Kingsland School Board continues discussion on role of activities director

By: 
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Kingsland’s School Board returned to the subject of whether or how to restructure its activities director position at the June workshop held Monday, June 3, as the matter was a topic of concern during the May School Board workshop and the May regular School Board meeting.

The board had considered whether to split the single position into two to relieve the current athletic director and Kingsland’s building and grounds director, John Dols, of some of the extra activities position tasks for which he is responsible because he is already very busy in his capacity as building and grounds director and supervising athletic events. 

The board has previously expressed that it does not want to “set him up to fail,” as Chairwoman Jackie Horsman has suggested continuing with such an arrangement will do.  She stated that the board ought to be looking at Dols’s responsibilities -- noting that Dols has done a good job – to ensure fair arrangements for him or anyone else taking the athletic director’s job, a position that Dols remarked he took on when he returned to Kingsland as its building and grounds director because he felt that the turnover in athletics directors was not beneficial to the students. 

Revamping the position to include only athletics and designating a position specifically for overseeing the advisors of activities such as FFA, Knowledge Bowl, choir and band and other extracurricular activities would require funding. 

“I think, within the realm of ‘reasonable,’ we’d have to look at adjusting salaries so that we’re not spending more,” board member Kyle Rader said.

Board member Tiffany Mundfrom concurred with Rader that splitting the position into athletics and activities made sense.  “I like the idea as well, because a lot of sports directors schedule games, but on the activities side, the groups schedule their own,” she said.

Horsman agreed, “Athletics is more labor-intensive.” 

“I’m doing what’s been passed down to me,” Dols registered. “I took this position when I came back to Kingsland because I’d seen that there were at least six athletic directors in the time that I was gone…I’m doing what was passed down to me.” 

He and Superintendent Jim Hecimovich related that any activity other than sports has a separate advisor and that anything that the advisors of those activities would like to spend money for regular organization functions requires both their signatures. 

Hecimovich observed that FFA is likely the most labor-intensive of activities, but that FFA advisor Kristal Brogan handles most of the work to schedule and manage FFA.

“That’s built into her compensation package, and other advisors have someone to do things for them, or it’s made part of their compensation,” Horsman informed the board. “I think it’s implied that we should always be looking for opportunities for growth and change” 

Mundfrom pointed out that programming, to some extent, drives enrollment. 

“If the direction is from the top, we need to make sure that the programs are not just sports,” she said. “The sports are strong, but programs draw people.” 

Horsman referred to the activities handbook, which she cited as saying that the value of the programs lies in how they are run.

“I think it’s only fair that they know what the expectations are, and that we don’t hold employees to standards we never gave them,” she said. “I think there should be clear expectations and what’s required by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).” 

Board member Maranda Emig said that laying out a structure to find out what works best for the district’s director, coaches and advisors would be helpful. 

Board member Leah Stier inquired, “With a dedicated activities director, what are the benefits?  Like John just said, if there are things that you want to change, you have to communicate that to him, but to jump to restructuring…” 

Horsman said, “I agree with that, but I don’t think that we have to hand-hold.” 

Hecimovich contributed, “We’ve talked about having reviews with coaches before each season.” 

Dols stated, “Activities and athletics are different jobs held by one person right now.” 

Hecimovich pointed toward the availability of staff and the change from a teacher taking on the athletics director’s position as a part of his job in the past to hiring someone to handle the work as a separate role.

“It’s just too much for one person,” Emig said.

Horsman reiterated the need for further conversation about the prospect of splitting the athletic director’s position into two.

However, Emig observed the lack of procedures being in place.

Hecimovich agreed, “The procedures aren’t there.”

“This would give us a path, because right now, I think we’re shooting in the dark,” Emig stated. “This would give us a path, and after that, baby steps.” 

Mundfrom suggested that one of the first steps would be to “clean up sports contracts.”

Hecimovich, with a military background, used his experience to outline, “You have to have it clearly defined so you can go after the enemy. You can look at other schools’ structures, like Rushford-Peterson’s and more.”

“I want what’s best for our district and kids,” Dols reiterated. “That’s why I came back.  I saw that it was not getting done.” 

The board discussed setting July as a goal for the position’s tenets to be defined, and Mundfrom and Horsman assured Dols that no ill will or intention was meant by setting a specific date, as Mundfrom addressed him, “I’m saying July so you know what’s expected from you.” 

Horsman added, “It’s unfair to you if you don’t know the expectations.”  She asked the rest of the board if there were any further questions before saying, “We have his back, he has our support.”

Technology upgrades

The board, meeting in the temporary school age childcare room in the north elementary hall due to construction, discussed whether to install wiring to upgrade internet service within the school while the ceilings are open for an indoor air quality (IAQ) project or to wait until after and have another contractor carry out the work, as the district plans to replace now-obsolete SMARTboards with interactive televisions. 

Emig, a former Kingsland tech coordinator, shared that she had witnessed students playing with internet service cords dropped from classroom ceilings, creating a safety hazard, and that category six service would best serve students’ needs in light of the increased number of personal tech devices used in each grade. 

Costs ranging from $4,200 for moving outlets to $39,700 for category six cable installation totaled reasons for the board to delay making a decision on the expenditure. A special meeting was set for this past Monday, June 10, to deal with the ramifications of choosing to proceed while the ceilings are still open for the IAQ project or to hire an independent contractor afterwards.

Horsman cited the concern of professionalism as one reason to have Knutson Construction, the district’s general contractor, find a subcontractor to install the necessary outlets and wiring systems, and suggested that the board give thought to $20,000 as an expenditure point. 

Business manager Amber Uhlenhake Herbrand said that she and Hecimovich would contact Knutson for more information ahead of the special meeting.    

Other business

The board went on to renew its membership in MSHSL, approve the transportation director’s contract, the SACC and preschool master agreement, call for milk and fuel bids, designate Hecimovich as the Minnesota Department of Education’s Kingsland Identified Official with Authority (IOWA), designate elementary principal Scott Klavetter as representative to the Local Education Agency (LEA), set School Board meeting dates for the 2019-2020 school year, peruse handbooks for the first time, and pass a resolution establishing the dates for filing affidavits of candidacy to fill Stier’s board seat as July 30 through Aug. 13, as Stier had been appointed to finish Heather Betts’s year-long term after Betts moved outside the school district’s boundaries.        

The consent agenda included the preliminary hiring of building and grounds maintenance specialist Jason Thompson and accepting the resignations of SACC assistant Rebecca Oakland and the junior varsity boys’ basketball coach Scott Rindels. 

The board adjourned and then split into groups led by Dols and Hecimovich to tour opposite ends of the school building to view the construction project’s progress.   

The regular School Board meeting is set for Monday, June 17, at 6:30 p.m. in the temporary SACC room, N109 in the north elementary wing, and the next workshop is slated for Monday, July 1, at 6 p.m. in the same room.  The public is welcome to attend.  For more information, log onto the school’s website at www.kingsland.k12.mn.us, or call 507-346-7276.