Board members to visit 3 buildings

 

October 20, 2023

At their respective meetings Monday, the Carlton and Wrenshall school boards converged on a date to tour each district’s facilities.

The boards will walk through three school properties beginning at

5 p.m. Nov. 13.

The tours are the latest step as the boards work toward a potential consolidation between the districts. Because the tours are legally a joint meeting of the boards, the public will be allowed to join them.

“People would not be restricted from following along,” Wrenshall superintendent Jeff Pesta told the Wrenshall board on Monday.

Both Pesta and Carlton superintendent Donita Stepan outlined the order of events, starting with a tour of Carlton’s secondary school, followed by a visit to South Terrace Elementary School and concluding with a tour of the school in

Wrenshall.

The Wrenshall board members, having seen the district spend more than $10 million in renovations in recent years, were keen to showcase the school to their counterparts from Carlton. They were also intent on not separating the tours across multiple days.

“They need to see it all in one night,” Wrenshall board member Misty Bergman said.

Carlton has previously stipulated that any consolidation of the districts take place on one campus on the South Terrace property. It’s unclear if the Carlton board is leaving any wiggle room. The Carlton board did not debate the matter at its meeting Monday.

Both districts are faced with declining enrollments and the subsequent financial pitfalls that come with losing state aid that’s based on the average number of students that attend the schools.

The tours are expected to last for at least 45 minutes at each facility. The superintendents were charged with outlining details, including who will lead the walk-throughs.

Pesta said the Northern Lights Special Education Cooperative will be invited. The cooperative, based in Esko, features 12 school districts and multiple facilities throughout its service area in Aitkin, Carlton, Pine and south St. Louis counties. It is looking to consolidate its operations into one facility, Pesta said, and the prospect of any facilities being decommissioned via consolidation could make those buildings possibilities for Northern Lights.

Co-op contract

A fair amount of discussion took place at both meetings over the cooperative contract regulating the shared athletic teams and other extracurricular activities.

While the Carlton/Wrenshall Raptors are competing in all sports this year, and the cooperative has been filed with the Minnesota State High School League, a 10-page working agreement between the districts remains unapproved.

Carlton board members called the contract a draft, meaning it was subject to change. The Wrenshall board agreed to remove the “draft” status of the contract because the agreement, they said, includes language that allows alterations.

The agreement is “continuous,” and can be terminated by either district providing written notice by Sept. 1 each school year.

Although he voted favorably, Carlton board member Sam Ojibway, also a member of the joint committee overseeing the cooperative, was not satisfied with the agreement in its present form.

“We went into this with the understanding the schools would take turns hosting,” he said, referring to the management of the teams. After the meeting he said he envisioned each district would alternate managing each team on a yearly basis.

Carlton board chair Julianne Emerson said the situation was fluid. “I call it the zipper merge,” she said. “We are just trying to make sure that we can keep it moving, and keep the kids playing.”

In other news:

-Carlton business manager Angela Lind received more work and a raise in pay as the board approved a new contract for her. With the resignation of Samantha Charon, Lind is without an assistant. As a cost-saving measure, Charon was not replaced, and Summer Keuten, a part-time administrative assistant, will go full-time. Lind will now work at 80-percent full-time with an annual salary of $63,592, plus benefits.

-Carlton board member and facilities committee member Laura Nilsen reported on the ongoing effort to convert the tennis courts near the water treatment facility for pickleball. A plan is being discussed to deed the land to the city of Carlton, which could lead to the development of the spot and use by the district.

-One part of the Carlton district’s strategic plan is to have certain days set aside for “exploratory options,” brief elective classes chosen and taught by school staff covering diverse topics. Stepan said the first of these were held on Tuesday of this week. Courses offered to students were Youth in Government, Short Film and Acting, Computer Coding, Team Baking, College Applications, Sewing, Native Culture, and Resumes/Cover Letters.

-The Wrenshall board did a second reading Monday of its proposed policy on “Public Participation at Board Meetings.” The board is proposing moving public comment to 5:30 p.m., prior to its 6 p.m. meetings.

“Public comment will no longer be embedded in your meetings,” superintendent Pesta said.

The proposal will be read one more time in November prior to a vote. In crafting the policy, the board has reasoned that public comment at times veers into rumor and falsehoods, and ought not be included in legal minutes of board meetings. The policy proposal requires board members to be at the public comment and equates the time to a “listening session,” during which the board can ask clarifying questions but will not take immediate action. Speakers will have 3 minutes to address the board, and the regular board meeting will commence after a 5-minute recess following public comment.

-In order to accommodate the facilities tours, the Wrenshall board voted to move its next regular board meeting to 6 p.m. Nov. 8 from Nov. 13 — the day of the tours.

 
 

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