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Menahga School Board reviews new social studies curriculum

The board will take formal action at its July meeting.

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Menahga School
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Upgrading the social studies curriculum was the main topic of conversation at the Menahga School Board’s June 20 meeting.

Stephanie Kramer, a middle school social studies teacher, reported on the committee’s research.

The COVID pandemic and district’s budget crisis put the upgrade two years behind schedule, she noted.

“Today, when you buy curriculum, you can get hard-cover textbooks, but then you also get online digital access, so that’s a whole different component,” Kramer said. “Those ran out two years ago, so last year all of the social studies teachers during online learning didn’t have those things to fall back on. Things have progressed that the digital part is more standard now than it was in the past.”

Kramer said the Minnesota Department of Education’s new standards, which were released as a draft, and if adopted, won’t take effect until the 2026-27 school year.

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Kramer reported the district must move forward under the old standards “because waiting until 2026 is unrealistic, given the age of our current materials.”

The proposed new standards include more economics and more Minnesota Native American content.

Four companies were compared.

Third through fifth grade teachers are looking at Savvas for new social studies curriculum.

Seventh and eighth grade propose adopting Savvas materials “myWorld Interactive American

History” and “myWorld Interactive World Geography.”

In her presentation, Kramers said Savvas has “superior supplementary materials” that support English Language standards. Its textbook content and online platform is “very comparable to, or better, than other companies.” Savvas produces digital literacy materials and there are other excellent online resources as well.

Additional materials requested are atlases for 8th grade and 11th grade geography.

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For sixth through 12th grades, they also seek a subscription to Newsela, a current events website that produces content at five different reading levels. Kramer said they’d like to try that for one year.

For the civics, American history, World geography and history, economics and sociology classes, they want to purchase updated versions of current textbooks, some of which were purchased in 2014.

Board member Helen Lehto commented that the social studies curriculum is “a hot topic in Minnesota right now.” She expressed nervousness about approving a curriculum without more community input. She said there may be “a less progressive” curriculum that is not as “controversial.”

Kramer replied that there aren’t many textbook companies in the market who also supply the necessary digital components. She said the committee chose “middle of the road” content.

“You can go into any book and nitpick and find a text or paragraph or a picture that you can take issue with. What is the whole flavor of it? What is the point of it? Where is it pushing you? I don’t feel these are that way at all,” Kramer said.

Board member Julia Kicker commented that a principal once told her, “Our teachers know our community families” and “tweak” lessons to fit local values.

Kramer agreed the teachers do that.

Interim Superintendent Kevin Wellen, “Our staff is fully aware of conservation values and they know where to tiptoe and where to tread lightly. And they have, year after year.”

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The board will take action at its July meeting.

Cyber liability insurance

The board approved cyber liability insurance renewal for fiscal year 2023 from Weizenegger Engel Insurance in the amount of $7,790.

Wellen pointed out that the premium doubled because cyber crime claims are higher in Minnesota. He noted a nearby school district had to pay a $50,000 ransom to get its data back.

Board member David Treinen recommended more teacher training to prevent cyber crime.

In other business, the board did as follows:

  • Announced that the filing period for affidavits of candidacy for school board member begins Aug. 2, and closes at 5 p.m. on Aug. 16. Three members are up for election. The terms are four years each. The general election will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
  • Approved teacher contracts with Jamie Dary, elementary; Holly Westad, science; and Andria Bristow, elementary, contingent upon successful background check;
  • PSEO Agreement between Regents of the University of Minnesota Crookston campus and Menahga ISD#821
  • Approved Kenmark invoices in the amount of $445.
  • Amended bus purchase cost not exceed $115,000.
  • Approved the FACS and Spanish teacher agreements with Sebeka School for the 2023 school year.
  • Accepted a $1,000 from the Menahga Gateway Lions Club to Menahga Braves softball.
  • Renewed 2022-23 contracts with the following certified staff: Emily Huotari, Kryston Wiseley, Cory Kapphahn and Kasey Schorn.
  • Granted tenure to Michelle Vogel, Megan Porta and Baileigh Baumgart.
  • Renewed contracts and granted tenure to Brian Johnson and Tiffany Besonen.
  • Approved the auto, property, workers' compensation insurance renewal for FY23 from Weizenegger Engel Insurance for $102,779.
  • Approved the following extra-curricular coach/advisors: Logan Redetzke, head volleyball coach; Kryston Wiseley, three-act play; April Hodge, vocal music director; Todd Frie, assistant football coach; Jennifer Berg, high school student council advisor; Stephanie Kramer, spelling bee advisor; Beth Hahn, Band Director; Alicia Eischens, National Honor Society advisor; Kayla Polasek, fall and winter cheerleading coach; Emily Huotari, junior high volleyball coach; Molly Peterson, middle school student council advisor; Michelle Koch, elementary student council advisor; Cory Kapphahn, assistant football coach; Cody Pulju, head girls basketball coach; Marie Ness, FFA advisor; Kevin Sommers, head football coach; Nick Jasmer, head baseball coach; Lindsay Aho, head softball coach.
  • Hired Mathew Parvi as a full-time custodian.
  • Named Ann Wothe, elementary principal, as the Title LEA representative for 2022.
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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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