School board formally ratifies Nov. 8 election

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Austin Public School board formally ratified the Nov. 8 election results Monday night and district officials are already at work planning for a new fifth- and sixth- grade school and Woodson Kindergarten Center expansion.

Woodson’s expansion may go out to bid as early as January and construction could start as early as February, according to Mark Stotts, finance and operations director.

Stotts said district officials set up weekly meetings with architects to discuss project planning and officials have already created a rough timeline. Work on the 10-acre plot of land formerly owned by Fellowship United Methodist Church could begin sometime between April and June if things go according to plan.

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The Hormel Foundation donated $110,000 to the district last month to pay for the plot, which is directly south of Ellis Middle School.

IT presents new direction

District officials are making strides in technology, but there are areas where the Information and Technology Department could improve.

Corey Haugen, IT director, gave a Strategic Direction report to the board Monday concerning technology in the district. The district appears to be in good shape overall, with 208 out of 274 classrooms meeting minimum technology requirements. In addition, the IT department oversees more than 1,500 district computers and about 30,000 users each day.

Yet the IT department needs to improve its work-order performance, Haugen said. IT workers answer less than 50 percent of work-orders within 48 hours, way down from the district’s goal of 75 percent.

Schools discuss sexual abuse reporting

The timing couldn’t be better to discuss the district’s sexual abuse reporting policy, in light of sexual abuse allegations at Penn State University. Board members did just that Monday night, making clarifications to a decades-old policy that specified which district employees were “mandated reporters,” meaning they must report any child neglect, physical or sexual abuse allegation to the Minnesota Department of Education, local police, or other agencies.

“There was a question in regards to who was a mandated reporter,” said board chairman Aaron Keenan.

Keenan said the board’s decision to revise the reporting policy took months of work. It is only by coincidence the board’s policy revision comes at the same time that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is under investigation for allegedly sexually assaulting several youths.

The board also revised its tobacco policy to include a ban on electronic cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, maintaining its smoke-free stance.

Board accepts donations

The donations keep coming for Austin Public Schools.

The board accepted several donations this month from groups like the Kiwanis Club and the Austin Bruins.

Southgate Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Committee donated $45 to Southgate’s Math Masters program for supplies.

The Kiwanis donated $300 to the Community Learning Center for its toy lending library.

Target’s Take Charge of Education Program donated $83 to the Area Learning Center for general supplies.

The Bruins donated two student tickets for 28 home games to Ellis’ Packer Pride Fund for its reward program.

Stephen and James Wernimont, the owners of Culver’s in Rochester, donated 50 $5 gift cards, 30 free sundae coupons and 30 free kids’ meal coupons to Ellis’ EBD Level III room for its reward program.

Last heating, cooling work approved

The board approved the last round of heating and cooling renovations for district schools Monday.

Board members approved a $2 million HVAC renovation for Woodson and a $1.76 million HVAC renovation for Southgate. The renovations will be completed this summer. This is the third and final year of HVAC renovations in the district.