School board hears complaints about unsafe bus routes, ponders superintendent hiring process

By : 
SCOTT BESTUL
TRI-COUNTY RECORD

Though the September meeting of the Rushford-Peterson school board was relatively brief, they dealt with several significant matters.

Unsafe bus routes

Two daycare providers, upset about school bus drop-off and pick-up points for children in their care, addressed the board during the public comments portion of the Sept 17 meeting. Heidi Halvorson, whose home is located on a cul-de-sac, told board members that the new Bernard Bus route no longer included a stop at her door. “This year I’ve got young kids being dropped off a block from my facilities,” Halvorson said. “In the first eight days of school, I’ve had four incidents that placed kids in my care in danger. I don’t think this is in keeping with the district’s motto of ‘Always Our Best.’ “

Halvorson reported that a county social worker visiting her facility said that R-P was the only school district she knew of that didn’t drop kids off directly at every home. “I understand the district has 17 vans,” Halvorson said. “I suggest we use them for situations like this. Or hire a different bus service, or at least a different driver. Can we do something to take care of these kids?”

Chellsey Olson, another daycare provider, echoed Halvorson’s concerns. “I’m here to address the same issues as Heidi,” said Olson, whose kids are being dropped off a block from her facility. “I’ve had five incidents since the start of school that have me concerned for the safety of my kids, That’s a 50 percent failure rate. When I complained to Mike Bernard, he agreed to change the route, then told me if I told anyone he did that, he’d change it back again. I’m sorry, but I don’t respond to threats.” Supt. Ehler said that he had been in contact with Mike Bernard and is seeking a solution to these concerns.

Trap Shooting update

During the old business section of the meeting, Supt. Ehler noted that he had met with trap shooting coaches Colby Lind and Jamie Pehler to address the district’s funding/support of the R-P trap shooting team. The product of that meeting was the development of guidelines for proceeding in the future. Among those guidelines were:

• Team members/coaches and the district will work in a collaborative manner. The district will assist the team with securing donations, and hopes that volunteer coaches will continue.

• Participants will pay a $125 participation fee, plus an online registration fee of $35. Actual costs for team members can be reduced by fund-raising.

• Coaches and the district will determine final participation costs per participants by March, 2019.

• Fees will need to be paid before shooting takes place.

• Lettering criteria will be shared with all participants.

• Students must meet R-P academic criteria to participate each week.

Regarding the MN State Clay Target Tournament in Alexandria:

• Students will pay entry, lodging and meal expenses

• District will provide transportation and lodging for coaches.

Regarding the State High School Clay Target Competition in Prior Lake:

• District will provide transportation, lodging and $10/meal stipend for the team and/or team members that qualify for this competition.

Fundraising will be done by participants and volunteer coaches, with the district assisting as needed with letters of support and thank you’s.

Coaches pay

The district will reimburse coaches for all expenses incurred. In the event there is money left over after all events and competitions, consideration will be given to paying coaches.

After listening to this proposal, Director Mierau commented “We just approved paying $3500 for help with [drama coaches] for the fall musical (passed during the consent agenda portion of the meeting). I think it’s only fair we pay coaches here, and not just if we have money leftover at the end of the season.” No discussion followed, and the board voted to approve the trapshooting guidelines.

Superintendent hiring process

With Supt. Ehler in the last year of his position, the R-P School board will be responsible for hiring his successor. To assist them in this process, Ehler provided the board with a tentative timeline for making this occur. This timeline, which begins in November and ends with a hire in March 2019, included advertising the position, receiving applications, reviewing applicants and selecting finalists, interviews, second interviews (if needed) and finalizing a recommendation for the board.

Supt. Ehler also suggested a possible makeup of the selection committee, which included a leadership team of five people, all seven school board members, six teachers/staff, and five district office staff. “My timeline and suggestion of selection committee are both tentative,” Ehler said. “Both are open to being adapted.”

Discussion followed, in which board members questioned whether there were too many members of the selection committee, and whether the district would be wise to hire a firm to assist them in the hire of a new superintendent. Director Prinsen asked if any local districts had used outside help in their search for a superintendent. Supt Ehler said that he’d spoken with members of the Caledonia district, where they’d just conducted such a search, and commented that “they wouldn’t go that route again.” Ehler also noted that there were local firms that would help in conducting such a search for a maximum cost of $5,000. Director Mierau noted that, “in an age of technology and social media, we shouldn’t need outside help.” Director Iverson agreed and said “This is one of the most important decisions we’ll make this year, we need time to think this over.”

Snow removal

With the winter snow-plowing season approaching, Supt. Ehler said he’d like to solicit new bids for plowing the R-P district grounds this winter. Though Ehler had no trouble finding a sponsor for such a motion, Director Prinsen was quick to comment in the following discussion “we’ve had to have two special meetings within the last couple of months, just to deal with situations where the board has authorized {Supt. Ehler} to solicit bids for projects, then certain board members felt he hadn’t proceeded properly. I want to avoid that in this situation.” Supt. Ehler thanked Director Prinsen for her comments, but noted “I will exercise due diligence to seek bids for the project, especially from local vendors.” The board approved Ehler’s request to advertise for bids for the R-P district’s snow plowing needs.   

After hearing reports from the elementary, high school, and community education directors, the meeting was adjourned at 6:45. The next meeting of the R-P School Board will be held on the following dates:

Schedule

October 1 a special meeting will be held in conjunction with an informational meeting to discuss the district’s proposed operating levy referendum.

October 15 is the regular school board meeting at 5:30 p.m. at the R-P school forum room.