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BEA close to filling a new position

Curriculum and instruction director has been offered a contract

By Kevin Mertens - Staff Writer | Mar 12, 2021

Blue Earth Area orchestra instructor Peter Koenig gave a report on the BEA music programs at the most recent School Board meeting on March 8. He also informed those in attendance March is celebrate as Music in our Schools month. This year’s theme is ‘Music, the Sound of my Heart.”

Blue Earth Area School Board members learned at their meeting on Monday, March 8, the district is close to having a new curriculum and instruction director in place.

“After interviewing three finalists, we have offered the position to Allison Schmidt, who at one time was a superintendent at a neighboring district,” superintendent Mandy Fletcher explained. “She has accepted and we are just working out the final details of her contract. I would expect to see approval of the contract on the April meeting agenda.”

Fletcher also touched on updating the district’s strategic plan.

“I have been looking at working with a group called Teamworks and would like to schedule a work session down the road to begin looking at our plan,” Fletcher commented. “Plans are normally updated every three to five years and we are due to update ours again.”

She also addressed the membership fees being charged by the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL).

“Many districts feel the fees are inequitable and the MSHSL has made some adjustments,” Fletcher said. “Our fee was reduced to $6,000 which is $1,000 lower than the original fee. At this point, I think we should pay it. There has been some talk schools who do not pay the fee would not be able to participate in State Tournaments. I do not know if this is true but I certainly would not want to see our students miss out on the opportunity to compete at the state level.”

Fletcher ended her report by telling the board there are currently no positive COVID cases in either staff members or students at the school.

During the public input part of the meeting, a letter was read from Calvin Sickler who voiced his concern with class sizes in some of the elementary grades. He stated he has a child in second grade in a class with 27 children.

Superintendent Fletcher addressed his concerns.

“I do not think there is any argument the board supports smaller class sizes,” Fletcher commented. “However, because of our financial situation we had to make budget cuts. Yes, the referendum passed but that money will not come in until next year. We are still in a healing process and it may take some time before we can do anything. It is a topic of conversation for the principals and administration.”

Principal Dave Dressler also mentioned another point of consideration.

“It was mentioned at the last meeting our enrollment is up from last year,” Dressler said “Second grade happens to be one of those grades which has seen its numbers rise”

During district reports, orchestra teacher Peter Koenig told the board, March is celebrated as Music in our Schools month.

“This year’s theme is ‘Music, the Sound of my Heart,’ Koenig shared. “It has been an interesting year for music educators across the country because it was determined music is a spreader of the pandemic. It has meant we have to do things in a different way. A silver lining of the pandemic is it has led us to get back to the fundamentals in how the kids learn about music.”

He also updated the board on the number of students involved in the BEA music programs.

“There are 108 students in grades 6-12 who are in band and 60 who are in orchestra,” Koenig said. “A total of 189 students are enrolled in our vocal music program.”

Holly Christian, the supervisor for the Business Professionals of America (BPA) chapter at the school, also was on hand to give a report on the students involved in the club.

“This is the third year we have had a chapter at Blue Earth Area. Nationally there are 43,000 members in 2,300 chapters in 23 states,” Christian said. “There are 1,100 members in eight different regions in Minnesota. We are in Region 3 with schools from Albert Lea, Rochester, Tri-City United, Mankato East, Waseca, Lake City, Medford, Triton and Stewartville. Our region is quite well known and respected.”

She said the BPA has also been affected by the pandemic which has caused all competitions to be held remotely instead of in person.

“We are currently in the middle of our state competition,” she explained. “There will be a virtual awards ceremony this Saturday, March 13, where we will learn which students have qualified for the national competition, which will also be held virtually.”

She gave a rundown of how the students performed at the Region 3 meet.

“We had 11 individuals advance in 10 different categories,” Christian commented. “We also advanced one team to State and had two other teams who were close to qualifying.”

The final district report was from BEA workforce coordinator Emily Davis who talked about her role in the area schools.

“I work for both BEA and United South Central schools,” Davis explained. “Part of my job is to help students explore career opportunities available in the area.”

She noted her position is a partnership between Community and Economic Development Associates (CEDA) and the South Central Service Co-op.

“My position is paid for through Perkins Funds and a Career Ready grant,” Davis commented. “My position for the next school year will be funded through Perkins Funds and CARES Act funds.”

She informed board members on some of the things she does to help students connect with local businesses.

“We held a ‘lunch and learn’ event where students were able to sit down with business owners over lunch and gain insight into what the businesses do and how they operate,” she said. “We also organized a tour day for students to visit and view in person some of the work which takes place in the county.”

In other business:

• The board approved the 2021-2022 school calendar.

• Approval was given to hire Joe Wirkus as a custodian and Morgan Franklin as an elementary art teacher for 2021-2022.

• The board approved extending the leave of elementary teacher Andrew Moen to March 26, of this year.

• The retirements of Moen, effective June 8, and paraprofessional Cindy Libby, effective June 4, were approved.