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School board shares info

NEW ULM — The District 88 School Board discussed highlights from the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) Leadership Conference they attended, during the board meeting Thursday.

Chair Steve Gag said the best conference he attended was on the subject of vaping. He said it was surprising how much has changed with vaping. The number of products has increased making things worse. Gag suggested greater information on vaping is needed.

Board member Melissa Sunderman attended a straight talk for students. This was a panel with students from various high schools. Sunderman said the panel agreed vaping was a big issue and not just in school but on buses.

Sunderman said mental health issues were another concern. One panel member commented that lock-down drills can be traumatizing. The panel would rather be informed of the safety measure and responses rather than going through a drill.

Board member Matt Ringhofer attended a conference on teacher turnover rate. He said the percentage of teachers leaving the profession after less than five years is 30%. The top reason for the turnover was stress and mental health.

Ringhofer also attended a conference concerning LGBTQ rights. The conference discussed the legal issues of a student changing their name in school. Bathrooms were another issue. Ringhofer said some new schools are creating bathrooms that are not gender-designated.

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A resolution was approved authorizing Superintendent Jeff Bertrang to work with the New Ulm Economic Development Authority (EDA), the City of New Ulm and Region Nine Development Commission for the development of a grant application to the Federal EDA.

Bertrang said grants will be used for the proposed career and technical education (CTE) program.

The second reading and approval of the school’s service animal policy were held. This is a brand new policy for District 88. Bertrang said Minnesota state statute requires the school has it.

According to the policy, a service animal is defined as any breed of dog or a miniature horse that is trained to perform work tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. Other species of animals do not qualify as service animals.

The board unanimously adopted the policy.

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The board unanimously accepted a base bid from Elite Mechanical Systems for the complete construction of the Annex Building HVAC upgrades. The bid was $312,669.65 and is lower than the estimate.

A $5,781 grant to support Healthy Communities Healthy Youth was accepted.

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The board accepted the resignations of Nicole Degner, Dayna Greenwaldt, Kimberly Horning, Sage Lehman, Seth Shanley and Sarah Thursby.

The board also approved the employment of Brittany Bradshaw, Anne Rieke-Donnelly, Lorie Grunzke, Juliana Joya, Robert Lindemann, Stephane Pekrul, and Jane Petoskey.

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The board gave special recognition to 11 students. Washington Learning Center student Jase Hopp was recognized as a role model for his kindness and responsibility.

Jefferson Elementary student Briana Engel was recognized as a hard-working student.

Middle School students Ethan Lieb, Joey Kotten, Britton Beran, Benton Groebner, Cullen Slette and Sam Ibberson were recognized as members of the Junior High Knowledge Bowl Team competing at the regional competition at Mankato.

High School juniors Isaac Blumhoefer and Abby Hietala were recognized for receiving the Excel Award. Senior Bethany Janssen was recognized for receiving the Triple-A Award.

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The next school board study session will be held at 5 p.m. on Feb. 13, at River Bend Education District conference room. The next regular board meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Feb. 27, in the District board room at 414 S. Payne St.

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