By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent
Pierz school officials finished the last of the referendum informational meetings in Pierz, Lastrup, Harding and Buckman. Pierz Supt. George Weber told the School Board April 26, the meetings have gone well as it pertains to good conversation and question/answer sessions with the participants.
“To a certain degree, many attending the meetings are supporters of our schools, so in that context the conversations are more about what we are doing, why we need it, and then the impact on their taxes and the challenges they have with that,” Weber said.
So far, there hasn’t been a lot of absentee voting yet, Weber said, and urged everyone to take advantage of casting an early ballot.
“It is very important to get people in to vote early,” he said. “We would not want to wait until May 22. I would be quite concerned if it was left to that event alone.”
Eligible voters from throughout the district can apply for a ballot at the Pierz District Office any time from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. during regular office hours and, with proper identification, the process can be completed in one visit.
“I’m not hearing a lot of negative comment about the quality of our schools. Cost is certainly an issue and how do we pay for it,” the superintendent said. “But I am confident in saying that most who have been through the presentations and the Q and A period understand the rationale for what we are trying to accomplish.”
Meanwhile, administrators are planning for a quick start pending passage of the referendum. Architects want plans bid-ready to give to RAMorton construction this summer on the complicated, multi-faceted $18.45 million project that includes a new auditorium, gym, band room, parking lot and conversion of the old Pioneer gym into two levels of classroom space.
A consultant is advising on theater seating and support room needs of the auditorium. “We will also be reviewing the existing staging equipment, curtains, sound system etc. … to verify what we can reuse in the new plan,” Weber said. “All is going well, but it will be hard getting teachers here in the summer to finalize plans.”
A kitchen expert has also been consulted to determine the best ways to convert the old band room into much needed cafeteria space. The kitchen is not part of the current project, Weber said.
“But as we look at opening up the band room, it is a good time to consider what long-term plan we might want relative to the whole lunch process,” he said.
Pierz School Board Briefs
In other business at the April 26 meeting, the Pierz School Board:
- Accepted donations totaling $3,530 to include Clay Target League – $600 Pierz Fire Relief and $250 Richardson Lakes Lions; Special Ed. Athletics – $600 Pierz Fire Relief and $200 Harding Sportsman’s Club; Speech – $600 Pierz Fire Relief; Student Council – $600 Pierz Fire Relief; Wrestling – $181 Pioneer Wrestling Club; and Community Theater – $500 Pierz Lions;
- Passed the formal resolution terminating the teaching contracts of probationary teachers Carey Tordsen and Renee Huberty;
- Approved the employment of Elizabeth Tomala and Jackie Caughey as elementary classroom teachers for the 2017- 2018 school year. Also hired was George “Skip” Toops as high school physical education teacher for 2017-18. He comes with a strong coaching background in wrestling and baseball in Moorhead;
- Authorized posting of two positions at the high school for the 2017-2018 school year – a special education teacher and an English/language arts teacher;
- Made changes to Marilyn Keith’s schedule by adding a day to the high school social worker’s contract giving her five days a week in Pierz. The Board also added 45 minutes per day, four days a week, to Karen Hayes’ schedule for the remainder of the school year;
- Was informed that six applications have been received to date for the business manager position and that more are wanted. “I would like to begin putting together a committee who will be reviewing the applications and then also be involved in the interviews,” said Supt. George Weber. Board members Joanne Broschofsky and Dean Virnig volunteered their services. Earl Athman, district business manager for the past 32 years, is retiring at the end of the school year;
- Entered into a lease agreement with Tri-County Community Action Program to pay for space needed for on-site Head Start services. The $850 monthly fee will include use of the gym. Head Start granted the district a waiver regarding the bathroom remodel because, if the referendum passes, the location of the classroom will move slightly to the east;
- Published the notice for testing the optical scan voting equipment used for the referendum in the Morrison County Record. The public is welcome to observe the test at 10 a.m. May 9 in the Auditor’s Office at the Morrison County Government Center;
- Published the combined polling places for the May 22 building referendum in the April 30 Morrison County Record legal section. Polls will be open from noon until 8 p.m. at Harding Community Center/City Hall, Lastrup City Hall, Buckman City Hall and Pierz City Hall. Early voting at the District Office is also encouraged; and
- Was informed that the 43 students and three adults had an action-packed time on the recent Washington, D.C./New York City senior class trip. Steph Andres will lead next year’s trip scheduled for April 3-8, 2018. Fundraising takes the most time, said this year’s adviser, Gwen Gruber. She recommended dropping the additional day because it was just too long with kids flying out at 9 p.m. and having to be in school again Monday morning. Otherwise, it was tiring, but great educational, historical and cultural experience, she said.
The Pierz School Board next meets Wednesday, May 31 at 6 p.m. in the District Office Conference Room.