Menahga principal's contract up in the air

The Menahga School Board may be searching for a second school administrator this summer, they learned at Monday's board meeting. High school principal Mary Merchant announced she may be seeking a position at another district at the end of this sc...

The Menahga School Board may be searching for a second school administrator this summer, they learned at Monday's board meeting.

High school principal Mary Merchant announced she may be seeking a position at another district at the end of this school year. Her contract expires June 30.

The board was scheduled to discuss Merchant's contract at a special meeting Thursday night, but the matter was taken off the agenda by advice of their attorney, board member Diana Pihlaja said Friday.

Merchant pointed out at the meeting she is not resigning. She said resigning would mean she is quitting her position.

"I enjoy my work here," she said.


Merchant said Friday she wants her contract renewed. If the board does not take action, her contract will continue. To get out of her contract, she would have to resign.

This is Merchant's third year in Menahga. Principals have a three-year probationary period in Minnesota.

Pulju said a date has not been rescheduled to discuss her contract.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Responded to questions submitted in January by Osage resident Natalie Finch, mother of a Menahga student.

Finch asked questions, primarily of chairman Hugo Pulju, about issues such as public participation policy, meeting coverage by the Sebeka-Menahga Review Messenger, comments made by board member Durwin Tomperi's wife, Lori, during a meeting, alleged open meeting law violations and other matters.
Pulju said he wished to respond to her questions, but a board meeting "is not an appropriate forum."

One question directed to Pulju inquired if he was a member of several committees "as a source of supplemental income."

"Monetary gain is not even a consideration," said Pulju, who sits on nine committees. He said he believes as chairman it is appropriate.

Finch was not present at the meeting.


  • Heard a presentation about Reading First schoolwide reform from elementary principal Joleen DeLaHunt and several teachers.

Menahga was one of few schools in the state that received the two-year grant, which provides professional development for kindergarten through Grade 3 reading teachers. The grant ends in July. Over the two-year period, Menahga received approximately $1 million for the program.
DeLaHunt reported students showed substantial improvement in reading skills. Teachers improved as well. The school is looking into ways to continue program development.

The board may consider providing funding for future reading program needs at a later date.

  • Heard from Bruce Burkman, who said the final payment has been made on the baseball field lights. About $65,630 was donated to the project. Burkman thanked the community for its support.
  • Heard from physical education teacher Bob White, who said his second and third graders have raised more than $5,000 for Jump Rope for Heart this year alone. Donations go to the American Heart Association.
  • Amended the school calendar to add a student-contact day, Tuesday, May 30, because Menahga will be hosting a choir concert April 7.
  • Approved holding a senior awards banquet in the spring in addition to a brief recognition of scholarship winners at commencement.
  • Approved a one-year leave of absence for elementary teacher Jennifer McNamee, and hiring Brian Johnson as summer recreation director and Nick Courneya as assistant track coach.

The board also accepted the resignation of Noelle Johnson, high school choir and band instructor. The resignation will be effective at the end of the 2005-06 school year.

  • Adopted a resolution discontinuing and reducing programs and positions.

Administration recommends discontinuing agriculture/Grade 7 science, family life science, English, industrial technology and social studies.
Final cuts will be made at the April 17 board meeting, said treasurer Curtis Hasbargen.

  • Learned the Bureau of Mediation Services scheduled Tuesday, April 4 for mediation regarding the certified contract.

Board names candidates
The board narrowed its list of applicants for superintendent down Thursday from five to three.

Jerry Nesland, interim superintendent at Mahomen, Walter Bromenschenkel of Nevis and Jerry Bartholomay of Fargo will be interviewed in a public session tentatively set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 3, Pulju said Friday.

There were 16 applicants for the position. An alternate candidate was also chosen, but the name has not been disclosed. Someone will also be hired to perform reference and background checks on the candidates.

Current superintendent Fred Seybert submitted his resignation in October. His contract expires June 30.

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