolution for School Trust Lands.

• Adopted two resolutions to fully fund Special Education services.

• Accepted the second reading and approved revisions to Policy 418: Drug-Free Workplace / Drug-Free School.

• Accepted the second reading and approved revisions to Policy 805: Waste Reduction and Recycling.

• Accepted next steps in literacy planning.

• Discussed a timeline to fill a school board vacancy.

Literacy collaborative gets mixed reviews

December 14, 2017

At last Monday’s meeting of the ISD 318 School Board, fourth grade teacher Bryan Fideldy was on hand to express his concerns about the district’s literacy collaborative. 

The district previously entered into a five-year agreement with Ohio State University to train staff in literacy techniques. Fideldy said that the purpose of his presentation was to echo the feelings of many K-5 teachers in the District and to provide a solution to what he characterized as “teacher turmoil” with respect to the collaborative. 

Fideldy indicated that the collaborative was a gimmick to get new money, a cycle that he said repeats itself every six to eight years. “Without a new promise, you don’t make new money. That’s the reality,” he said. 

Fideldy suggested that there was a sentiment amongst some people in the district that teachers who oppose the collaborative are older teachers who resist change. He provided numerous examples of resources in the collaborative that he says are branded as “cutting edge.” Fideldy indicated that writing, reading comprehension and retention were being repackaged as cutting edge in the literacy initiative, a claim he disputed. He added that he had first been exposed to many of the techniques in the collaborative in the 1970s when he was an elementary student.

“I’m not resisting change. This is not cutting edge,” said Fideldy.

“You might hear a minority of teachers that are in favor of the literacy collaborative. I strongly support those individuals. They have received professional development they buy into, they have developed curriculum they trust, they’re passionately providing instruction and I believe it’s at a high level” said Fideldy. “The question I do have is: Why are we not allowed the same freedom of instruction?” 

The foundation of this framework has created division, disfunction, and distrust, he asserted. “My suggestion is simple. Stop sending people and money to Ohio State. Form a language arts curriculum. Invite vendors in. Purchase a research-based curriculum.”

Fideldy concluded his remarks by saying; “Please trust the people who are actually educating in classrooms and allow them that freedom of instruction … It’s nothing new and it isn’t cutting edge but it is freedom of instruction and ultimately that’s what we want and that’s what the kids deserve.”

During the public forum portion of the meeting, Ashley Lindner took the opportunity to address Fideldy’s comments. She identified herself as a parent, Cohasset first grade teacher, and literacy collaborative coach at Cohasset. Grateful for the board’s support of the literacy collaborative, she characterized teaching as a craft that needed to be continuously refined. 

Lindner said she had received over 340 hours of professional development through Ohio State University and that the training would allow her to support and walk alongside teachers supporting over 300 students in her building. 

“Data is and should always be used to guide our instruction,” she said, adding that MCA scores needed improvement and that the collaborative could be a driving force in that effort. 

Lindner said that there were a lot of misunderstandings surrounding literacy collaborative and she wanted the same opportunity given to Fideldy to educate the board, staff and community about its benefits. “My door is always open,” she said.

In other business, the board:

• Accepted the resignations of two teachers, one bus driver, three support staff, accepted one bus driver retirement, and agreed to hire one bus driver and two coaches.

• Accepted the resignation of School Board member Harvey Hietala.

• Approved the 2017/18 & 2018/19 teacher’s contracts.

• Approved the Grand Canyon University student teaching agreement.

• Approved the legislative changes to Policy 525: Violence prevention

• Accepted the first reading of two policies on distribution materials on school property.

ISD 318 School Board updated on technology initiatives

October 26, 2017

    At last week’s meeting of the Independent School District 318 School Board, Curriculum Director Rochelle VanDenHeuvel delivered a presentation about the district’s state of technology. 

    VanDenHeuvel began her presentation by noting that the iPad initiative had been fully implemented during the 2017 calendar year. VanDenHeuvel said iPads were present in grades 2 through 6, noting that those devices did not leave the classroom. There are 10 devices available to kindergarteners and first graders in the classroom as well. Students in grades 7-12 can take their iPads home. She noted that the district supports 4,300 iPads as well as other devices including, laptops, desktop computers, student mac books, smartboards, and LCD projectors.

    Network Administrator, TJ Russell, told the board that his staff had been busy making upgrades to the District’s network. Some of the upgrades cited include new high capacity switches, as well as high speed/high capacity access points, which Russell said should help to alleviate bottlenecks in the District’s wireless network. Additional enhancements include a new firewall and filtering software. 

    Russell added that his staff also has installed a new work order system designed to identify problem areas before they strike. New software for malware and ransomeware protection has also been implemented, he said. Russell noted that when subjected to cyber security tests, the District’s users had a 25 percent failure rate in the areas of password protection and phishing. Russell defined phishing as an e-mail that attempts to lure its recipient into revealing the user’s username and password, which can then be used to access the District’s network.

