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USC adds a teacher

By Staff | Aug 26, 2018

United South Central is hiring a new third grade teacher at the tail-end of summer after the USC School Board decided it would be better for the 50 incoming third graders to have three sections rather than two.

Superintendent Keith Fleming made the initial suggestions of making para support available to the two classrooms, but that idea was met with a bit of a concern. USC School Board member Diane Brooks highlighted the question of whether 25 students per teacher was too many students, while board member Jon Feist asked elementary school principal Tracy Magnuson if the incoming third grade class had any challenges.

“The third grade class has challenges, yes,” said Magnuson. “Including some potential new students on top of the expected 50 students. Realistically, 25 is 25, I know our reputation is known for small class sizes, but is it financially responsible to add another faculty member?”

Conversation ensued as to the logistics of hiring a third third-grade teacher. Would the teacher be hired only for this year? Where should the cut off for USC students who are in three sections be narrowed down to two? Is para support enough to assist third graders as they begin MCA testing? Is there a larger concern for big kindergarten classes? These were only a few of the questions posed by the School Board.

“We are looking at an $85,000 issue here, potentially,” said Fleming. “This could also potentially affect the teachers we have on staff that are non-tenured.”

“We are in the bubble with this issue,” stated Feist. “I’m on the teeter totter with this.”

One of USC’s portions of their strategic plan that they discussed last fall was keeping smaller class sizes. A few of the teachers at the meeting spoke to this, stating a part of USC’s strategic plan was to have small class sizes.

After much discussion, the board members felt it was best to add a third section to the third grade staff. There was no opposition when Brooks made the motion to hire another third grade teacher.

The board also discussed at length the potential of redesigning the school’s media center, which was also highlighted in the school’s strategic plan. The budget for the school’s media center update was set at the high estimate of $72,281 which included glass walls, modified counter tops, new media center furniture, high-top tables and high-top seating, and other miscellaneous expenditures.

Chairman Dale Stevermer shared with the board that the administration, head custodian Dan Eilert, and the superintendent had looked into and discussed how the media center was being used, and how it could attract more students. The idea for the media center was split into three areas: a lounge for high school students to study and work on projects, the regular media center space, and a “maker space” for students.

There were some members who were excited about the update, and others who were apprehensive about the cost of the update. Finally, the board decided to table the discussion until their September meeting, where they would have the opportunity to see a floor plan of the proposed media center updates, as well as receiving student input on the issue as well.

During their regular meeting, the School Board also:

Heard from activities director Joe Kuechenmeister regarding the numbers on students involved in student activities.

Kuechenmeister also presented a video called, “Why We Play,” a program from the Minnesota State High School League which emphasizes athletic participation as a means of mentorship, rather than a “winning at all costs” mentality.

The activities director informed the board multiple coaches have taken opportunities to create a more familial environment, including a mom’s practice from the football team and a camping trip from the cross country team. The activities director also said he is still “feeling out” for a new track coach.

Was invited to a community picnic to take place at the USC home field during their first home football game on Oct. 9, from 5 to 7 p.m. Members of the public are invited as well.

Heard an update from USC’s director of technology and digital learning, Rita Vondracek, who shared the school’s website is finally up and running.

However, Vondracek also found the publishers of the website, West Publishing, did not include a secure website in their packaging.

“I was shocked to see it not secured. This company sells secured websites separately,” said Vondracek. “But do keep in mind, the cost of this added security includes management of the website. We need to do this to maintain safety for the students and the school.”

The board approved the $990 School Messenger one-time fee to purchase and maintain an SSL certificate to secure the district website.

Went into closed session regarding the sale of property at the old athletic field. No action was taken during the closed session.