Menahga Superintendent Kevin Wellen reviewed proposed changes to the 2016-17 staff handbook with the school board Monday night.

“We took out a lot of redundancies,” he said. For example, a background check is required for employment so it’s unnecessary to repeat it in the staff handbook.

The original 34-page handbook was condensed to eight pages. A bulk of the deletions regarded emergency procedures for fire, severe weather, fights, assaults, intruders, shootings, chemical or bomb threats. Instead, staff are referred to the district’s crisis management plan for specific situations.

Board member Durwin Tomperi questioned one revision: ill teachers must contact the building secretary instead of the principal.

Tomperi suggested teachers would be less likely to call in sick if they had to inform their direct supervisor.

“I don’t think it made a difference,” said Menahga Elementary Principal Jeannie Mayer. “I don’t think it reduced the number of calls.”

She estimated principals received a minimum of four to five calls per week, with a maximum of 10. A bout of flu hit the teachers hard last year, she noted.

Menahga High School Principal Mark Frank agreed with Mayer.

“I don’t think it would’ve deterred anyone. If someone calls in sick, I’m not a doctor. I’m not going to determine whether they are sick or not,” Frank said.

Frank added that, when he was a teacher, it was more of a hassle to miss a day of work, create a substitute plan, etc.

Board Chairperson Ernest Huhta Jr. said the board “is asking administrators to keep accountability in the system.”

“The bottom line, we want to make sure we don’t have anyone slacking off,” said Board member Brad Goehrig.

If a teacher abuses the system, it will be addressed individually, Wellen said.

The board approved the revised staff handbook.

An orientation for new teachers is slated for Tuesday, Aug. 23 and an open house for K-12 is Thursday, Sept. 1 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The first day of school is Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The admin team is working a local mentorship program for non-tenured teachers, reported Mayer. 38 percent of teachers are non-tenured and 51 percent have been teaching at Menahga for five years or less.

In other business, the school board:

-Approved the sanitation services quote for fiscal year 2017 from City Sanitary Service, LLC. The cost is $1,681 per month during the school year and $351 per month during the summer.

-Approved payment of district membership dues and policy services renewal, totaling $4,741, to the Minnesota School Board Association for fiscal year 2017.

-Accepted a letter of resignation from Allison Poole as paraprofessional and hired her as an early childhood family education community expert teacher and coordinator. Her new contract begins with the 2016-17 school year.

-Approved Terry Weston as transportation supervisor. Weston is also a bus driver, but will spend a couple hours on scheduling, explained Wellen.

-Accepted the resignation from Julia Livingston as paraprofessional; hired Danielle Blanchard as part-time cook.

-Added a community education support position to Activities Director Bob White’s duties. The part-time administrative position increases his total hours from 600 to 900. Total wages for the 2016-17 school year will be $28,800.

-Approved lane change requests from Elise Erickson, Elizabeth Hahn, Isaiah Hahn and Randy Thompson from BA+20 to MA.

-Authorized Minnesota State Community and Technical College to provide post-secondary educational option for Menahga High School juniors and seniors during the 2016-17 school year.

-Authorized participation in the Community Concern for Youth Program, operated by Todd-Wadena Community Corrections. The district will contribute $3,093 in 2017 to the project based on Menahga’s student population. The city is asked to commit an additional $1,455. The Community Concern for Youth Program is designed for early prevention, intervention and diversion of youth ages 10-17 who are experiencing personal problems as well as problems with the law.

-Slightly increased the 2016-17 meal reimbursement rates for district employees and school board members. Breakfast went from $9 to $10; lunch remained at $12 and dinner rose from $17 to $19. “We’re still on the low end of the IRS,” Wellen said.

-Due to the difficulty of finding substitute teachers, Wellen recommended increasing the pay from $120 to $125 per day. The board approved.

-Approved a pay rate of $38 per route for substitute bus driver, an increase of $1 compared to last school year. Extra-curricular bus driver pay also rose $1, from $22 to $23. Effective Aug. 15, substitute cooks’ wages went from $12 to $12.64 per hour; clerical $13.50 to $15.93; custodians from $13 to $14.73 and substitute paraprofessionals from $13 to $14.63.

-Menahga students and staff will continue to have free admittance to home events, excluding tournaments. There were no changes to student meal prices; however, adult/guest lunches are mandated by the Minnesota Department of Education to be $3.60 in 2016-17.

-Approved a certified athletic trainer agreement with Tri-County Health Care for 2016-17.

-Learned that Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Charlie Dormanen and the administrative team will be sifting through and cleaning the district’s storage sheds. Items will be sorted and either kept, trashed or auctioned. Wellen told the board that obsolete technology, such as tube TVs and overhead projectors, are taking up too much storage space.