Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 23, 2001

Lester board cuts 4 teaching positions

By Patrice Waldron

Lester Prairie School Board had the difficult task of cutting four teachers at last Monday's meeting.

Two non-certified teachers, teaching under a variance by the state were selected, followed by the two teachers with the least seniority.

Similar cuts were made last years, and it is the hope that the teachers being termination will be re-hired, as they were last year.

Those receiving termination notification were:

· Rick Baumann, sixth grade

· Lyle Kritzeck, physical education/social studies

· Michael Bates, special education, teaching with a variance

· Richard Andrews, band, teaching with a variance

One of the almost 25 members of the audience, asked for a definition of a variance.

When there is a teaching position open, the school district must advertise for applicants. If there are not any applicants who are licensed to teach in the area to be filled, the school board can petition the state for a variance.

At this time, none of the tenured teachers are teaching outside state licensure requirements.

Bates is taking classes toward his certification, said Supt. James Redfield.

Similar cuts were made last years, and it is the hope that the teachers being terminated will be re-hired, as they were last year.

"You do this almost every year," said Mayor Eric Angvall. "That is correct," responded Gene Starke, Lester Prairie School Board President.

Another personnel issue was the contract modification and resignation of Elementary Principal Richard Hartshorn.

Hartshorn's contract will be modified as follows: he is not taking a pay raise, his pay will stand at $59,750/year; he will work the months of July, August, and September; will retire Sept. 15, but will be paid for all of September.

The board approved Hartshorn's contract modification and resignation.

The question of how to best fill the principal position was discussed. Looking for a half-time principal/half-time counselor was one option discussed.

The board also accepted the resignation of Patty Gillespie as the ECFE/Little Learner Teacher for the 2001-2002 school year.

PR and vision

Board members Fred Blaser and Chester Hoernemann, and Redfield, met to discuss the school district's vision and long-range plans.

Blaser spoke of the need for a plan, "I don't know what it should be, but it should be in place."

Other items discussed included emphasizing the positive things about the school, defining the school's vision, and making solid plans for publicity.

There are morale issues at the school. It was felt that morale may be lower than it should be, due to the perception that the school lacks vision and a plan for the future, said Hoernemann.

Cathy Houg of the Lester Prairie Education Association addressed the board.

"We challenged the board to come up with a vision or responsibility," said Houg.

She raised the following questions:

- who is in charge of public relations (PR)?

- is there a liaison with the city council?

- who is in charge of grant writing?

- how does the curriculum get updated, to keep it current?

- who handles discipline issues?

"We need to come up with a plan of responsibility," said Houg.

"We need to get that PR out there, we need the school board to project where we're going," said Eric Angvall, Lester Prairie's mayor, from the audience.

Angvall questioned what his role was with the school; what a parent's role is, what the role of the city council is, and what the teacher's role is.

"How can I get in there so we all pull the wagon in the same direction?" questioned Angvall.

"There needs to be a much more organized plan, there needs to be some responsibility for it," said Jill Duncan.

"What does it take to do it? It doesn't seem that terribly hard," she continued.

A list of questions and comments was distributed to the school board and the citizens in attendance by parent Judy Angvall asking that several questions be answered by the board members.

The document stated that there had been a number of rumors circulating around Lester Prairie, and it was important that the matter be addressed.

It is rumored that:

- at least 25 students are planning to leave the district in the fall to attend Watertown, with busing being provided by Watertown.

- it was questioned as to whether or not Redfield has a new contract.

- Redfield's salary will increase by $20,000 as he plans to become the elementary principal.

In response to these questions, Starke denied any knowledge of a large group of students leaving the district.

Where Redfield is concerned, there is not a contract signed at this point, and nothing has been decided about the principal position.

"This was the third year of a three-year contract. It was not brought to our attention. Some of us probably let it go by," said Starke of Redfield's contract.

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