    Lead Technician Randy Longmore noted that he has been working to transform security systems from a reactive to a proactive security system. He said he has also been working on a color-coding system to help guide law enforcement through the high school in the event of an emergency. Longmore also said that he has been working on bridging the communication gap between law enforcement and staff as well. He concluded his remarks by noting that the District currently has 482 cameras in use.

    Technology Integration Coach Nicole Arbour was the last member of the team to speak. Arbour spoke about an application that is functional on iPads called Seesaw. She said that the application was designed to more closely link families with staff in the District. She characterized the application as a digital portfolio that collects students’ digital and physical work. Arbour said that when a student posts something to their journal that student’s parents receive a notification. The parent can then log into the journal to see what the student has posted. Currently, 43 teachers in the District are using the technology in their classrooms.

    At the conclusion of Arbour’s presentation, Board Director Harvey Hietala asked how parents are being informed of the technology’s existence. Arbour responded that teachers can use the software to extend an invitation to families. She also said that a sheet of paper explaining the process goes home in students’ Tuesday folders. In addition, teachers have the capability of e-mailing parents with information about the technology.

    In other business, the board:

    • Accepted the resignations of four coaches, two support staff, two custodians, one ESP, and approved the hiring of three bus drivers, one custodian, and one .25 teacher.

    • Approved the formation of the District finance committee.

    • Approved the coin-operated machine agreement with Theisen Vending.

    • Approved the transfer of funds to close the Reif Center remodeling project.

    • Approved Monday, Jan. 8, 2018 at 7 p.m. as the date and time for the annual School Board organizational meeting.

    • Approved an agreement with Education Innovation Partners for telepresence coordination services.

ISD 318 School Board

August 24, 2017

    At last week’s meeting of the Independent School District 318 Board, Rochelle VanDenHeuvel delivered two reports. The first, teaching and learning, included priorities such as state-of-the-art technology, rigorous curriculum, tailored instruction, internal and external collaboration and ongoing assessment. The instructional alignment led the leadership team to create a new vision. 

    VanDenHeuvel cited K-12 mathematics as one of the areas where the new curriculum was advanced in the 2016/2017 school year. She said that K-12 teachers had been trained in the concept of “Understanding By Design,” which she described as a curriculum alignment process that matches standards set forth by the state. She also noted that the district now has math support specialists at all three educational tiers.

    The literacy collaborative that the board voted to support in May would be a five year process, she noted. The first year would be devoted to training coaches and the second year those coaches would spend half their time teaching and half of their time coaching. Year two would also see an uptick in the purchase of resources. Year three and beyond would include full implementation, VanDenHeuvel said.

    The district has made significant strides in the area of technology to help meet its new curriculum. VanDenHeuvel said that staff had been trained in the use of Telepresence, and that students in grades 7-12 have their own iPads that they may take home. Classroom devices are provided for grades 2-6, and 10 units are available to first graders. With iPads available to all grade levels, the initiative has been fully implemented. 

    Finally, VanDenHeuvel noted that 23 teachers had attended a major technology conference in December entitled TIDES. She also noted the training that the district offers to new hires. The district offers training for all its new hires online, through book studies, and sessions that are typically offered by other teachers in the district. About $200,000 is spent each year on staff development.

    VanDenHeuvel then made the second half of her presentation, which focused on federal Title funding. 

    She noted that qualifying schools must be at least 40 percent free and reduced lunch eligible. The district receives funding for Title 1, Part A which she described as tier 2 support for students who are educationally disadvantaged. The 2015/2016 allotment for Title 1, part A was $735,470. The 2016/2017 allotment was $888,592. In the coming school year the district anticipates receiving $824,822 in Title 1, Part A funding.

    VanDenHeuvel also discussed Title 1, part D which covers funding for neglected and delinquent students. She said the district is anticipating that it will receive $142,795 in Title 1, part D funding in the coming school year.

The district also receives money in the form of Title II, part A funding, which is used to prepare, train and recruit high quality principals and teachers. VanDenHeuvel said that through the end of this year the district could use the funding to support a second kindergarten position to reduce class size. After this year the district can no longer use those funds for that purpose. 

    Board Chair Tom Peltier noted that the district would fund the second kindergarten position through the general fund. The district anticipates receiving $126,683 in Title II, part A funding in the coming year.

    In other business, the board:

    • Approved three teacher hires, four coaching hires, one support staff hire, and accepted one coaching resignation, four support staff resignations, and one bus driver resignation.

    • Approved the 2017/2018 ISD 318 Student Handbook.

    • Approved the low bid for heating fuel from Petroleum Traders Corporation.

    • Approved the low bid for diesel fuel from Edwards Oil.

    • Approved the low bid from Hawkinson Construction for construction of a parking lot at the Robert J. Elkington Middle on the north side of the fifth grade wing.

