Crookston School Board News and Notes January 2021

Jess Bengtson
Crookston Times

    The Crookston School Board covered a variety of topics and handled a few business items during their first-of-the-new-year meeting including having re-elected board members take their oaths and the election of officers, the resignation of a significant district position, designating official law firms and media outlets, and ending a contract which means more responsibility for the district.

ELECTIONS AND OATHS

    Re-elected School Board members Frank Fee, Dave Davidson and Mike Theis took their oaths at the start of the first 2021 meeting at Crookston High School last week. Members of the School Board are elected by the general public of District 593 and board elections are held every two years in the even-numbered years with the November General Election. Three School Board members are then elected at that time for terms of four years each.

    Following the oaths, Fee was reelected as Chair plus board members Adrianne Winger as Clerk and Tim Dufault as Treasurer.

RESIGNATION

    On the consent agenda was an item to accept a resignation letter from Leah Zimmerman, School Counselor. Winger mentioned it was “sad to see people leaving the district” but wanted to welcome anyone new coming in. Fee said the letter is a two-week resignation and asked Superintendent Jeremy Olson how they should handle getting another counselor with a pandemic going on.

    “We’ve discussed it and feel the best course of action is to look in March and fill-in internally for the major components,” he explained. “We’ve reached out to an individual to help us get through the rest of the year; There’s no complete plan at this point, but we’re trying to put some things together.”

    Later, CHS Principal Eric Bubna thanked Zimmerman for her time and said he was sad to see her go but recognized that the “business world doesn’t work on the school calendar” and understood that an opportunity came up and she had to take it.

    The Times reached out to Zimmerman to offer thanks for her work over the years and she declined to comment with a reason why she was leaving.

LAW FIRMS AND MEDIA OUTLETS

    Local law firm Fischer, Rust, Stock & Rust, PLLC, and firm Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, PA were approved and designated as the official law firms of the district. Local media outlets, Crookston Times newspaper and KROX Radio station were designated as the official outlets of the district.

    School Board member Dave Davidson said he appreciates all the coverage from the local media outlets thinking its “first class”, but admitted he sometimes finds it difficult to read about himself in media coverage. Supt. Olson echoed appreciation for the coverage and added that communication during the pandemic has accelerated and thanked both media entities for getting news and information out as they’ve been a “tremendous help and ally for us.”

    “In a time when we aren’t able to do anything normal, you bring normal to us,” Winger added with her thoughts on the local media’s coverage.

TEACHERS ON CALL

    The School Board moved to approve ending the contract with Teachers on Call, a Kelly company that connects schools and centers with qualified substitute staff, and enter into a contract with Frontline (Aesop), school administration software that claims they will “streamline” processes and get staff to work faster, after Supt. Olson shared some of the difficulties they’ve had trying to get substitute teachers “to the finish line” to work in the district.

    Olson said while TOC has been good to respond to and has a good philosophy, they’ve “hit a lot of road blocks”, have had “issues”, and working with TOC has been “nothing short of a pain” when it comes to getting substitute teachers “to the finish line” and into the classroom.

    “We need subs and now subs aren’t wanting to go through the process, and that’s a problem for us,” he explained. “Recently we’ve been hiring subs directly and we still have to do background checks.”

    “The process has been a lot smoother using our own local process,” Olson added. “It’s nothing against them (TOC) but subs are going elsewhere; Bottom line from a logistic standpoint is we need subs in our classroom.”

    He explained that the district would enter into a contract with Frontline and use their electronic means of filling substitutes, plus take on responsibility for themselves as a district. Olson also mentioned that one of the roadblocks with TOC included anyone that walks in and wants to be a substitute teacher would have to go through TOC’s process and paperwork in order to become a substitute and that takes more time then desired.

    Board member Theis asked Olson about budgetary cost savings and Olson replied that it would be cost neutral but there was potential for savings. Board member Davidson, who announced he was, perhaps, the only person on the board at this time that has been an employee registered with TOC and didn’t know about the difficulties of the process, asked how much additional work it would put on administrative assistants and was met with a reply from Olson who said there will be some additional work but it’s already work being done.