School board review presented to board

MARSHALL – In the first meeting of the new year, Marshall Public School board members dealt with a number of internal issues, including the nomination and election of new officers for the upcoming calendar year.

Jeff Chapman was appreciative to be re-elected as board chairman.

“I’m honored to serve on this board,” Chapman said.

Board member Matt Coleman was voted in again as vice-chair, as was Bill Mulso as treasurer, but the school board clerk position was graciously vacated by Karen VanKeulen.

“I would like to nominate Curt (Kovash) because he has a senior and will be able to sign his son’s diploma this year,” VanKeulen said. “A board member did that for me when my kids were seniors.”

Kovash was then unanimously elected as board clerk.

Marshall Schools Superintendent Klint Willert complimented the board as he presented the annual school board review, which was obtained from a variety of constituents.

“Not every school board in the state of Minnesota does this,” he said. “It’s good to participate in this process, to put yourself out there like this. We do it to get better.”

The process is not only aligned to the district’s core values, but is also aligned to the standards of governance prepared by the Minnesota School Board Association as a way to determine strengths and opportunities for growth, accountability and transparency and to focus on continuous improvement and effectiveness.

Based on a 4-point rubric – with “1” being unsatisfactory, “2” requiring improvement, “3” meeting criteria and “4” exceeding criteria – six areas were critiqued. Noting that 2.5 is the average on the 4-point scale, Willert was pleased to report that all of the categories – vision (3.32), structure (3.34), accountability (3.25), advocacy (3.02), conduct and ethics (3.39) and attributes of the board (3.25) – were rated well above average.

The majority of the scores also reflected growth from the past two years, both of which were also reported for comparison.

“We have to continue to celebrate our strengths and each other as a group,” Willert said. “These are very positive results.”

Comments from survey participants critiquing the board were also made public in the presentation. in the area of conduct and ethics, which received the highest average score, one participant applauded the addition of the two high school student representatives, saying it was very positive.

In the area of advocacy, which received the lowest average score, a comment noted that board members “could have done more to help lead and educate the community on the levy that they asked the community to vote for.”

The board received high praise for being very collaborative, trusting and knowledgeable in addition to working as a team, listening and not having personal agendas.

MPS received gratitude from the United Way, which thanked the district employees for their investment of more than $6,900 recently, and from MinnCAN, a Minnesota organization which runs result-oriented advocacy campaigns.

“MinnCAN thanked us for taking time to visit with them when they were here in Marshall on their ‘Road to Success,’ tour,” Willert said. “They visited us because we had made gains in closing the achievement gap, especially with our Spanish students.”

The district also recognized one individual and group of educators in the January Tiger Spotlight. JoAnn Petersen, Marshall High School administrative assistant, was honored for her 35 years of service.

“It’s a great place to work,” Petersen said.

In a nomination form submitted by Eileen Schrunk, Petersen received the utmost praise.

“There are good employees…there are great employees…then there are remarkable employees like JoAnn Petersen,” Schrunk said. “January 2014 marks JoAnn’s 35th anniversary with independent school district 413. She has shared her positive attitude, given evidence of her strong work ethic, reliability and great communication skills every single year. MHS has been blessed that JoAnn chose the career as an administrative assistant for them. All the lives she has impacted over the years with her helpful, caring ways numbers in the thousands. JoAnn, my friend, you deserve time in the ‘Tiger Spotlight.'”

Chapman also noted that Peterson has not only been helpful to the administration, but also to the students.

“You’ve definitely made a difference here,” he said.

In a second Tiger Spotlight recognition, the MPS “Adopt a Family” committee, which works together to determine a family in need within the district, was honored for their efforts, which clearly go beyond the classroom. In coordination with donations from school personnel, committee members orchestrate the process of identifying families in need and then making special deliveries to them.

“We’ve been able to ‘adopt’ many different families,” Kari Ehlers said. “Usually, each building has two families each year. And it could be a family of one or a family of 11, so it all depends.”

The board discussed but did not take action on what to do about the day called off Monday by Gov. Mark Dayton.

“The Commissioner of Education told us to treat the day like we would have had we called the day off ourselves,” Willert said. “Our practice has been that if we miss a day, we make up a day. We have teacher contracts that say they are to have 175 student contact days.”

When asked about making the day up before the end of the year, Willert noted that calendar committee members reported to him that they’d prefer to make up any snow/cold days at the end of the year. Mulso said he thought days added at the end would not be “quality days.”

The last day of school is slated for May 16, so students may have to return the following week. Board members discussed the fact that more bad weather could cause additional disruptions in the school schedule.

“It’s not a simple decision,” Willert said.