Safratowich calls for committee to address graduation slump

The Park Rapids School Board chair asked High School Principal Jeff Johnson on March 21 to work with her on improving the school's graduation rates.

Park Rapids Area High School, front entrance
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo, October 2021

Park Rapids School Board chair Sherry Safratowich expressed interest March 21 in forming a committee to address the district’s declining high school graduation rates.

“I want to see our graduation rates really soar,” she said. “I know that there’s many reasons why this number is what it is.”

Safratowich asked High School Principal Jeff Johnson, “Is it possible we can get together and create a committee to look at that, and what can we do to help get those numbers higher?”

“Absolutely,” Johnson said, and agreed to work with her to do so.

Asked how many students he expects to walk in this spring’s graduation, Johnson estimated approximately 94, including Alternative Learning Center and virtual academy students.


In consent items and general business, the school board acknowledged the donation of an alto saxophone from Kirsten Edevold to the band department and $24,630 from the Park Rapids Education and Activities Foundation to various school programs.

This amount included $10,000 for a new batting cage for the high school baseball team; $3,080 for ties, scarves, banners and study resources for the FFA; $2,200 for a computer for the Esports team; $2,000 each for transportation for the boys golf team and rain gear for girls golf; $1,500 each for the post-prom program and for pole vaulting gear for the track team; $1,400 for softball equipment; $550 for flexible seating in Christine Sauer’s 7-8th grade social studies classroom; and $400 for hockey equipment for the high school physical education department.

The school board also:

  • Held a moment of silence in response to the recent death of elementary school secretary Kathy Yliniemi, who school board chair Sherry Safratowich said “deeply touched our school district in many ways.” 
  • Recognized members of the Park Rapids Business Professionals of America chapter who competed at state and national contests. Adviser Angie Kuehn said 21 out of 24 chapter members went to state competition. Six students also qualified for nationals.
  • Heard Esports coach Chris Kirchner report that three of the club’s teams qualified for state competition April 1-2 in Grand Forks, N.D., where their Fenworks league is headquartered. Later, Kirchner announced that two more teams qualified for state.
  • Approved out-of-state travel for Esports staff and students to go to their state tournament, and for BPA students and staff to attend their national competition May 2-8 in Dallas, Texas.
  • Hired Ashley Anderson as a career and technical education agriculture teacher, starting with the 2022-23 school year; Angela Larson as a five-hour per week virtual academy secretary, effective March 28; Greg Kuhn as a volunteer golf coach; and Eva Gruis as a 5.25-hour per day food service worker. 
  • Accepted the resignations of Concha Uzozie as a middle school special education teacher, effective at the end of the 2021-22 school year, and as a junior high girls volleyball and basketball coach; of Patrick Richard as a junior high track coach; and of Chris Norton as transportation director, effective April 8.
  • Terminated a probationary employee. According to district staff, the employee’s name and position is not public data.
  • Heard Superintendent Lance Bagstad report the district’s shortage of bus drivers is almost severe enough to warrant canceling student trips. “We need some bus drivers,” he said, also acknowledging a need for custodial staff. He suggested increasing the schools’ casual labor pay to make it more competitive. 
  • Heard Business Manager Kent Fritze report the district is transferring its insurance coverage from Blue Cross/Blue Shield to Medica. “It looks like it’s gonna be a better fit for us with more benefits,” he said. 
  • Heard High School Principal Jeff Johnson report that registration for 2022-23 will start next week. 
  • Heard community career collaboration coordinator Krystal Murphy report that a career expo and entrepreneur fair is planned from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, April 1 at the Armory Arts and Events Center. The event includes workshops on starting a new business, becoming a daycare provider, resume building and searching for jobs.
  • Heard Elementary Principal Mike LeMier report that 92% of students had parents participate in conferences via phone, online or in person. 
  • Heard Community Education Director Jill Dickinson report on her efforts to find enough staff to provide school-age care for families who need it during an e-learning day, scheduled March 24 to allow elementary staff to serve as honorary pallbearers at Yliniemi’s funeral. 
  • Heard Dickinson report regarding voluntary pre-K registration for 2022-23 that all but nine spots were filled; the school readiness morning class was full and the afternoon class had three spots open; and summer programs were being planned, including youth enrichment classes, family trips and a variety of youth trips. 
  • Heard facilities supervisor Alan Vanderstad report that custodial staff checked the condition of the school roofs and found several leaks. 
  • Heard the results of the school board’s self-evaluation and its performance evaluation of Bagstad during a closed session on March 8. Safratowich announced their finding that “satisfactory progress and performance is being made” by both the board and Bagstad.
  • Approved a second reading of the high school’s 2022-23 Panther Tracks registration book.
  • Approved payments presented for March, totaling $971,543.

The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 4 at the Frank White Education Center.

The royal couple was crowned during a school assembly on Jan. 30, followed by more spirit week festivities.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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