School Board discusses fate of elementary building

Posted March 19, 2013 at 5:06 pm

The Miller School Board held its monthly meeting March 11, with all board members present.

As often happens during spring meetings, the board approved several contracts, resignations and lane changes.

Larry Nickelson visited the board to ask permission to distribute Gideon New Testaments to fifth and sixth grade students who want them. He said the Gideons International organization is made up of businessmen dedicated to Bible distribution. The board approved his request.

Parent Sherry Moser expressed her concern about bullying to the board. She said, “Kids should be able to come to school and be comfortable and learn.” But she said she has ignored the bullying situation for two years, but bullying is a bigger issue than she first realized and she is “tired of ignoring it.”

She said she has followed the school’s steps regarding bullying, but she wanted to make the board aware of how serious a situation can be, and to keep working on solutions.

Elementary principal Tammy Caffee reported the school had practiced a “lockdown” drill the first time. The lockdown was accomplished quickly, and she felt it was a success. The new elementary building is built to have much tighter security, she said.

Superintendent Mike Ruth reminded the board that the State Legislature has passed the “School Sentinel” bill, which allows guns to be carried on school campuses by designated staff, but that no school district is required to do so.

Caffee reminded the board of March Math Madness at Miller Elementary March 14, and at Millerdale on the 27th. Dakota STEP testing will be held April 9-11 and 16-18 for students in grades three through six.

Superintendent Mike Ruth reported in the absence of secondary principal, Steve Schumacher. The WEB Leaders “Pennies for Patients” project to raise money for leukemia was successful, with about $650 being raised. The USD Jazz Festival would take place March 14, and the Miller Academic Challenge would be held March 20.

Seniors Cassandra Coss and Kirstyn Fiala asked permission to present a spring play, and to waive fees for use of the theatre. The board approved the request, with the stipulation an adult be present for all practices.

Technology coordinator David Sivertsen provided a “technology update.” He pointed out the “zones” for wiring and connection in the new elementary school, and gave an overview of the number of laptops that are convertibles, iPads, older desktop computers and server boxes in use.

Next school year, he said students in grades K-2 will have iPads.

Sivertsen said he feels utilization of computers hasn’t progressed as far as he would like, and he cited several reasons, among them time involved, difficulty in finding material for certain high school subjects, and adhering to No Child Left Behind and Core Standards requirements. He suggested more teachers avail themselves of Technology in Education training.

A delegation from On Hand Development Corporation was present to discuss options for the current elementary building. School board chair David Fremark said the board needs to determine what to do with the building and grounds—if they wish to sell, auction, have sealed bids, give it away, or a mixture of options.

Bryan Breitling, speaking for the corporation, said the recent FFA sales tax study made it clear people want a place to hold events and meetings, and perhaps have office space available.

“People want to keep celebrations here,” Breitling said, and also discussed a visitor center and possible “incubation space” for small businesses.

“We would like to have the school transfer the property to the City or On Hand, and the school would have access to the gym,” Breitling noted. Once a decision is made, a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) could be applied for.

Mayor Ron Blachford commented that he is in favor of a banquet/community center, but accurate figures of the cost to maintain the building are needed.

“This is the starting point,” Breitling said. “The next step would be the school district’s support of our suggestions, and then going to the City.”

Discussion was held about the status of the building project, and the Building Committee reported May 17 is still the deadline for substantial completion of the elementary building.

Board member Natalie Bertsch commented a good wrestling tournament was held in January, and people still want to know the status of the wrestling room. The wrestling room was taken out of the building package for the elementary school/gym, but the board still plans to follow up on the project with another contractor.

The Budget Committee—consisting of Bertsch, Fremark and Kurt Pfeifle—met, and said the budget for the coming year looks “promising,” and it appears $200,000 in savings can be realized. More information will be given at the April meeting.

The school board election will be held April 9 at the Armory lobby. Absentee voting begins March 25. Incumbent Connie Schroeder, along with Kevin Watts and Jonathan Hurd are candidates for the two vacancies.

Superintendent Ruth reported he had attended the American Association of School Administrators’ National Convention. “There were good discussions and great speakers, and I felt revitalized,” Ruth stated. He will report more about the convention at the April meeting.

His “Rustler Rah Rah” list included recognition of freshman Tamisen Ames, who received a perfect score in the Dakota STEP test; the MHS boys’ basketball team; the three qualifiers for the State Wrestling Tournament; the Show Choir, who placed third at Aberdeen; and Brianne Bertsch, who placed third nationally in “Consumer Decision Making” at the Denver Western National Roundup.

The board moved on to action items. They approved agreement between the Miller School District and Trinity Lutheran Church, the Hand County Courthouse, St. Ann Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church for use of facilities in case of emergency.

Payment totaling $312,566.06 was approved for the elementary project, to Tellinghuisen, Inc.; Guarantee Roofing and Sheet Metal of South Dakota; Interstate Glass & Door, Inc.; Steinbrecher Painting, Inc.; JDH Construction, Inc.; Total Fire Protection, Inc.; Smith Plumbing, Inc.; Custom Sheet Metal; and Engelstad Electric Company.

The board voted to compensate election officials $85 plus mileage for the school election on April 9.

Following an executive session, the following actions were taken:

Accepted the resignations, with commendation, of Sandy Aymar, Title I teacher; Cole Wieseler, elementary teacher; and Erica Wieseler, all at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. They also accepted the resignation of Lisa Werdel, business manager, effective March 20, and the resignation of Bob Waldrop, head football coach.

The board approved a lane change request for Kari Sargent from BA to BA+15 credits.

Administrative contracts were approved for Tammy Caffee, K-6 principal; Mike Ruth, superintendent/special education director; and Steve Schumacher, 7-12 principal, with salaries and benefits to be negotiated at a later date.

The next regular meeting will be Monday, April 8 at 6 p.m.