    • Accepted the first reading of a new policy addressing unpaid meals.

    • Approved the Invest Early agreement between IASC and District 318.

    • Approved membership in the Minnesota School Board Association.

ISD 318 welcomes new superintendent

July 20, 2017

    At the July 10 meeting of the ISD 318 School Board, Chair Tom Peltier started the meeting by welcoming incoming Superintendent Joni Olson. Olson said that she appreciated the opportunity and was happy to be part of the district. 

    “Everybody has been very gracious and I feel very fortunate to be part of this wonderful district, and certainly we will work together to provide a world-class education for our students,” she said. 

    Olson added that she has spent much of her first days on the job getting to know the staff at both Bigfork and Grand Rapids.

    In other business, the board:

    • Approved three staff hires, two staff resignations, one coach resignation, three coaching hires, three ESP resignations, and two teacher hires.

    • Approved the 2017/18 Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA) membership.

    • Approved the Kootasca Head Start and Early Head Start agreement for early childhood special education services in the coming school year.

Task Force unveils elementary school options

July 06, 2017

SRNF Report

    The elementary facilities taskforce report dominated much of the discussion at last week’s meeting of the ISD 318 School Board. 

    The taskforce was formed to assist the board in addressing its space shortage, which has been fueled by a 26 percent increase in student population at the elementary level since 2005. The district currently leases ten properties and utilizes portable classrooms to compensate for its lack of space. 

    Mindy Nuhring, the first speaker of the evening, said that the taskforce was comprised of three citizen advisory committees and that her role was to chair the communications and outreach committee. Approximately 200 people participated in the taskforce and, to date, about 2,035 hours have been consumed by meetings with the community, listening sessions, steering meetings, and meetings among the three citizen advisory committees, she said.

    Nuhring reflected on the 2015 referendum which sought to gain tax payer approval for the construction of two new elementary schools at a cost of $80 million. Nuhring’s group heard from many voters who voted against the measure and that some of the reasons for opposition to the plan included the high cost, excessive size of proposed buildings, the loss of the Cohasset school, the lack of a plan for the four existing properties and the handling of the Riverview school closure and subsequent demolition.

    Kent Koerbitz chaired the facilities committee and said the committee looked at several options that ranged from doing nothing to building as many as three new K-5 schools. An assessment of existing facilities found that the Cohasset building was not suitable to remodel without replacing its 1922 core, but that buildings at Murphy, Forest Lake and Southwest were suitable for remodeling/renovation. 

    Koerbitz also noted that while the Cohasset and Southwest sites could be expanded to meet Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) guidelines in terms of acreage, Murphy and Forest Lake schools could not. The group felt that replacing housing stock in the Murphy and Forest Lake neighborhoods where land would have to be acquired would be difficult if not impossible. At nearly $10 million, the cost of acquiring properties around the Murphy and Forest Lake sites was deemed be prohibitive as well. 

    The assessments led to twenty different options but that only four were deemed feasible due to either cost constraints or failure to meet MDE guidelines, Koerbitz noted. The taskforce then whittled options down to two. 

    The option most preferred by the taskforce would have two new K-5 schools constructed with each building having a capacity of 750 students as well as the capability to expand to a capacity of 900, if needed. Cohasset would see a major overhaul under terms of this plan and could house 300 students. There are currently 1,800 K-5 students in the District. The projected cost of this option is $74 million.

    The second most popular option would build two new K-5 schools with a capacity of 900 students each. The cost of these buildings is projected to be $74 million.

    The committee voted to recommend the first option to the board. They further recommended that Southwest school be retained and be used for mandated programs as well as elimination of leased space. The committee also advocated for housing redevelopment at the Forest Lake and Riverview properties. Murphy school needs further study, Koerbitz said.

    The taskforce also made recommendations for siting the two new schools. The three preferred options were west of the hospital, the southwest side of the sports complex and the Hoolihan farm. Koerbitz said that proximity to existing infrastructure was important to keep costs down and that one school must be built south of the Mississippi River. An unknown factor in the discussion was pre-K services, whether mandated or not.

    Kyle Hedland led the finance committee. Hedland said that the plan being recommended to the board should be financed with a 20 year term compared to the 22 year term built into the 2015 referendum. He said this would reduce interest payments by approximately $7 million. Hedland said that the tax impact to a $150,000 home would be $87 annually or $7.25 per month compared with $99 annually and $8.28 per month in 2015. The tax impact on businesses would be lower than the impact of the 2015 referendum as well.

    Hedland concluded his remarks by recommending that the board buy some or all of the land out of the general fund, and designate one year worth of Long Term Funding Maintenance or an annual amount to bond for Cohasset. He added that additional savings could be realized by swapping land with the city. Hedland said that these practices along with fine-tuning the plan could potentially get the cost below $70 million.

    Following the presentations, the board passed a resolution acknowledging the work of the task force as well as accepting its report.

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