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Nevis to lose four veteran teachers to retirement

Nevis School

Nevis School is bidding farewell to two longtime educators.

English teacher Lyn Rittgers, who holds the district longevity record at 38 years, has made an application for the district's retirement assistance plan.

Rittgers has served as school librarian and advisor to graduating classes, in addition to her role as creative writing and literature and mythology instructor.

"She thinks she made a good decision," superintendent Steve Rassier said of Rittgers' arrival in 1974, having just graduated from college in Wisconsin. "She has been a mainstay."

And first grade teacher Pam Johnson, who's taught in Nevis 35 years, is resigning. She spent three years in Willmar before coming to Nevis, Rassier said. "She will be missed."

Board members extended a "big, hearty thank you" to both teachers.

Both have witnessed the evolution of technology in the classroom and the school moving from single- to two-section classes.

This brings the number of teachers retiring this spring to four, special education teacher Louise Shay and math teacher Keith Minkel announcing their retirements in March.

Job interviews to replace the four teachers will begin, Rassier said.

Math teacher interviews "are critical," he said. And the special ed position "may be tough to fill." A few have expressed interest in applying for the English teaching position and there is a "large pool of elementary candidates."

In other action, the board:

n Heard an update on menu changes to school lunches to meet the provisions of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act.

"It's a whole different way kids will be fed," said board member Jeannette Dudley, who attended a symposium on the changes in Walker. "It's a positive change," she said of the emphasis on fruits and vegetables to be served to students. "A very good change, a move in the right direction."

Desserts, she said, "will be virtually obsolete."

The district has received a $5,000 wellness grant for staff training and development of wellness activities for students.

n Approved contracts with bus drivers and individual district employees effective July 2011 through June 2013 calling for 2 and 3 percent increases, respectively for each year.

n Agreed to purchase a 2012 Ford Fusion as a drivers education car, replacing a 1995 Oldsmobile station wagon.

By becoming a Ford Fleet customer, Rassier explained, the district is able to buy Ford vehicles at $100 below invoice price.

The vehicle will be purchased from Walker Ford at a cost of $18,945. The Oldsmobile will be sold.

n Learned the district is "solid financially, and will not have to borrow like other districts," Rassier said in reviewing legislative updates.

He anticipates a $50 per student increase in the state formula. As a small school, the district will receive the maximum state aid per student, Rassier said.

The district may also receive $30,000 to $40,000 in compensation based on the third and fourth grade reading scores. The state is rewarding districts whose students reach the standards.

The Legislature is considering expanding the Post Secondary Education Option to include sophomores (students going to college during high school). "But I really question if that's the right decision," he told the board, suggesting studies be conducted on the impact to kids.

He said of the six students enrolling in PSEO full time last fall, three returned.

n Accepted donations totaling $1,600 for a matching grant from the DNR to establish an Archery in the Schools program.

"This will be a great addition," athletic director Bryan Wormley said. Students in grades seven and eight will be introduced to archery, with volunteers arriving to assist.

Donations were received from the Park Rapids chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota Dark House Anglers Association of Park Rapids, Nevis Fire Department and the North Country Gobblers of Akeley and Tall Pine Toms of Park Rapids, local chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation.