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School Board agrees to separation with phy-ed teacher

NEW ULM — The New Ulm School Board has entered into a separation agreement with High School Phy Ed. teacher Eric Dennis Kauffman

The board had originally planned to hold a closed session to discuss the termination of Kauffman, but hours before the meeting began, the closed session was taken off the agenda and replaced with the separation agreement.

The terms of the agreement state Kauffmann will resign effective Feb. 28, 2022. He will remain on paid administrative leave until this time.

Kauffmann was barred from the school campus on Oct. 15 and placed on paid administrative leave following an incident that occurred on Oct. 14.

According to police statements, multiple students witnessed Kauffman engage inappropriate behavior toward students. During class, a student at the weight bench was supposedly not doing the correct exercise. At some point, Kauffman grabbed the student’s arms to get her to do the exercise correctly.

Kauffmann then allegedly turned around and started to yell at a different student, who was on another weight lifting bench resting. This victim and two student witnesses stated that it looked like Kauffmann then grabbed the bench and shook it, causing the student to fall off. They stated Kauffmann went over and lifted her by the legs off the floor. They stated that he was yelling during this incident, but not words just yelling and screaming type noises

After Kauffman set the victim down, she came over to the two witnesses, upset and crying. They stated that the whole incident was awkward and that it was obvious that the victim was upset.

This information was reported by School Resource Officer Ander Achman. Later, Acherman was able to confirm the reports after reviewing the school surveillance video.

Kauffmann is facing gross misdemeanor and two misdemeanors following this incident. His first court appearance is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 23.

Members of the public opposed to Critical Race Theory (CRT) once again addressed the school board during the non-action item section of the meeting.

For the last few months, the New Ulm School board meeting has been filled with members of the public wanting to speak out against (CRT). This is not an issue unique to New Ulm’s school. School boards across the country have been filled with members of the public concerned CRT might be implemented in the school.

In September the school board did not allow comments on CRT because it was not part of the board’s agenda, leading to the frustration of many in attendance.

To accommodate the anti-CRT crowd, the board added a 30 minute public comment period at the end of the meeting starting in October. A few of the same individuals returned to speak again during the most recent meeting.

Roger Bauer was the first to address the board. He started by warning the board about accepting money from the federal government to do special programming.

“I hope the board has enough common sense and guts to look at all the things they are bringing up and see if this is really good for a community,” he said.

Bauer believed programs were being pushed by the federal government to take away freedoms. He then pivoted into 9/11 conspiracy theories, saying planes could not have taken down those buildings. He believed the government was behind the 9/11 attacks to implement the Patriot Act.

“Our government is trying to make us into a communist community,” Bauer said. Next, he addressed the COVID-19 pandemic, calling it a scare tactic to convince people to get the vaccine. He asked the board not to trust the Center of Diseases Control (CDC), calling the organization liars pushing propaganda.

Mary Thom spoke next. She wished to clarify statements she made last month about the National Education Association (NEA). and Teacher’s Union trying to reframe CRT as diversity, equity and inclusion. Thom stated that this was not her opinion, but was a fact. Thom read quotes she said were from the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MEEP) and stated “it combines the tenets of CRT and disability studies to examine linkages.” She said MEEP was also quoted as using a critical race framework for policy and practice recommendations.

Thom said Education Minnesota is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association and AFL-CIO. She said the group was advising on how to avoid talking about CRT and disguise it as something else.

Thom said in attending the board’s work sessions, she believed CRT was being woven through the board’s training with Longview Education During these work sessions, the board will sometimes break into small group discussions. Thom was concerned the public could not hear what the board was discussing.

“We see what you are being trained in, but we don’t know what you’re thinking about that training,” she said.

Michael Thom also expressed concern about the small group discussion that occurred during board work sessions because the public couldn’t hear what is being discussed in each group. He said this ran contrary to transparency.

During November’s board work session, the board of education members did break into small groups to conduct small-scale community needs exercises. Each group discussed designing a hypothetical wallet, based on specific users’ needs. The groups then came back together to share what was discussed. The purpose of the exercise was to show no two designs were identical because each person has different needs.

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Director of Learning Services, Paul Henn gave a summary of last year’s World’s Best Workforce Plan/Achievements.

The plan has five goals: have all children ready for school; all third-graders reading at grade level; all racial and economic achievement gaps between students closed; all students are ready for career and college and all students graduate from college.

Henn said the school achieved four of the five goals. The school did not meet the fifth goal. To meet this goal 95% of students needed to graduate, which is the benchmark average for Minnesota schools. New Ulm missed this goal by 1% with only a 94% graduation rate.

“It was a really good year in a real tough dynamic,” Henn said. The district was able to meet or exceed the other four goals.

Henn said there was a statewide dip in graduation rates during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic. New Ulm graduation rate dropped to 92.5% There was a second dip in statewide graduation rates last year, however, New Ulm actually saw an increase last year in graduation rates to reach 94%.

“We were able to move forward while some folks were still trying to stabilize,” Henn said “we look forward to getting that number back up above 95%.”

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A series of community education grants were approved. The first was the final 20% of the July through September Healthy Community Healthy Youth (HCHY) grant for $1,196.30. The board then approved 80% of January 2022 through March 2022 HCHY grant for $4,705.20.

Other grants approved include, the final 20% of a grant from the Grand for $300; the final 20% of the Park and Rec– Rec on the GO Grant for $850; the first 80% of the Heart of New Ulm Grant for $8,000 and first 80% of the Milford 4-H Club grant for $864.

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The board recognized Washington Learning Center student Olivia Kittleson. Kittleson was nominated for recognition for her readiness to learn, positive attitude and was a friend to all classmates.

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The Board of Education Study Session will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, December 2, 2021. The Truth in Taxation Meeting will follow at 6:30 pm, in the District Conference Rooms, 414 South Payne Street. The next regular school board meeting will be held 6 p.m. Thursday, December 16, 2021, in the District Boardroom,414 South Payne Street.

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