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Principal Ewing resigns at BEA; staff adjusted

By Staff | May 17, 2020

Greg Ewing

The Blue Earth Area School Board approved the resignation of high school principal Greg Ewing during their board meeting Monday, May 11. The board continues to meet remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As you know, we have eliminated the high school principal position,” superintendent Mandy Fletcher said. “Greg had seniority and could have remained at BEA in a different position. However, he felt he was better suited to be a high school principal and has accepted a position with another district.”

Following the resignation of Ewing, the board then voted to rescind a prior resolution relating to the termination and nonrenewal of the teaching contract of Conan Shaffer, who was the assistant elementary principal this past year.

There was also news regarding the search for a new Community Education director to replace the retiring Dar Holmseth. The board approved the hiring of Shannon Swanson to fill the position.

“Shannon is currently the Youth Development coordinator and has agreed to continue with some of those duties,” Fletcher stated. “It will save the district about $20,000.”

The board also approved the hiring of Samantha Landsteiner as a second grade teacher.

“We had some shuffling of positions occur which opened up the second grade position,” Fletcher explained. “Samantha currently teaches at Maple River and is a BEA graduate.”

Resolutions placing high school science teacher Mark Franta and K-5 social worker Kelly Bleess on unrequested leave were approved by the board.

Board members also received an update on the Next Level campaign from Fletcher during the meeting.

“The district sent out surveys on May 4 asking district residents what programs or classes they would like to see offered at BEA,” Fletcher explained. “We had a great response. The ideas have been compiled and we are sending out another email asking people to vote for their top five choices.”

Once the results are in, the district will have to determine if the ideas are feasible and what cost is associated with the ideas, according to Fletcher.

“This will be a guide as we go forward with a possible referendum this fall at BEA,” Fletcher said.

The topic of a possible referendum then opened up for discussion.

“Given the current state of the economy, do we go forward with a referendum?” Fletcher asked.

Board chair Susan Benz also expressed her concerns regarding a possible referendum.

“If we are not confident it will pass, do we wait and save the money it would cost to hold a referendum?” Benz inquired.

Fletcher informed the board they still had some time to decide whether to hold a referendum this fall. The board decided to have a work session on June 2, at 6 p.m. to discuss their options.

Fletcher also discussed the end of the school year and gave an update on how distance learning was progressing.

“The last student day is June 3, but we are trying to wrap up student work by May 29,” Fletcher commented. “The extra days would be used for the teachers to make contact with the kids and check on their needs before the summer begins.”

She said distance learning has been pretty well received.

“We did a survey and 60 percent of the students said distance learning was OK, while 33 percent did not like it,” Fletcher shared. “We also questioned the students on the amount of work they were doing and 55 percent felt the amount was just right and 43 percent felt it was too much. The kids have been very satisfied with the level of communication with their teachers with 76 percent of the students responding the communication was just right.”

Fletcher also provided the board with a legislative update.

“There are a lot of unknowns at the legislature,” Fletcher remarked. “They came into the year with a $1.5 billion budget surplus only to see it turn into a $2.4 billion budget deficit. They still have work to do on the education, tax and bonding bills.”

During the principal’s reports, Ewing informed the board the local ACT test, which had been scheduled for June 2, has been postponed. Juniors will be able to take it locally in October if they choose.

“If students need to take it earlier they will have to take it on a national test day,” Ewing said.

Ewing also reported the scheduled band trip has been cancelled and efforts are underway to get refunds back to the participating families as soon as possible.

In other business:

The board approved the 2020-2021 school calendar which will not include a spring break. School will begin on Sept. 8 and the last day of school for students will be June 4, 2021.

Approval was also given by the board to enter into negotiations with BEA AFSCME Council 65 which is the union for non-certified staff.

The transportation committee reported three different options had been explored regarding the operation of BEA buses, including hiring an outside company to manage the transportation department. It was decided to keep things as they currently are. The district will begin advertising for a transportation director to replace Dan Brod, who announced at the last board meeting he was retiring.