The Fillmore Central Board discussed the pros and cons of joining the Southern Minnesota Special Education Consortium (SMSEC) during its meeting last Tuesday evening. After looking at both the pros and the cons of joining this consortium, the board members agreed that the timing was not right to change the way the district handled its special education programming.

The district currently cooperates with Kingsland to operate the Root River Education program as well as share the services of Micki Breitsprecher, special education director. Both districts, however, were contacted and asked to join the consortium, which includes five other school districts in the area, Southland, Grand Meadow, LeRoy-Ostrander, Lyle and Glenville-Emmons.

Superintendent Richard Keith reported he had met with John McDonald, superintendent at Kingsland, and Steve Salle, superintendent at Southland and LeRoy-Ostrander, about the possible change.

"At this point, we are discussing the concept with the school boards to see if there is interest in pursuing this concept any further," he explained.

Board Chair Ross Kiehne stated, "I'm always open to discussions (between school districts) because that is what it takes to make small schools work."

Keith reported the group was interested in bringing both Kingsland and Fillmore Central into the consortium. He told the board members there are benefits and risks to joining the group of school districts and asked them to consider several issues.

Outlined as benefits included the ability to secure hard-to-find staff, such as speech and language pathologists and school psychologists. Plus, Breitsprecher and the special education director currently serving SMSEC have unique skills that could be beneficial to all schools.

Breitsprecher was present at the board meeting and said, "It may make us stronger, but would not likely fix all our problems."

Keith also mentioned a possible situation of Fillmore Central getting a student into the district with a specialized need. It could be a costly expense and the consortium could potentially help with those services and reduce costs.

The concerns raised seemed to out-weigh the benefits in the minds of the board members. Keith explained how sharing current staff among that many more school districts may actually reduce the services the district could provide locally to at-risk and high-need students. Keith also explained the current arrangement with Kingsland has worked well financially and the districts are stable in regards to funding. That is not the case with the consortium.

As for the Root River Education Program, which provides an alternative learning site for special needs students, it could become a consortium program or remain a Fillmore Central and Kingsland program.

Board member Jim Love asked, "Are we meeting the needs we have now?" to which Breitsprecher and Keith both said, "Yes."

"Then I don't think we need to do anything differently," Love responded.

John Torgrimson agreed, saying, "I think it's working and it's meeting our needs, so we should continue on as we are."

Sue Sikkink asked Keith how Fillmore Central would be affected if Kingsland did choose to join the consortium and Fillmore Central did not. He admitted that would create a less-than-ideal situation and the board may have to revisit their discussion.

Personnel

The board also handled several personnel issues during the meeting, including rescinding last month's hiring of Jessica Marzolf for three hours per week as an ECSE paraprofessional. She was unable to fill this position due to a conflict with her time as an AmeriCorps worker. This led to the board's approval of hiring Kelly Jo Dornink to fill that position.

Several resignations were also accepted, including Katie Gilman as a day care professional, Ashley Case as a day care substitute and from Aubrey Johnson as an office clerical worker.

Athletic director Chris Mensink presented a list of winter coaches for approval, including Joseph Cullen as assistant wrestling coach; Alan LaFluer as an assistant wrestling coach; Domingo Kingsley as a seventh grade girls basketball coach; John O'Connor as a ninth grade girls basketball coach and Jackie Whitacre as the speech and one-act play coach.

Sale of school equipment

Keith presented a proposal to sell two pieces of surplus school equipment during the meeting, including a recycling baler and a 12-passenger van.

He explained that Harmony Enterprises had donated a baler to the district and it is located in the boiler room. At one time it was used to crush and bale aluminum cans and cardboard, but has not been utilized for a few years. Keith noted that someone is interested in purchasing it and he had contacted Harmony Enterprises and valued it at $500 to $1,000.

The other item was the district's 12-passenger van. Keith explained that during an inspection this year, the Minnesota Highway Patrol refused to approve the van because it exceeded the 10-passenger limit for school districts. He added the van has been in use since 2006 and has a little over 67,000 miles on it. It is clean and runs well.

"We are currently getting by without it," Keith noted. "Eventually we will likely want to purchase a mini-van to replace it."

The board members agreed that selling the two items made sense at this time.

Other business

The board handled several other items during the meeting.

• The board authorized issuing bonds for the high school HVAC project, which will take place late next spring and into the summer.

• An open enrollment request was approved for an 11th grade student who previously attended Fillmore Central and wishes to continue here instead of Rockford where his mother moved. Another was approved for a kindergarten student who moved into the Lanesboro district and would like to continue on at Fillmore Central.

• A field placement agreement with Saint Mary's University was approved for a student teacher to practice teach in Joanie Johnson's classroom from January through May.

• The new state mandated literacy plan was approved. Principal Heath Olstad noted he and the elementary staff have been working on this plan for the past several months. The plan includes the district's purpose, goals and reading proficiency assessments as well as outlines the tools that can be used to develop student literacy. The focus is on the younger elementary grades, kindergarten through third grade.

• The sports sharing agreements with Lanesboro and Mabel-Canton were approved with no changes from previous years. Currently the school shares wrestling with both Lanesboro and Mabel-Canton and track, baseball and softball with Lanesboro.

• The school hired JD Snowplowing for snow removal at the Harmony site and Mensink Landscaping for snow removal at the Preston site.

• The lawn mowing contract was awarded to TNT Lawn Service for the next two summers.