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Student of the month selection process questioned

A suggestion to revamp the procedure for selecting the Park Rapids Area High School student of the month met disagreement from the school board and administration this week, the board concurring the "subjective" process will continue.

In a letter to the board, Pat McBrady asked for "a simple clarification of who student of the month honors and a clear, objective procedure to be used in the selection.

"I don't think moving forward with an improved and clear selection process is detrimental to previous recipients, but would actually make the award more meaningful and would be helpful for students, parents, the school and community by knowing what to expect and what the award is given for," he said.

"There is not any sort of clear process, with a fair policy, procedure, or information gathering process used that I am aware of, and nothing written down to show that the procedure is nondiscriminatory and fair," he said.

He told the board the athletic scholarship "has the same problems, a behind closed doors session with no clear process for who is selected..." McBrady indicated an earlier award "was simply wrong and should not have been allowed.

"In this era of budget cuts shouldn't the board and administration be trying to build coalitions instead of alienating people? And clear, quality procedures for these awards would be a place to start," he told the board.

Board member Gary Gauldin reproved him, stating he'd expected a formal proposal from McBrady and his attorney on the matter, having met with him in committee. "I'm disturbed with your comment on student athletes," he said, "saying a student athlete is not deserving... I take personal exception to that statement."

Board member Stephanie Carlson acknowledged the subjectivity of the selection process, but pointed out it's also a strength. "It hasn't always been the top student. A number of times it's a student making the school a better place."

"This is a caught-you-doing-good award," Karol Savage concurred, "going over and above."

"The system isn't broken," Dennis Dodge said, noting it's not the A students and premier athletes in the spotlight. "It's another way to give a pat on the back."

Retiring principal Al Judson cited Amber McGowan's SOM citation in May as means to recognize a student who's accomplished goals in the wake of difficult circumstances - homelessness at one point.

"She didn't think she was deserving," Judson said. He disagreed.

As a member of Health Occupations Students of America, McGowan's team was named state HOSA Bowl champions this year.

The honor, he said, "is good for the staff, students and community."

In other action, the board:

n Reviewed the 2009-10 budget revision and the 2010-11 budget.

Business manager Carol Hutchinson reported a current fund balance of $830,755, up $235,439 from the end of fiscal year 2009.

She is projecting a fund balance of $937,789 in 2011, up $107,014 from this year's.

This, she told the board, is based on a 1,500 enrollment. The district ended the 2008-09 school year with 1,505 enrolled and 1,538 this year.

And pre-kindergarten levels are at "full house."

She attributed the healthy figures to cost containment, stable enrollment and utility costs coming in under budget. "It looks good."

The $7.6 million in QSBC funds for the high school project was a "wonderful" bonus, Hutchinson reminded the board.

n Approved the second reading of the field trip policy. Gauldin urged the school to recommend that overseas trips of more than a week in duration be taken in the summer.

n Heard an update from activities director John Schumacher who expressed thanks to the community for the school's facilities.

"We are always hearing comments," he said of the ball fields and buildings.

n Approved rental rates for school facilities for the 2010-11 school year.