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Colfax school board conducts long monthly meeting

by Marlys Kruger

Election of new officers, a decision on whether to help pay for students attending national competitions, approving two staff retirements and two resignations and deciding on whether to raise school lunch prices were just a few of the items on the agenda during the April 29 Colfax school board meeting.

Long time board president Don Berge turned over the reigns to newly elected president Joel Hilson and board clerk Mike Lee administered the Official Oath to newly elected member Ken Bjork and re-elected members Jodi Kiekhafer and Christie Hill. Todd Kragness was elected vice president while Lee will remain as the clerk and Ken Neuburg will also stay on as treasurer. Hill will take Hilson’s place as the CESA 11 delegate and Neuburg will continue to be the WASB representative. The board agreed on their current bank to be Dairy State Bank, newspaper The Colfax Messenger, auditor Wipfli LLP and district legal firm Weld, Riley, Prenn & Ricci. Monthly meetings will be held the third Monday of each month.

Fifth grade teacher Janet Hovland will be retiring after 29 years with the district and bus driver Virginia Thompson will also retire this year after more than 30 years behind the wheel. Middle school special education teacher Bonnie Froehlich submitted her resignation after teaching in the district 10 years and seventh grade volleyball coach Laura Lowe also resigned after coaching eight years.

Four students who all qualified for national competition as members of the FCCLA and their advisor Lisa Neuburg, along with one student who qualified at the national level for FBLA and his advisor Kara Zutter addressed the board in hopes of receiving financial help to attend their respective competitions. Freshmen Abby Suvada, Brielle Bjork, Cienna Cooper and Ally Heidorn all have the opportunity to compete in San Antonio, TX, while junior Tucker Teige may compete in Nashville, TN, all this summer. Mrs Neuburg presented a list of expenses for the five day trip which totaled just under $8,000 while the three day trip for Teige would be around $3,000. The students have all been involved with fund raising projects and are planning to do more, but wondered if they could get help from the school.

Board members asked several questions of the students and thanked them for coming in and decided to discuss it and make a decision later in the meeting. Concerns were there was no money budgeted because this was an unexpected expense and also setting a precedent for the future.

“What happens if next year we have a lot more kids getting to the national level?,” board member Kragness asked. “If we set a money allowance now and we get more going in the future, will we be able to pay for them?”

District Administrator Bill Yingst said he had contacted every school in the Dunn-St. Croix Conference and asked if they helped pay for national competitions. Some schools do not have these clubs but he received replies from the ones who do.

“All of them said they do not help pay for students to attend any national competitions,” he said. “With many schools having budget problems these days, they just can’t afford it.”

Kiekhafer made the point that these students are representing Colfax High School and it is a great accomplishment for them to reach the national level.

“It really says a lot for our district, our teachers and advisors that these kids are willing to work hard and win regional and state competitions against the top kids in the state. The skills they learn will be used the rest of their lives,” she added. After more than 40 minutes of discussion, the board agreed to set an amount of $2,500 which would be $500 for each student and to pay for one advisor for each trip. This will be looked at again at a later date in the event there are more students who qualify next year.

The cost of summer school swimming lessons will remain the same which is $15 for one student and $25 per family. Yingst had been interviewed on an Eau Claire TV station a week or so before the meeting about his feelings concerning all schools having swimming lessons as a requirement at their school.

“There had been a drowning at a school in Minnesota a few weeks ago and there has been a big discussion on requiring schools to find a way to offer swimming lessons to all their students,” Yingst said. “I think the TV station called me because of our school size, knowing we don’t have a pool but we were close to several of them. I explained we rent the Elk Mound pool for two weeks each summer and we keep the cost low so every child has the opportunity to take lessons. I feel it is extremely important for our students to learn to swim and learn safety around water because you never know when you will be around water.”

The price of school lunch will increase by ten cents next year which will make the cost for 4K students $1.55 per lunch, K-5 students $2.30, grades 6-12 $2.45 and adults $3.75. The DPI “Paid Lunch Equity Tool” formula was used which caps an increase at ten cents per meal.

“If you go into a grocery store you know how expensive food has gotten,” Yingst said. “We really encourage all families to fill out the forms we provide to see if they qualify for free or reduced lunch.”

A check for $16,073.58 for the Energy Efficiency project was received along with the Lottery and Gaming settlement check for $9, 549.12.

Administrators’ reports

Grades 6-12 principal John Dachel presented a list of events coming up in the next month including graduation May 16. He also advises everyone to check the school website or call the school to check on athletic contests because with all the postponements and cancellations, the school calender is not correct. Farm Tractor Safety class will be held May 19-23 for students ages 12 and up there will be several middle school and high school field trips coming up along with senior activities.

The elementary music concert will be May 8 for grades 1-6 at 1:30 in the afternoon and Kindergarten graduation is also May 8 at 12:30 according to principal Trevor Hovde. There will be a fifth grade D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony May 30 at 1:45 and end of the year field trips for each grade. The last day of school for students is Thursday, June 5.

Special Education and Curriculum Director Polly Rudi informed the board the Smarter Balanced Field testing is underway with fifth and sixth grade students. Colfax has been chosen as a pilot program this year with all schools in the state beginning the testing in grades 3-8 next year. Because all testing is on the computer, students have been challenged and frustrated due to the glitches on the company’s part with the program. Questions are not multiple choice so students have to keyboard short answers so they need to be able to read and type efficiently.

“We are very lucky to have the infrastructure for wireless internet like we have,” Rudi said. “With all students taking these tests next year at the same time and other students using the internet throughout the school, it is important to have this infrastructure.”

“There are many schools who are not set up with a very good wireless system yet and this could be a problem for them next year,” Yingst said.

Rudi stated the next Special Education Parent meeting is May 19 and the next Early Childhood collaborative playground with CESA 11 Head Start and Dunn County Birth to Three will be May 9 at the Colfax Early Head Start.

During the closed session with school lawyer Steve Weld, the board agreed to hold a special meeting which will give the district authority to look at purchasing land adjacent to the District’s athletic fields. The meeting is an open meeting to be held in the District Administrators office at 6:30 p.m. May 19.