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Raymond Aho appointed to Menahga School Board

A new Menahga School Board member was appointed Monday.

Raymond Aho will replace Diana Pihlaja who resigned at the end of March.

"As a single parent with three active children and a very demanding job, time goes by quickly," she wrote in her resignation letter. "I feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to dedicate more time to my family."

Chairman Durwin Tomperi recommended former school board member Aho to fill Pihalja's position.

Aho served on the school board for 11 years until 2005, according to board members.

"I think he'd be a good fit for our board at this time," Tomperi said.

Aho will serve the remainder of Pihlaja's unexpired term ending January 2011.

Pihlaja also served on the personnel, licensed staff negotiations and finance committees.

Chairman Tomperi appointed Curtis Hasbargen and Brad Goehrig to the licensed staff negotiations committee. That committee went from having three members to four.

The board will discuss filling the finance committee vacancy at the May board meeting in addition to filling Pihlaja's two liaison assignments.

Pihlaja was the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) Legislative liaison and the district-wide safety committee designee.

In other board action:

-Superintendent Jerry Nesland gave an overview of suggested budget cuts for the year 2009-10 based on projections of no growth or decline in state funding.

The board will approve a total of $223,600 in program reductions and other cost saving measures next month. Budget cuts include the following:

Reassigning staff in the elementary growing areas;

Reducing overall administration by $94,000 by reassigning duties of the high school dean of students;

Cutting down on mailing and postage costs;

Eliminating the study hall supervisor position;

Setting fees for breakfast and increasing fees for lunch.

"Because of growth in the elementary, our district is in a better position than many districts in the state," Nesland said. "I don't think we're going to see the pain that a lot of districts will see."

-The board voted to continue using health insurance with the Northwest Service Cooperative with an increase from 4.2 percent to 4.3 percent next year.

-Elementary music teacher Lonnie Schmidt presented ways he's been using SMART Board in his classrooms.

He said students are much more engaged with technologies like the SMART Board and often can't wait to use it.

-The board reviewed an overview of what the proposed building expansion project would include.

It includes a bigger gymnasium, a community room for meetings and more locker space.

After finalizing the plan with the architect and coming up with a cost estimate, a public meeting will be held sometime in the next two months to gather community input.