County board OKs truancy position

NEW ULM — Brown County commissioners unanimously approved adding a part-time probation case aid position for assistance with the Stop Truancy program for 2022 Tuesday.

Action came on a motion by Commissioner Dave Borchert, seconded by Dean Simonsen to add the position county truant officer Andy Braulick said would allow him to meet with students one on one more often in school or with their families.

Brown County probation took over the truancy program in October 2019 with 40 estimated maximum client referrals. In the past 12 months, student numbers jumped to 140, according to a June 16, 2021 letter from Brown County Probation Director Les Schultz to county commissioners.

“No one person can manage this caseload alone,” wrote Schultz. “There have been times when we received 20 referrals in one day from a specific school. In September 2020, we received 32 program referrals.”

Schultz wrote that schools reported many students being referred for the program were not turning on their computers during distance learning implemented due to COVID-19. When a student had three unexcused absences, a pre-truancy referral was made.

“Due to the overload, many times that first referral would be over 20 misses,” Schultz wrote. “Many students are now a year behind in their coursework that will need to be made up in order to graduate on time. Attendance will be critical in the upcoming year.”

Schultz wrote in his request that the Office of Justice Programs decided to fund the truancy program for an additional two years with a slight overall funding reduction.

“This alone will save the county $148,612 in the next two years,” said Schultz.

The case aid would work 30 hours a week through the school year, assisting with paperwork, data entry, assessments, maintain attendance rosters, and other work as assigned including meeting with parents and students to resolve attendance issues.

Schultz said the position cost is about $25,000 including benefits.

Commissioner Scott Windschitl questioned whether truancy numbers would fall due to schools returning to classroom learning.

Schultz said his pre-truancy program helps keep truant students out of court. He said truancy numbers rose before the COVID-19 pandemic when schools learned about the probation dept. program and 80% of jail inmates dropped out of school.

Commissioners unanimously approved:

• Authorizing a drainage engineer to do a feasibility study for landowners on County Ditch 16, motion by Commissioner Simonsen, seconded by Jeff Veerkamp.

With issues including a dismissed improvement, unauthorized repair-replacements to sediment-filled tiles and associated drainage problems, it seems a feasibility study would give direction to the system in the best way to landowners, according to the request.

The goal of a study is to give landowners options, costs, and other information to help make decisions on any large repair projects and/or petitions. When a study is done, landowners would meet with the engineer to discuss observations and project options.

• Approving the 2021 Brown County Performance Measures Report that measures public safety, public works, public health, property records, valuation and assessment, elections, veteran’s services, budget/financial and the environment, motion by Veerkamp, seconded by Windschitl.

The report will be posted on the county website. It must be submitted to the State of Minnesota by July 1 for program benefits eligibility. Brown County received $3,546 in 2019 for report completion.

• Suspending free Heartland Express bus rides as of Dec. 31, 2021, motion by Windschitl, seconded by Borchert.

• Adding a new Heartland Express lead driver for the new city bus route anticipated to begin in late spring of 2022, motion by Simonsen, seconded by Veerkamp.

• Approving Department of Human Services $35,000 Fraud Prevention Investigation Grants for FY 2022, 2033, motion by Windschitl, seconded by Tony Berg.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.


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