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Park Rapids School Board lauds performance stars

The Park Rapids Area High School one-act play cast and crew earned another "standing ovation" this week.

The school board extended kudos to the theatrical performers who have "starred" in state performances for the third year in a row.

"We are very proud," activities director John Schumacher said, noting accomplishments are generally touted on the football field and basketball court. "They take their talent onto the stage, and did an outstanding job at competitions. We hold the state record," he said of the number of times the school has earned the "star" distinction.

Julie Kjenaas, now in her ninth year as director, commended the students, some of whom have participated since freshmen.

And technical director Jonathan Harrison "makes the world go 'round - in a big decorative way," Kjenaas said.

She recalled the first year she directed, packing kids and costumes in two Suburbans and heading down to the metro. "In nine years we've grown a bit.

"I love working with these guys," Kjenaas told the board. "They are the best students in the school."

The students shook hands with board members, who offered congratulations.

After the students' departure, Gary Gauldin pointed out they are carrying on a proud tradition, which many feared would end with the late Martin Carter's retirement.

Bruce Burkman stepped in after Carter's departure, stirring stellar performances.

And now, under Kjenaas' guidance, students engage audiences with a riveting stage presence.

"We are fortunate," superintendent Glenn Chiodo noted of the school's distinguished fine arts programs.

"It's a quiet excellence," he said of the school's choir, drama, art and speech participants who are "under the radar."

In other action, the board:

n Approved the 2009-10 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (non-certified staff) contract calling for a .25 percent increase in wages and steps, which is the same settlement as the certified and administrative staff.

n Approved an AFSME contract for 2010-11 calling for a .75 percent increase and no steps, also the same as the remainder of district employees. A contract for 2011-12 has steps and a 2 percent increase. The 2012-13 contract calls for steps and a memorandum of understanding to reopen and discuss a percentage raise.