Pierz School District is getting ready for opening of new school year

By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent

Fall sports meetings for students and parents in the Pierz School District have been held. Teams start practice Monday. Crunch time is fast approaching for Pierz School District administration and staff as they get ready for the opening of school,  Sept. 3.

The new, visitor-friendly, front entry at Pierz Healy High School is nearing completion. Designed for student safety and to better monitor who is in the building, the project also includes more district office space. The granite wall containing the 1963 cornerstone has became an inside wall and will showcase a tribute to the late Dr. Raymond T. Healy, the school’s namesake.

Readapting the wall is timely as the structure turns 50 years old this year. “We will also have a nice office area when all is done,” said Supt. George Weber, as the Board toured the area prior to the July 31 monthly meeting. The paver stones leading up to the entrance were recycled by Pat Tax, newly-hired ag teacher and FFA adviser. They were repositioned in the glass-enclosed forum housing the monumental gift from the Class of 1969.

In addition, construction crews are finishing up sidewalk work on Kamnic Street in front of the high school, which is part of the Safe Routes To Schools grant awarded to the city of Pierz and administered by Morrison County. “That is not a school project, but a city project,”  Weber told the Board. Some people in the community may be confusing the two projects.

“The crosswalks from the school to the other side of Kamnic Street are being rebuilt to make them longer and safer, including some flashing lights for the school zone,” he wrote in a recent letter to parents. “The new crosswalks will change how we enter into the school parking lots by pushing the medians all the way out to Kamnic Street.”

The letter to parents also contained information regarding a possible voter referendum in the fall of 2014 when the Pioneer Elementary bond expires and another 10-year revenue bond matures and could be renewed without raising taxes. Consensus of the Board was to set a special meeting sometime in October or November to plan strategies and decide on a target amount.

“Is there any project or goal you want to highlight or accomplish with a new referendum above and beyond just the renewal of our old one and the payoff of the project loans?” Weber asked the Board. He also provided some food for thought. “I have been considering the possibility that we should discuss making a real strong push to become an extraordinary school system. Where do we want to be in five years? In 10 years? What legacy do we want to leave?” he asked.

The School Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 6 p.m., in the newly remodeled Healy High board room.

Pierz School Board Briefs

On the reorganizational side of the agenda, the Pierz School Board:

• Designated Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Pierz, MSDLAF and MSDMAX as the official depositories for funds not immediately needed for operations. The superintendent and Business Manager Earl Athman were authorized to make those investments. The Morrison County Record continues as official newspaper for district notices and publications;

• Set the last Wednesday of the month for board meetings beginning at 6 p.m. in the district board room at Healy High School. Meetings occasionally take place in the media center for presentations or to accommodate larger groups. Compensation for the six-member board remains at $80 for regular meetings with the chair and clerk receiving an extra $20. When special meetings or negotiating sessions are held in conjunction with the regular meeting, members are paid an additional $20. Other special and negotiation meetings are prorated based on time. The rate for out-of-district meetings is $80, but if all day, its $100. The rate for board appointed in-district meetings is $10 per hour;

• Kept mileage reimbursement at 50 cents per mile when personal vehicles are used for district business, which is a nickel below the allowable rate;

• Renewed membership in the Minnesota State School Board Association for for the 2013-2014 school year in the amount of $4,673;

• Approved property and casualty insurance with EMC Insurance in the amount of $59,071 for the new fiscal year, and workers compensation insurance in the amount of $58,770;

• Increased school breakfast and lunch prices 5 cents for students and 10 cents for adults. Breakfast costs $1 per meal for students at Pioneer Elementary not qualifying for free or reduced meals. Noon lunch for full-pay students pre-K through grade 6 is $1.80 per meal; grades 7-12 pay $2 per meal; adults are charged $3.35. Milk remains at 40 cents per carton;

• Accepted the bid from AgroPur for dairy products at the escalated price for the Brainerd, Pillager and Pierz School Districts. Pan O Gold will provide the bread;

• Increased adult ticket prices for sporting events to $6 and will include college students in the $100 family pass with a student ID. There is no change in the $3 student rate, the $25 single student pass and the $60 single adult pass;

• Increased behind-the-wheel drivers education fees to $210 for in-district students ($225 if a parent doesn’t attend the meeting) and $240 for out-of-district students (other than open-enrolled) effective Aug. 1;

• Granted a request from the Grad Bash committee for use of school facilities for the all-night graduation party May 30 – 31, 2014;

• Set the truth in taxation public hearing for Dec. 18, at 6 p.m., with adoption of the proposed 2013 (payable 2014) property taxes to follow. A separate meeting is no longer required to certify the tax roll to the county auditor;

• Approved a job posting for a part-time certified nursing assistant (CNA) instructor for the 2013-2014 school year. The new class requested by Horizon Health will be a first-hour elective offering clinical instruction for up to 12 students aimed at obtaining CNA certification. Clinicals will take place at United Friends with Central Lakes College doing the testing. A prerequisite for becoming an LPN, the class offers career opportunities for students interested in the health care field;

• Approved a lane change for Faye Sandy to BA+30, hired Dwight Nelson as a long-term substitute for Cameron Anderson, band instructor, and accepted the resignation of Audrey Thesing, high school paraprofessional; and

• As part of the consent agenda, hired Denise Girtz as a third-grade teacher at Pioneer Elementary and Dan Saehr as the high school health and phy-ed instructor.

The School Board’s next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 28, at 6 p.m., in the newly-remodeled Healy High board room.