Chatfield School Board hears ‘back to school’ reports from administrators

Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Chatfield’s 2019-2020 school year is off to a grand start, according to the district’s principals and superintendent, who reported that they were glad to welcome students into the school buildings on Tuesday, Sept. 3, for another year of learning.

During last week’s School Board meeting, Chatfield Superintendent Ed Harris related, “There’s a lot of positive energy in the buildings.”

High School Principal Randy Paulson concurred, “The staff came back with a lot of energy, it’s nice to come back to a school building without a construction mess, and this is the earliest I’ve seen the building up and ready to go. It’s a combination of things, but I want to thank the staff for their hard work. We’re off to a great start, and on Friday, we’re having a ‘welcome back’ assembly.”

Elementary Principal Shane McBroom commented, “The workshops went very well this year, and they were well attended. It was an opportunity for teachers and parents to check paperwork.”

Harris gave his report for the evening, citing that the School Board held a special meeting on the morning of Aug. 21 to consider whether to proceed with posing an operating levy referendum to help boost the district’s finances, coming out of that meeting with the decision to do so but to take into account district taxpayers’ needs.

“Our Aug. 21 meeting, we discussed how we started out with about $400,000 in budget reductions to make, but over the summer, with staffing changes and not filling some of those positions, as well as doing some smart hiring, we were able to save about $95,000 beyond the $400,000,” he explained. “We still are possibly thinking about some moderate reductions.”

Harris then shared that the district has sold its fiber optic cable between the elementary and high school to HBC, a telecommunications company that recently moved into Chatfield and is expanding its service to Chatfield residents. This means the company’s acquisition of the cable benefits both the school district and HBC in that the district was paid approximately $55,000 that can be used toward capital purchases and the company assumes responsibility for the cable.

Harris concluded his update with news of the board’s plans to hold a retreat and to review the current chain of command, or to whom someone on staff should report for direction and advice when needed.

Principals’ reports

Paulson highlighted that junior high students will now have the opportunity to participate in Flex Time activities and there are teachers developing things for students to explore, as did the teachers who provided the ninth through 12th grade students with Flex Time activities last year. This made way for the entire high school population to take time out of their school day to pursue interests or educational experiences.

He thanked departing alternative learning program (ALP) paraprofessional Crystal Smith for her dedication to Chatfield’s students as she takes a position with Fillmore County as a dispatcher. “She leaves big shoes to fill,” he remarked.

Paulson also reported that the district is hiring Lyle Dietz to supervise the weight room so Adam Hurley, who was hired for that position, is moving to another position within the high school.

McBroom gave his update as well. “We’re working on personal learning – there were two coaches working with staff and professional learning communities (PLCs) for more examples of what personalized learning looks like,” he said. “The teachers are looking at ideas to begin with.”

He then acknowledged that the district’s staff has done well integrating technology into everyday curriculum and the elementary administration feels comfortable directing teachers to allot more time for upper elementary physical education and music classes.

“There’s a small change for the kids at the elementary. They do a lot of work with technology, and we’re working to provide more physical education and music time, piloting this with the fifth and sixth graders,” McBroom added. “They’re pretty good at tech skills, and right now, they have art as a third special for one semester. We’re making room for one and a half classes for physical education and one and a half classes of music, and we’re moving tech’s Sue Danielson so that she can be in with the physical education class as an extra. We’ll see how it goes, maybe make changes in the fourth grade as well.”

Other business

Board action for the evening encompassed approving the combined polling places for the upcoming election of a new School Board member. The candidate will fill the seat being vacated by F. Mike Tuohy, who took Jerry Chase’s seat following his resignation earlier this year. Absentee ballots may be obtained at city hall, and voting will take place at the high school on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The board also passed a resolution appointing the election judges and absentee ballot board members for the election.

The consent agenda included approving the 2019-2020 junior varsity winter coaching staff – including boys’ basketball coaches Ryan Eppen, Matt Davidson, Damien Nickelsen and Josh Berhow, girls’ basketball coaches Kyle Tollefson, Matt McMahon and Scott Schmaltz, wrestling coaches Zach Curry and Matt Mauseth, and hiring Rianna Cooper and Dominic Pape as elementary paraprofessionals.

The next regular School Board meeting is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 2, at 7 p.m. in the high school Forum room. The public is welcome to attend.