School board searching for interim superintendent

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 15, 2001

The Austin School Board dealt with a number of issues in a meeting that lasted more than three hours on Monday.

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

The Austin School Board dealt with a number of issues in a meeting that lasted more than three hours on Monday.

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For starters, the board is searching for an interim schools superintendent. James Hess announced last week that he will be leaving his position as superintendent to take a post at a regional organization in Colorado.

The district has sent out information statewide in its search for an interim superintendent. The board hopes to fill the temporary post by June 15.

Hess told the board last night about a $40,000 lease agreement for the district administration building, adding that the plan is not finalized.

The board must approve the lease agreement with the Minnesota Workforce Committee. The two criteria are the recommendations will go to the facilities committee and the district will be out of the building by July 1.

Hess said he didn’t know where everyone from the administration building would be relocated to yet. While the chairman of the school board has not reviewed the lease, the school attorney has reviewed it.

The DECA program at the high school was recognized because it placed in the top 10 in the nation of all the teams at the National DECA competition. Dan Miller of Hormel Foods aided the team by donating a laptop computer, which was significant to their win.

Dale Wicks spoke about the English as a second language program and how Quality Pork was a resource to help support the program. QPP secured funding for supplies. According to Wicks, the curriculum they were able to purchase is something that made an immediate impact on the program and is something they can use down the road.

Lori Volz, district director of business services, gave details about a project for energy conservation measures with Siemen’s Building Technologies. The projects will involve boiler replacements, lighting retrofits, mechanical improvements and water-saving improvements.

"The good news is we will be receiving a Qzab loan for this project," Volz told the board. "It is a zero percent interest loan of $1.4 million. This is a special Minnesota statute loan that allows facility improvement. The Qzab loan is issued with a 14-year payment schedule."

Volz explained how the loan would be a positive cash flow for the district. The capital costs of the project are paid for mainly through energy savings. The district would not have an annual capital outlay payment. The district is submitting another Qzab loan of $600,000 and there is a good chance it will receive it. If they district does not receive this extra loan, the capital outlay payment will be within the $60,000 goal they initially established.

"It is quite unique for a program to come out this favorable for us," Volz said.

Bruce Huber spoke about the repairs that this loan would take care of.

"Seventeen boilers are in the district and only two are less than 40 years old," he said. "We need to replace these. We need heat. There will be new boilers at the high school and Neveln Elementary. They will be steam and gas and will only run as fast as they need to at a given time."

Huber told how the funding would purchase new gas booster heaters for the school kitchens and there would be lighting improvements that would use less energy. Lighting will be used for security only when needed through the uses of sensors. There would be water savings with sensors for toilets. New lights will be installed in the gyms and the pool. There will be an automatic pool cover for the pool so the pool doesn’t lose all its heat and it will cut down on humidity to tiles and bricks. Neveln will have two new boilers, as that school’s are 40 years old. Woodson School will have sprinkler systems added and a dropped ceiling to hide pipe work. The classrooms will get new light fixtures.

School board member Bev Nordby asked about the other boilers in the district.

"That is not part of the performance contract; that is down the road," Huber replied.

School board member Larry Andersen asked about the lifespan of a boiler.

"The boilers are old," Huber said. "They are 25 percent older than I like to see."

School board member Richard H. Lees asked about the condition of the air conditioning at the schools.

"It is OK right now," Huber said. "The air conditioning is only working 20 percent. Eighty percent is not working. A new generation of ice balls seems to be the most favorable cost to fix the air conditioning."

Banfield Elementary Principal Candace Raskin gave an overview of Title I, II, and IV grants for the 2001-2002 school year and asked for approval of these grants, and it was given. Two teachers, Tina Watkins and John Schneider, teach first-grade transition classes and spoke how these classes funded through Title I benefited the students. The classrooms were smaller, each student got individual attention and the work was repetitive so the students understood it.

"The kids are a needy bunch of kids," Schneider said. "They have a base to go on in further grades, It’s been a good year."

Wayne Olson of the high school math department gave an update for the year.

"Teachers in the sixth grade teach two groups, kids that need repetition and those that don’t," he said. "If they can do five of these problems they can go onto the next five."

The math texts the district uses, Glenco Series, are easier for the teachers to teach with and the students are having an easier time learning.

Ellis Middle School Principal Jean M. McDermott gave a report on the Boystown assessment of her school. Boystown submitted a 141-page assessment report of summaries, trends and recommendations for the school.

According to the report, there were four key points recommended for Ellis:

– Improve classroom discipline practices.

– Improve schoolwide discipline practices.

– Improve the likelihood that schoolwide change will occur.

– Improve the parental involvement in their children’s education.

High school activities director Naomi Hatfield asked for approval of the Minnesota High School League membership renewal.

"A new competitive league this year is art," she told the board. "There will be five different categories: sculpture, drawing, watercolors, mixed media and acrylic. There would be a section meet event to qualify students at state meets."

The renewal was passed but not decided whether they would include art in the competitive league.

Danny Noss, technology coordinator of the Austin High School Network Need, elaborated on how the network has outgrown its infrastructure and needs to be updated. The computers need to be rewired and network switches need to be purchased to avoid collisions in the schools. Funding for the proposed budget is $110,000 for the first part and $120,000 for the second part. It would take two months to complete.

"We have $100,000 for technology ready," Noss said. "We need to finalize grant money so we can get on this project during the summer months. This is a serious problem with ramifications. It sometimes takes a teacher half a period to take attendance. We need to do all this at once. It is more expensive to do a part now and a part later."

A total of 120 computers will be purchased through the Minnesota State Cooperative Vendors. Noss still is looking at portable equipment to purchase.

Call Sheila Donnelly at 434-2214 or e-mail her at