Elementary teacher Lori FitzGerald who has been with the district since 1999 is retiring.
“Mrs. Fitzgerald has been a valuable member of our teaching staff,” Superintendent Gregg Parks said. “We wish her well in retirement as she plans to spend more time with her family.”
Tiffany Besonen who has been with the district since 2005 and started the district’s art club is leaving to teach art in the Menahga School District.
“She has done an amazing job of exciting her students to achieve new heights in the field of visual arts,” Parks said.
In her resignation letter, Besonen thanked the Nevis community,school board, students and staff for their support.
She ended her letter by asking the school board to consider three things that were factors in taking another position: “continue to stay competitive in what you pay experienced teachers, add a stipend for teachers who save the school district a lot of money by teaching in-person college classes and fight to keep family health insurance affordable.”
The third person leaving the district is speech-language pathologist Molly Drury who is moving out of the area to pursue a position in the private sector.
“Molly has been an outstanding member of our Tiger Team for the past two years,” Parks said. “We wish her the best in the future and are thankful that she crossed our paths even if just for a short while.”
COVID case update
Of the nine students in the district who tested positive for COVID-19 in April, the website tracker showed three as currently active on Monday.
Parks said the one staff member who had been listed as having COVID in April turned out to be a “false positive.”
“Last week, we had a spike in COVID, but I want to reassure you that those happened outside of the district,” he said. “We don’t believe there was any spread in our building. It shows that what we are doing here is working.”
Prom is May 15, with the grand march at 6:30 p.m. at the school. Dinner and the post-prom event will be held at the Firefly Event Center in Nevis.
The plan is for students to be in groups of six people that stay six feet apart from other groups with masking required except when eating or drinking.
Graduation will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, May 29. “Our plan right now is to have graduation indoors, following state guidelines,” Parks said. “It will look a lot more like what we’ve seen in the past, but with a digital component to it. I believe that’s the wave of the future. There’s an expectation that all events will also be available online. We’re going to see the way we do business change because of COVID.”
Other events planned for this spring are the art show May 4-6, ‘Honk!Jr.’ the musical at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday May 21-22, a spring band concert at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, May 22 and kindergarten graduation at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, May 26.
Health insurance savings
The board accepted a bid from Blue Cross Blue Shield Direct Health Insurance for fiscal year 2021-2022.
“The bottom line for us is that our current insurance carrier planned on increasing our rates this year by 7 percent,” Parks said after the meeting. “As a result, we went out for bids and were able to get a better deal for the district and more importantly for our staff members. First of all, the new plan allows our staff the flexibility to go to any provider. Our previous plan limited medical visits to Essentia providers. This is a great deal for staff because they can choose to go where they can achieve the best service or the most cost effective service.”
Parks said most staff members will realize a reduction in their annual premiums through this plan, which received 100 percent staff approval.
“Some of our members will see as much as an 18 percent reduction or $334 in their insurance premiums,” he said. “The plan also has lower out-of-pocket expenses for when insurance is utilized.”
The board approved the purchase of a 2021 Ford Transit 10-passenger van, pending approval by the Minnesota Department of Education to use $35,000 in ESSER II funding. This vehicle will replace the 2011 Chevrolet Suburban.
“The district has had a good experience with the 2018 Ford Transit and believes this type of vehicle purchased under a state cooperative purchasing plan will meet our requirements,” Parks said.
Vehicles purchased using the state cooperative purchasing plan do not require multiple bids because they are priced the same for every dealer.
Plans are to have the vehicle ready to transport students to summer school.
In other action, the board:
Approved the final reading of policy 515 regarding the protection and privacy of pupil records.
Discussed the importance of contacting legislators about supporting a two percent increase in the school funding formula with a link to the inflation rate for future funding.
Accepted donations of $2,925 for the month including $1,825 from the baseball boosters for equipment and an $800 defibrillator from an anonymous donor to take on bus trips.
In addition, two donations totaling $1,714 for "Big Brain STEM" were received by the robotics program.
The next school board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, May 24 in the school media center and on Zoom.