Pierz school officials target late September for post-referendum community survey

By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent

Pierz school officials are regrouping in the wake of the failed school building referendum earlier this year.

“I have begun working with the company School Perceptions,” Supt. George Weber told the School Board at the July 26 meeting. “I will be getting data to share with them, as well as providing responses to questions they will be sending me over the next month or more.”

The Board retained the services of School Perceptions in June to conduct a post referendum community survey to gauge the public’s decisive “no” vote.

“I told them we will not be planning to go out with any revised plan for the November General Election,” Weber said. “Instead, we will gather feedback from the community and work toward a plan that is supported by the majority.”

With that in mind, the earliest another referendum could be scheduled would be the second Tuesday in February 2018, Weber said. Meanwhile, late September is being targeted for implementing the survey, gathering the statistics and evaluating the resulting information.

“We would still have to meet all the state guidelines regarding special elections and the Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner’s ‘review and comment’ time period. So it would be good for us to agree on a potential target date and do some back planning regarding the other dates and notices,” Weber said.

“We need to communicate better. We need to do a better job of telling our story,” the superintendent said. Other districts have worked with communications consultants in getting the most accurate information out to the public in order to allay misperceptions and misinformation, he said.

“So I have been in contact with some of the companies that have provided that service for smaller districts all over the state. I will be evaluating that need for us as well over the next month and will likely make a recommendation at our August meeting if there is support from our administrative team for this type of work,” said Weber.

In the interim, work on the preschool playground is progressing with sidewalks poured and equipment installed. Volunteers Donny Schommer and Tom Otte are adding equipment currently in storage to the grades 2-6 playground. The Pioneer PTO purchased the pieces. Fencing will complete the project.

Pierz School Board Briefs

In other agenda items at the July 26 meeting, the Pierz School Board:

  • Accepted a $150 donation from Pioneer Party for the Video Club and $179.35 from the Pierz Lions for a wheelchair as requested by the school nurse;
  • Employed Carly Larson as elementary teacher for the 2017-18 school year pending the required criminal background check. Principal Tom Otte said Pioneer has 16 new enrollees since May with only four leaving;
  • Hired Tracey Artner as business manager for the school district who replaces Earl Athman, a fixture in the business office the past 32 years. She comes highly recommended with over 10 years of experience in Onamia and Foley. Athman will continue to provide financial management services as needed through his company, Regional Resources;
  • Granted a lane change to Kara Patrick from MA+10 to MA+20 effective Sept. 1;
  • Approved 20 coaching assignments for fall sports including head football coach Leo Pohlkamp, head volleyball coach Lisa Klein, head tennis coach Chris Dobis and head cross country coach Rey Zimney;
  • Entered into a contract with Morrison County Public Health at an hourly rate of $55 to assist the school nurse in complying with degree requirements;
  • Accepted the low bid with escalation, for dairy products from Agropure (Schroeder’s milk) for 1 percent white, chocolate skim and skim milk. Awarded to Pan O Gold was the collective bid for bread products from the Pierz, Brainerd and Pillager school districts;
  • Renewed an agreement with Northern Pines Mental Health Center to provide services, as needed, for the 2017-1018 school year;
  • Renewed an agreement with Central Lakes College to provide College In the Schools (CIS) programing for Pierz students;
  • Renewed membership in the Minnesota School Boards Association in the amount of $5,164;
  • Granted the request from the Grad Bash committee to purchase an ad in the school calendar for $250 and have the district contribute $1,400 toward the cost of printing and delivery of 250 calendars;
  • Approved the joint powers agreement for an educational facility for the Mid-State Coop. “Pierz, Little Falls and other Mid-State schools in Royalton, Upsala, Swanville and Onamia are exceedingly fortunate to be the first recipients of a $5 million donation from the National Joint Powers Alliance to support facilities for high needs students and various programming,” Weber said;
  • Designated the Morrison County Record as the official newspaper for legal notices, as part of the district’s reorganization for the new fiscal year. The Farmers and Merchants State Bank of Pierz, Unity Bank of Pierz/Genola, the MSDLAF and MSDMAX were named official depositories for funds not immediately needed for school operations. The superintendent and business manager were authorized to invest those funds;
  • Will continue to hold regular meetings the last Wednesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the District Office Conference Room. The Board increased its compensation by $10 and are now paid $90 per regular meeting. Other prorated special or negotiation meetings saw a $5 increase. Mileage reimbursement remains at 50 cents when personal vehicles are used for school business; and
  • Scheduled the mandated Truth In Taxation public hearing for Dec. 13 at 6:05 p.m. at the high school, after which the proposed 2017 (payable 2018) property taxes are certified.

The Pierz School Board next meets Wednesday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m. in the District Office Conference Room at Healy High School.