Construction trades class approved

Next year, Park Rapids Area High School will offer a building trades class for juniors and seniors. The Park Rapids School Board approved the new class Monday night. Principal Al Judson said when instructor Jeff Dravis was teaching in the Staples...

Next year, Park Rapids Area High School will offer a building trades class for juniors and seniors.

The Park Rapids School Board approved the new class Monday night.

Principal Al Judson said when instructor Jeff Dravis was teaching in the Staples-Motley Schools, his classes built six houses, which sold at auction at the end of the year.

Based on Dravis' experience there, Judson said profits from the sale can be used to pay for the materials, buy tools and finance the next house.

In the interim, a contract will be developed for the use of tools the school doesn't have.


Judson said the class will teach math skills and teamwork as well as giving students experience in finance, site development, masonry, carpenter and finishing trades.

"As we look at dropout retention," Judson said, "a lot of kids will be learning a skill they can market."

Preliminary plans are to build a 1,400-square-foot house.

Dravis, who also attended the board meeting, said the house plans have to be state approved and meet code. Licensed plumbers and electricians will have to do that work, he said, but at Staples-Motley, the students watched.

"I'm so happy that you're doing this," said board member Helen Dickson, adding that when she worked in a school district in South Dakota years ago, a similar program was very successful.

Board member Dianna Dotson agreed, asking whether or not students will be able to get credit if they go on to a building trades program at a vocational school.

Judson said that wouldn't be the case immediately, but he will continue to explore it.

The class would be offered the last two periods of the day and would last throughout the school year.


Monday night, Dotson also asked administrators how they're preparing staff to communicate with the public next year. She said she thinks cuts in secretarial and custodial staff will mean the "phone is going to ring off the hook in the office" and rooms won't be as clean as in the past.

Dotson wondered if staff have been told to respond to any public criticism by saying such problems are the result of voters failing to approve a levy referendum.

"I fear we are going to have employees burning out," Dotson said. "I don't want to lose people because they can't take it."

Superintendent Glenn Chiodo said, "We have to encourage people to do the best they can with what they have. Everybody in the district is doing more already."

Board chair Frank Schaap said the social services department he works for in Cass County is undergoing similar stress with the population and number of clients increasing and fewer staff to work with them. In fact, he said, some employees have left because they became frustrated.

"I tell staff you will never again feel competent as an employee in our system - time-wise or knowledge-wise," Schaap said. "You have to accept and manage this within yourself.

"It's the same as in teaching. The expectations have increased and the complications of the children who come before them have increased and where they used to have 22 kids, they may have 40. We're saying meet their needs. It is tough," Schaap continued.

"As employers we have to empathize with staff, but we can't diminish expectations. I don't know what else there is to do," Schaap said.


In other action Monday night, the school board (with members Dennis Dodge and Gary Gauldin absent):

n Postponed the negotiations strategy session until the May 1 board meeting.

n Heard a report from business manager Olive Springborn about the process of meeting the Jan. 30, 2007, deadline to submit the district's pay equity report. Springborn said a committee will be bringing job descriptions to board meetings for approval in batches of five to eight a month until all are approved. She said most job descriptions have been reviewed, revised and rewritten for noncertified staff and managers.

n Also heard an update from Springborn on steps taken so far to adopt a wellness policy that will be implemented next fall. The goal of the policy will be to help students make better menu choices and increase their physical activity.

The University of Minnesota Extension Service was hired to assist, Springborn said.

The policy is an unfunded mandate, Schaap ascertained.

Springborn indicated it is a federal mandate, not just one from the state.

n Heard from Chiodo that he will be presenting the board with the process administration plans to use to make the next round of budget cuts (for 2007-08).


"The numbers will still be as alarming as they were, maybe even worse," he predicted.

n Adopted the 2006-07 school calendar with classes starting Sept. 5 and ending May 31.

n Approved hiring Nathan Larison for middle school golf and Brett Bishop for junior high baseball. Randy McKain was added as a junior high golf volunteer and Leslie Atkinson as a volunteer driver for the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) program.

n Approved a request from Mary Garlie for professional leave to attend a National Educational Computing Conference in San Diego July 4-7. She will be asking the staff development committee for reimbursement of a portion of her expenses.

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