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Menahga School Board discusses strategic plan

At this week’s Menahga School Board meeting, sixth grader Meagan Holtz showed Superintendent Kevin Wellen how to manuever a robotic sphero ball with an iPad. The sixth grade math and science class collaboration was thanks to a mobile technology grant and Project Lead The Way, which encourages project-based curriculum. (Shannon Geisen / Enterprise)

The Menahga School Board will soon update the district’s strategic plan.

Superintendent Kevin Wellen said the plan should be evaluated every five years. Menahga’s most recent strategic plan is dated 2001.

"It’s long overdue," said board chairperson Ernest Huhta Jr.

Rynell Schock and Jackie Bruns from the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) gave the

board an overview of the strategic planning process.

NJPA offers planning services to its members for free – a cost savings of $20,000.

Schock said a strategic plan examines three questions: Where are we? Where do we want to be? How will we get there?

The ultimate goal is to "implement practices of highly effective schools," she said.

The process includes gathering community input, two planning team sessions, developing the plan, adopting the report, then monitoring progress.

Schock commended the district already gathering community input last fall.

A two to three-hour planning team session will occur in May. Administration and staff leadership will assist with the process. A final plan could come to the school board in July for approval.

Facility needs assessment

Bob Ames of Foss Architecture & Interiors expressed the Fargo-based firm’s interest in completing the district’s facility study. They would charge $13,000.

Menahga is seeking professional help to address space shortages, improve bus traffic flow and tackles 10-year facility maintenance needs.

Four other firms – LHB Corporation, FJJ, ICS Consulting and Design Tree –submitted bids, ranging from $3,500 to $16,000. Costs for "referendum support" also varied from gratis to $45,000.

"We know it’s going to be a multi-million dollar project, so a couple thousand dollars on a bid shouldn’t be as important," Wellen advised the board. "It should really be about comfort level, not price. Any one of these would do a good job."

Wellen said he recently discovered NJPA has a pilot program with an architectural company that offers facility assessment services at half the cost.

The board postponed approving a contract until more information was available about the NJPA program. The decision may be an action item at Monday, May 9 work session at 5:30 p.m.

Bathroom remodel

The board accepted Haataja Contracting, Inc.’s bid of $111,600 to remodel elementary bathrooms. The local contractor offered the lowest, qualifying bid out of four.

Based on plan specifications from last July, the project will make the bathrooms handicap-accessible and address air ventilation, sanitation and temperature control issues. The completion date is Aug. 1.

Board member Al Peterson questioned "the depth and scope" of the project, asking whether it was necessary.

"It’s absolutely a need," Wellen replied.

Board member Durwin Tomperi agreed, noting the bathrooms have been an issue for the past dozen or more years.

Capital improvement funds will pay for the project, Wellen said.

In other business, the council did the following:

- Due to "an extreme teacher shortage," Wellen recommended that job openings be posted as soon as administration is aware of a resignation. "If we wait for board approval, we could lose candidates while we wait," he explained.

The board approved the new procedure.

Three years ago, there would be 100 to 200 applications for a social studies teaching position, Wellen said. Now there are eight.

"This shortage isn’t going to go away," he said, adding the district needs to develop its unlicensed staff.

- Learned that the Sebeka School Board voted 4-3 to not dissolve the UNC football program. They will reevaluate the contract agreement when it ends in two years.

- Approved the purchase of 400 laptop computers from Minnesota Computers for Schools for $100,000.

- Approved the purchase of two buses from North Central Bus Sales. The state contract price is $90,243 per bus, which includes a $1,500 trade-in discount. The total cost is $180,486.

- Recognized seven UNC Warrior speech team members went to sections. Shalom Crook and Kaeden Berg participated in the final rounds, finishing 2nd and 5th respectively. Crook earned a spot at the April 15 state speech tournament in Informative Speaking, but did not place.

- Congratulated eight students who competed at the FCCLA state competition: Madison Thene, Reagan Mayer, Samara Magana, Ericka Kicker, Samantha Pfeifer, Starry Zeng, Gabriela French and Madison Womble.

- Learned that K-6 Menahga students collected 1,132.5 pounds of food and $834 in monetary donations for the food shelf.

- Nancy Rach, college and career advisor from Rural MN CEP, discussed her year-long work with Menahga high school students. Her position is supported by a grant.