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BEA talks post-referendum plans

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Nov 15, 2020

Jenn Berkner, BEA’s technology and media director, explained the school’s communication strategy during the School Board meeting on Monday, Nov. 9.

“I want to thank all who worked to get the referendum passed,” Blue Earth Area School Board chairperson Susan Benz said at the regular board meeting on Monday, Nov. 9. “I also wish to congratulate the newly elected board members – Jeff Eckles, Lindsey Mensing and Ted Armon.”

Superintendent Mandy Fletcher expressed similar sentiments before mentioning Nov. 16-20 is American Education Week.

“It is nice for us to be able to celebrate something not related to COVID,” she commented.

Fletcher then went on to recap the referendum results and what the passing of it means for the future.

“Unofficial results were that nearly 90 percent of registered voters participated in the election,” she noted. “The operating levy question passed with 2,308 yes votes and 1,905 people voting no. This means it passed with about 55 percent voting in favor of the measure and 45 percent voting against.

“I am incredibly pleased and grateful for the effort and support given by our board, our staff, and our parents to help educate everyone with the facts so they could feel like they are informed when going to the polls.”

Fletcher then addressed future plans now that the levy was passed.

“If you recall, our purpose with this levy was to invest in educational programming and delayed purchases,” she said. “I will also remind you the revenue from the levy will not be coming to the district until fiscal year 2022 so we have some time to lay the groundwork and do some planning.”

Fletcher also reminded those in attendance the board was able to get a jumpstart on some technology issues and purchasing buses because of money received through coronavirus relief funds.

“We can start implementing some of the low cost/no cost ideas which came about because of our Next Level campaign,” she shared. “One of those ideas is to implement the Driver’s Education certification into the high school curriculum. These are the types of things we can begin planning. It is what we told our communities we would do, and that is to plan for the future with both the Next Level campaign as well as the intended use of the operating levy dollars.

Moving on to another subject, Fletcher noted it was just a year ago the BEA School District held a community discussion about the problem of vaping in schools.

“With everything else going on it may have seemed like the subject was forgotten,” Fletcher commented. “We were contacted by the company we were working with and they had a 60 percent off sale on their vaping sensors. That reduced the price of purchasing the sensors to $5,500 and United Hospital District will be picking up half of that cost. The sensors are being installed in the school this week.

The board also received an update on Q Comp Peer Coaching from teachers Sara Albright and Luke Beyer and an update on the school’s communications by Jenn Berkner.

“Our data shows through Aug. 10 we have had more than 10,000 visitors to our website,” Berkner shared. “One of the things we do on the website is keep people updated on what learning model the school is currently in.”

Elementary principal Conan Shaffer was on hand to give his report.

“We are still finding ways for students to experience some sense of normalcy,” Shaffer stated. “And we are doing it in a safe way.”

Principal Dave Dressler was also on hand and updated the board on other issues the district is facing.

Substitute teachers and paraprofessionals are very hard to find,” Dressler said. “It is a problem many districts are having to deal with.”

In other business:

• The board approved the delayed fall coaching list.

• Approval was given for Dressler to be the Designated LEA Representative for BEA Schools.

• The board approved the contract of David Kittleson as the Gifted and Talented coordinator.

• The resignation of Chelsea Volz as an Early Childhood and Family Education/Discovery Place preschool teacher was accepted.