USC makes no sudden movement
The United South Central School Board had a plethora of guests join them for their regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19.
During the public input portion of their meeting, director of technology and digital learning, Rita Vondracek spoke with regard to flex learning days at the USC school. She stated she had heard interest from other teachers on adding flex days on an ad hoc basis with regard to the winter’s unusual weather.
“Flex learning days are certainly not the same as regular school days, but there is an electricity in the air when flex days are used as opposed to regular snow days,” she said to the school board. “There is concern of how many snow days there has already been. I would just like to inform the board of this concern which has been addressed to me by other members of the school. We have these capabilities and are prepared to use them on an ad hoc basis.”
There was no feedback from USC’s school board members on the use of flex days versus snow days. The following day, Wednesday, Feb. 20, which brought more than seven inches of snow to the area, USC Schools closed for another day with no flex learning. Later in the meeting, Superintendent Keith Fleming announced that April 18, and April 22 would both be winter make up days for the number of snow days the school has accrued for the winter.
Sharon Parriott, a former USC School Board member, also took an opportunity to address the board with her concerns. Parriott was one of many members of the community present during USC’s special school board meeting with regard to the school’s drainage concerns.
“I am here today as a follow up to the drainage meeting you had last week,” she said. “and I am very discouraged to see that it’s not even on your agenda. This is a problem. We moved to this school in 2014, and water in the auditorium has been an issue since day one during our very first event. The tick list for this school has not been held foot to fire to make sure that things happen and I will repeat what I said at the water meeting.
“The school board, which consisted of myself and two of you that remain on the board, we directed the architects who got paid $1.6 million to manage the water on this property. They have not managed the water on this property. They are 100 percent liable for the mess that they’ve created, and if you need to get a lawyer to get something done before we are five years out and the statute of limitations is up, you need to put someone’s foot to the fire.”
“One reason it is not on the agenda is because our operations committee has yet to meet and has not determined which route we are going to take,” said Dale Stevermer, chairman of the school board.
“But I am saying that the whole issue has not been on the tick list for this school along with other things that have yet to be completed,” stated Parriott. “It should have been addressed at every meeting since the day we moved in. That hasn’t happened. It has not been a priority for this board and unfortunately, your priority was remodeling the library before fixing this.”After a long pause of silence from the board, member Mike Schrader stated the board is doing their due diligence with the issue.
“It takes time, unfortunately, and they have stepped up,” said Schrader with regard to the architectural team involved in the design of the school.
While water drainage was not a business item on USC’s agenda, considerations by the City of Wells to repurpose the old athletic complex into a storm water retention pond and move the football field lights to Thompson Park was. City administrator, CJ Holl, was present at the meeting to discuss where the city was in its planning.
“I have spoke with Superintendent Fleming about reaching out to city entities who may have a use for the old football field and track property. I have talked to the HRA, the city and the park board about possible uses for that,” said Hill. “Their questions were tied into cost to rehab that and maintenance. Superintendent Fleming has been working on some costs with that property I believe. In the mean time, I have also spoke with our city engineer from Bolton & Menk and we do have a storm water utility plan that included some storm water retention within the middle of town. There wasn’t necessarily a great place for that. We would have had to create or own ponds for that on other properties. So, being that that property is unused at the moment, there is an opportunity for the city to look at that and use it as storm water retention. The main storm water lines from town come to that central location underground, so it may make some sense for the city to do some storm water studies.”
That being the case, if the property would be used for that purpose, Hall stated there are more dollars available from the state for the city to use it for storm water retention. He stated the city also has storm water dollars that people pay in their utility bills for future projects, much like this.
“With your approval we would look at doing that. The city council approved us to do a study, there are two parts to that study,” informed Holl. “One is Bolton & Menk would shoot on elevations and go through our storm drainage plan which was last updated in 2007. The city council also asked that we do borings on that property simply because we don’t know what is underneath it. Total cost of that would be $15,000 between the study and borings and the city would cover that. Simply, our request from you is that we be allowed to access that property.”
“We do not plan on taking any action tonight,” said USC’s superintendent.
“We are ready for action when you are,” responded Holl. He also added the city of Fairmont recently tore down properties to be able to create storm water retention in the center of their city. “Here, we have a unique opportunity where the property is unused and in the center of town, while our storm water system runs right by it. We hope to put good use to that property.”
The second part of Holl’s presentation spoke of the football lights. Previously Steve Kloos had created a proposal to put lights out at Thompson Park for the benefit of both the USC baseball and USC softball teams, as well as having more ability to host visiting baseball teams for the city. Wood poles at 50 feet were planned, which, according to Holl and Kloos, were workable but not ideal.
“That cost was north of $200,000 to do that,” said Holl. “I did a little more homework with Jeff Amy from Wells Public Utilities, and Steve Kloos, and the cost to reuse those football lights – to move them and repurpose them out there would cost approximately $113,000. We would have new LED heads on this. The park board met and there is a grant due at the end of March from the DNR that could allow us up to 50 percent on savings for projects like this up to $250,000. The school would benefit to have the lights out there, as would the community.”
Superintendent Fleming stated these items would be on the March USC School Board agenda.
“I personally think this is the perfect fit,” said USC School Board member Brad Heggen. “You have the school getting rid of a parcel of land they aren’t using, and giving multiple benefits to the city, as well as the USC sports. It sounds like a great fit for the land and the lights.”
During their meeting, the School Board also:
Heard a report on the new mentor/mentee program for teachers. Three new teachers, along with their USC teacher mentors, were available to talk at the meeting. Bjorn Hagen, band director and kindergarten music teacher, Megan Levine, high school art, and Bridgette Holl, Spanish teacher, all spoke highly of the mentor/mentee program. Holl stated specifically, with years of teaching under her belt, stated she would have loved to have a program like this when she was beginning teaching. Levine, who had been in similar programs in the other schools she previously taught at, stated USC’s mentor/ mentee program was, by far, the best she’s worked with. Hagen also stated that as a new teacher, it has been impactful to have someone to talk to about the ins and outs of working at USC.
Listened to a proposal from Spanish teacher Bridgette Hill o a proposed Spanish Department class trip in the spring. Holl stated the benefits to the trip outweighed the cons – from learning how to be able to afford and plan a trip with the students going, to learning about the history of the southern United States, like Texas and Oklahoma, students would have an iconic experience to look back on when they are older. Holl stated the cost of this trip has yet to be determined until the number of students interested in the trip is solidified.
Approved the final 2018-19 seniority list.
Discussed and approved the Foster Care Transportation Agreement between Martin and Faribault County Human Services and United South Central School District.
Received updates from both the elementary school and high school principals, Tracy Magnuson, and Kelly Schlaak. Magnuson shared Green Eggs and Ham Day will be open to all on Friday, March 1, from 7 to 7:50 a.m. in honor of Dr. Seuss, and the elementary school science fair has been moved from March 6 to March 20, due to snow. She also shared that student teacher conferences are scheduled for March 14. Schlaak shared that the USC eighth grade will be putting on a production of Tom Sawyer at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Friday, March 1, thanks to the help of the Prairie Fire Children’s Theater. Cost to attend the play is $5.