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Menahga School Board debates spirit wear and Pledge policy

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Shannon Geisen/Enteprise
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Gearing up for the new school year, the Menahga School Board reviewed a draft of the 2022-23 student handbook at their July 18 meeting.

Superintendent Jay Kjos noted that the handbook was largely unchanged, except for a new headgear policy. “We are asking to allow students to wear Brave spirit wear hats,” he wrote in his report.

The proposed wording says, “Hats (baseball and winter caps) are allowed to be worn in the building, provided they represent ‘school spirit’ (a Menahga Braves logo). Administration does have the ability to approve other headgear if needed (example: medical-related situations).

Hoods are not to be worn, as they minimize staff's ability to identify students when needed. Hoods are a safety concern.”

Kjos said the policy was added because of “power struggles” he observed at the school.

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“We researched it and some schools went to spirit wear, so only stuff out of the school store, and it’s been really successful,” he said.

Menahga High School Principal Mike Schmidt agreed with Kjos, saying hats are “a reflection of a kids’ standing in the world” and are “very much the norm.”

“In a school setting, you just get into a setting of what’s respectful, what’s not, and schools have shifted toward – if it reflects school spirit, or Menahga Braves – you can wear that hat. That’s been extended to activities, art clubs. Other schools have manufactured their own headgear, and students have embraced it. It’s been a smoother transition with kids and teachers,” Schmidt continued.

Board member David Treinen raised concern about the policy’s effect on the Hat Day fundraiser, which benefits good, local causes. He also anticipated a lot of students adding an “M” to their favorite cap.

“I think you’re going to have a lot of hat police,” he said. “You’re going to have a lot of kids trying to push that envelope. I know they will because they do with other issues that need to be addressed.”

Schmidt agreed, but added, “How do we find a ‘yes’ and mutual ground? I think defiance in teenagers is natural.”

Board member Julia Kicker said, in her home, kids aren’t allowed to wear hats at the kitchen table. “Are there going to be times of respect, with taking that hat off?” she asked.

“Absolutely,” Schmidt said.

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Board chair Andrea Haverinen said she expects her children to take their hats off in a public building, but her husband doesn’t agree. She wondered where kids learn respect if they don’t have to do it at school.

She also wondered about those kids who can’t afford to buy spirit wear.

Schmidt pointed out that teachers have been inconsistent in enforcing a no-hat policy, depending on their personal preferences.

He also said that girls are allowed to wear ribbons or change their hair, having many options, “but as a boy, ‘Take your hat off.’”

Saying the Pledge

Kicker advocated for saying the Pledge of Allegiance daily. The handbook currently requires it to be recited one or more times per week.

“I feel that the Pledge is something that we, as a school, as a public entity, should be taking more seriously than that,” Kicker said, suggesting that it’s read over the announcement system every morning before school starts.

Board members shared mixed reports about how often the Pledge is recited at the different grade levels.

Board member Katie Howard said she heard a parent complaint about a particular classroom where the Pledge was not done. It was “particularly disturbing” to a student whose brother was serving in the military.

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Schmidt agreed it’s “super important.” Reading over the PA system takes time, he explained, thus a master schedule needs to be adjusted so the morning announcements won’t take five to 10 minutes away from one class. “We’re trying to figure out where to put those minutes into our day,” Schmidt said.

Following discussion, the board approved the first reading of the student handbook.

In related business, the board did as follows:

  • Approved two quotes, totaling $8,200, from Contact Radio Communication of Eagle Bend, Minn. and Black Diamond Concrete of Menahga to improve the bus garage radio tower. Kjos explained that some bus drivers currently lose contact with dispatch at the bus garage and this has become a safety concern. The project will place a 70-foot tower atop a concrete base, with a direct wire to the garage. 
  • Approved repairs to the sidewalk on the north side of the school by Black Diamond Concrete, not to exceed $38,000.
  • Approved a teacher contract with Sara Humberstone, high school special education, beginning with the 2022-23 school year, contingent upon successful background check.
  • Accepted letters of resignation from Brian Johnson, special education teacher, effective July 12; and Stacy Jensen, high school secretary, effective July 12.
  • Awarded the fiscal year 2023 fuel bid to Lakes Area Cooperative; milk to Prairie Farms, bread to Pan-O-Gold, snow plowing/removal to Menahga Concrete and sanitation to G&T Sanitation
  • Contributed $4,090 to the Todd-Wadena Community Concern for Youth for 2023.
  • Approved these extra-curricular coach/advisor assignments for the 2022-23 school year: Tim Wurdock, head boys and girls golf; Jake Oyster, head wrestling; Lindsay Aho, assistant volleyball; Kris Koll, junior high football; Brian Carlson, junior high football; Cory Kapphahn, head boys basketball.
  • Approved Mark Hand as a full-time custodian.
  • Approved miscellaneous reimbursement rates and substitute pay. There were no changes from last year.
  • Approved the long-term facilities maintenance plan, which is a 10-year expenditure budget. Business Manager Kyle Bergem described the plan as a “placeholder” and “ballpark numbers.” “It is not committing us to any of the areas, he said. Kjos added, “We use the majority of this every year to pay off bonds.”
  • Named Menahga Elementary Principal Margaux Hylla as the Title LEA representative for 2022.

The next regular meeting is 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 15 in the district conference room.

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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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