Menahga School Board appoints Katie Howard

The Menahga School Board selected Katie (Aho) Howard to fill an open seat. The position was left vacant by Ernest Huhta Jr.'s resignation last month. He had two years left in his term. The school board held its organizational meeting Monday to ap...

Katie Howard
Katie Howard

The Menahga School Board selected Katie (Aho) Howard to fill an open seat.

The position was left vacant by Ernest Huhta Jr.'s resignation last month. He had two years left in his term.

The school board held its organizational meeting Monday to appoint a new member, welcome newly elected members, designate officers and set the 2017 monthly meeting schedule.

Katie Howard, Curtis Hasbargen and Pastor Robert Smith were the three candidates to apply for the opening.

Each candidate answered five questions that were selected by board members.


Following the public interview, there was a call for nominations. Brad Goehrig nominated Hasbargen, who received two votes. Jon Kangas nominated Smith and was the only board member to vote in Smith's favor. Kicker nominated Howard, who then received all five possible votes.

A Sebeka High School graduate, Howard has eight children, six of whom attend the Menahga School District. She and her husband, Jeremy, own Howard's Driveway Inc. and a heavy equipment and parts company called J&K Equipment Inc. During summers, Howard plans weddings through her business, StellaGrace Designs.

Howard says she chose to apply for the position "simply because my kids are there. It's important to have a voice. Menahga is made up of families, so we must have a voice," she said in a phone interview.

Howard joined the Voice of the Braves building committee last fall. She has also volunteered in her children's classrooms.

By state law, an appointed school board member may not be seated on the board until 30 days after the nomination. The 30-day period allows the public to petition to reject the appointee. A valid petition must be signed by eligible voters within the school district. The number of signatures must equal five percent of the total number of voters in the last general election. For example: 2,913 people voted in the 2016 election, so five percent would be 146 signatures.

If there is no opposition to the board's decision, Howard's appointment will expire after one year. A special election will be held in November 2017 to fill the remaining year of the term.

Newly elected board members Julia Kicker and Jon Kangas officially began their terms in office at Monday's meeting. They, along with re-elected board member Brad Goehrig took their oaths of office. All were elected to four-year terms.

The board elected Andrea Haverinen as the new chairperson. She previously served as vice chair.


The new vice chair is Durwin Tomperi. Brad Goehrig will remain as clerk. Jon Kangas took over the treasurer position.

The board agreed to keep the officer compensation rate the same as last year: $750 for the chair and $250 for the vice chair, clerk and treasurer.
Upon Superintendent Kevin Wellen's suggestion, the board opted to eliminated mileage reimbursement for in-district meetings, which are currently paid at the IRS standard mileage rate. Instead, Wellen proposed increasing meeting stipends by $10. The motion was approved unanimously.

Board members will receive $75 per regular, special and committee meetings if less than four hours long; $90 if more than four but less than six hours, and $130 if longer than six hours.
Regular school board meetings will be held at 6:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month, with the exception of January and February due to federal holidays. No public meetings are allowed on these designated holidays. This month's meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 17; next month's Tuesday, Feb. 21. All board meetings are held at the Menahga High School media center.
School board work sessions are slated for 5:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month. They are held in the district's conference room.
Kicker and Haverinen were assigned to technology, curriculum, staff development, community engagement, World's Best Workforce committee.
Goehrig and Howard will serve on the special education, physical education, extra/co-curricular, pairing/sharing and transportation committee.
Tomperi and Kangas were named to the buildings/grounds, food service, finance, policy, administrative committee.

Kicker will be the board's 2017 community education representative and a delegate to the crisis management team. Kangas will serve on the Freshwater Education District, while Goehrig is board representative for the Minnesota State High School League. Haverinen is liaison for the Minnesota School Board Association. She and Goehrig will also be on the Voice of the Braves Task Force. Howard was assigned the National Joint Powers Alliance. Tomperi is the delegate for the Wadena County Collaborative.
The board also approved the Review Messenger as the district's official newspaper.

First National Bank of Menahga and Sebeka is the school's official depository for day-to-day banking. The Minnesota School District Liquid Asset Fund will be used for larger values.
Kennedy & Graven, Pemberton Law Firm, and Pederson & Pederson were named as the school district's legal counsel.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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