BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN Delano School Board members learned the details of proposed increases for Tiger Activity Center fees during a work session Monday.
Delano Community Education Director Diane Johnson told the board that the proposed fees for the 2018-19 school year are about 5 percent higher than the fees in 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years, with annual membership rates rounded to the nearest multiple of five. Doing so is expected to increase revenue by $7,462, including $5,753 set aside for upgrading equipment.
“We raised fees in 2016-17, which was the first year of construction, but, at the same time, because of construction . . . we gave everyone who renewed a 13-month membership,” Johnson said. “It was a thank-you for sticking with us through the trials and tribulations of construction. Last fall, because construction was ongoing, we did not change fees, but it was a standard 12-month membership.”
Fees include sales tax, which has been the case since the 2007-08 school year, and the “capital equipment set-aside,” which was established for the 2014-15 school year to cover the cost of new equipment.
Johnson provided fee comparisons for activity centers in Rockford, Maple Grove, Monticello, Waconia, and St. Michael. Annual fees for resident families range from $230 in St. Michael to $561 in Waconia, with an average rate of $439; compared to Delano’s proposed annual family rate of $295. Annual rates for individual residents range from $150 in St. Michael to $385 in Waconia, with an average rate of $282; compared to Delano’s proposed fee of $170.
“It’s kind of hard, sometimes, to compare because it’s apples to oranges,” Johnson said.
Looking only at Delano’s fees, rates have increased by an average of 145 percent over the past 16 years. Typically, fees have increased by about 5 percent each year, with the exceptions of the 2003-04, 2005-06, and 2014-15 school years. Fees did not increase for the 2004-05 school year.
When board member Al Briesemeister asked what to tell constituents if they ask about the reason for the 5 percent increase, Johnson said, “It’s a number that consistently works out to a modest increase.”
She added that costs have increased, including pay rates, change in staffing needs, and utility costs.
Board member Rachel Depa said she would rather see a 5 percent increase now than a much larger increase later.
Currently, the TAC has 675 members, a number that Johnson said has waned due to construction. She expects that number to rebound due to the new facilities, though she acknowledged the amount of competition in the community.
Included in the membership totals are 81 student memberships.
“If I’m a student and I want to use the facilities after school but I’m on free and reduced lunch, do we have that?” board member Carolyn Milano asked.
Johnson noted that all students have free access to the TAC between 3 and 4 p.m. but if they wanted to come back at a different time, they would need to pay for a daily pass or an annual membership.
She agreed to look into the possibility of structuring reduced fees for those students.
“For community ed classes, what we use for our guide is a 25 percent discount for (students receiving) reduced (price lunch) and a 50 percent discount for (students receiving) free (lunch),” Johnson said.
“That sounds great. If I can’t afford lunch . . . I’m not going to be able to afford 50 percent, and I won’t be able to work out,” Milano said.
Also during the work session, Director of Teaching and Learning Joe Vieau presented an update regarding the cultural competency initiative, which has been the focus of the Humanity First Committee for more than a year.
One example of that committee’s work was the district-wide Kindness in Chalk activity in October 2017.
“As we’re trying to figure out ‘How do we sustain this?’ I came across colleagues from Waconia and Orono working with a company called ImpactLives,” Vieau said. “Dr. Ramón A. Pastrano comes out and does intercultural training with the entire staff . . . to remind them about cultural competency.”
Pastrano will provide that training in Delano during Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Vieau said Pastrano works to “keep everybody aware with what’s going on with cultural competence and how we can be more welcoming and more inviting, particularly in our area, where there’s a lot of different diverse cultures that are very very near to us even though it doesn’t look like it in Delano sometimes.”
He added that the professional development committee is committed to sponsoring any staff member who volunteers to complete an intercultural development inventory.
“It gives you this gauge of where you are from monocultural to multicultural competence,” Vieau said. “It’s real nonjudgmental. It doesn’t matter where you are in life, but then let’s find out where you are and there’s kind of a plan that says ‘OK, how can you kind of move that pendulum to be a little more multiculturally sensitive? What are the things you can do to develop yourself professionally and personally into that multicultural mindset?’”
Staff members make up the Humanity First Committee, and the focus is on training staff before training students.
“The strategy is to get staff trained in some capacity, and then we’ll definitely include students because their experiences are powerful because they are in the classroom,” Superintendent Matt Schoen said, adding that the district would also aim to get parents more involved in the future.
Milano recommended partnering with an inner city school to introduce more diversity to the students and staff in Delano.
“There had been some talk about that, especially with social studies teachers . . . I’m thinking that will continue to come up,” Vieau said.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• entered into closed session to discuss contract negotiations strategy. The board did not take action when it reconvened.
• discussed the possibility of conducting listening sessions with the public as a board. The format of such listening sessions has not been determined.
• received a construction update. Black box theater improvements have been approved; the elementary school nurse’s station and office security improvements will be substantially completed by Tuesday, Sept. 7; the intermediate school building is substantially complete and its landscaping will be complete by sometime in August; the high school improvements are on track to be completed by the start of school; the swimming pool will be complete before girls swim team practices in August; the performing arts center should be completed by the end of October, with a large celebration Friday, Nov. 9, through Sunday, Nov. 11; with locker rooms north of the TAC to be completed after that.
• on a 6-1 vote, with Milano opposed, approved the elementary and intermediate school handbooks.
• approved an addendum to the high school handbook regarding science requirements for students beginning with the class of 2022.
• approved the second read of Policy 613 regarding graduation requirements due to substantive and legal reference changes. Because a change was made between the first and second read, another read will be required.
• on a 6-0 vote, with board member Amy Johnson abstaining, approved the community education employee handbook.
• approved the first and only read of Policy 614 regarding school district testing plan and procedure and Policy 619 regarding staff development for standards. Nonsubstantive and/or legal reference changes had been made to both policies.
• approved personnel matters including the resignations of elementary school social worker Michelle (Krueger) Halverson and intermediate school special education teacher Mackenzie Narins; and the contract hires of high school special education teacher Julie Algaard, elementary speech language pathologist Megan Lohse, and high school counselor Lisa Servaty.
• accepted a total of $31,642 in donations from 10 entities.