Braham approves reductions of programs and positions

The Braham School Board’s March 20 meeting saw the members doing what may be the hardest thing they are faced with in the course of their service — the reduction of programs and positions.

Braham School Board Member Mike Thompson (left) and Aitor Leniz, fifth-grade teacher and baseball coach, hold the plaque recognizing Twins Fields for Kids grant, from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund, that will be displayed at the new softball and baseball complex. Thompson wrote the grant application that resulted in the $10,000 award used for dugout construction and fencing. Photo by Delwayne Hahn
Braham School Board Member Mike Thompson (left) and Aitor Leniz, fifth-grade teacher and baseball coach, hold the plaque recognizing Twins Fields for Kids grant, from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund, that will be displayed at the new softball and baseball complex. Thompson wrote the grant application that resulted in the $10,000 award used for dugout construction and fencing. Photo by Delwayne Hahn

Driven by declining enrollment and financial consideration, 10 faculty and activities positions were impacted following the board’s action.

Those affected are elementary technology teacher April White (0.4 full-time equivalent); high school science teacher Amber Hoffman (0.5 full-time equivalent); high school counselor Ursula Scheele (0.5 full-time equivalent); high school social studies teacher Rebecca Swanson (0.5 full-time equivalent); high school physical education teacher Brady Yrjo (0.5 full-time equivalent); attendance-special education secretary Michelle Becker (one full-time equivalent); and a seventh position reduction occurred through Beth Bergren’s resignation as a sixth-grade teacher due to retirement.

The three activities positions discontinued by the board’s action are junior varsity assistant football coach, C-ninth-grade baseball coach and musical choreographer.

The actions were taken despite opposition offered during open forum for two of the positions.
Aitor Leniz, fifth-grade teacher and baseball coach, appealed to the board to not discontinue the ninth-grade baseball coach.

“By cutting what you propose, we are going to be put in a precarious position in the fact that we (baseball) will be the only sport, for the most part, that will have (only) one varsity coach at an event,” he said.

He went on to point out that with two fields, which could have simultaneous games occurring, an emergency requiring a coach’s attention at one field could potentially leave that field unattended by a staff member.

“I feel that I am in a predicament. Do we forfeit one contest and just move on from there?” Leniz said. This decision, he said, “will put us in a tough situation.”

The second opposition to a reduction came from district nurse Judy Bendickson who objected to the elimination of Michelle Becker’s position. Bendickson pointed to the work Becker does in the elementary health office.

“She ran the elementary health office,” Bendickson said.

In eliminating this position, she pointed out, the board is eliminating the person who ran elementary health office, she said.

“I want you to know that Michelle is more than a special education secretary,” Bendickson said.

Neither appeal swayed the board in its later actions, although the vote on Becker’s position was six in favor with Board Member John Paitl casting the lone no vote. The remaining reductions were all unanimous votes in favor.

Minnesota Twins Community Fund
One bright spot in the evening’s proceedings was the presentation of a plaque from the Minnesota Twins Community Fund. In presenting the plaque to the board, Board Member Mike Thompson stated that it recognizes the $10,000 Twins Fields for Kids grant that was used for fencing and dugout construction at the new baseball and softball fields. It will be permanently mounted at the fields.

In other news:
• Kindergarten teacher Roxanne Kirby presented the Professional Learning Community report for the month on behalf of the pre-K and kindergarten PLC group. Among the group’s activities were the discussion of transition plans for preschoolers entering kindergarten, curriculum alignment with standards and becoming familiar with Formative Assessment System for Teachers testing for pre-K.

• Elementary Principal Jeff Eklund congratulated special education paraprofessional Amie Shockman as the Together Everyone Achieves More award winner. Shockman made the transition this year from the elementary school building to the fifth- through 12th-grade building. Eklund said: “Amie does a great job keeping students safe during the lunch and recess times. Her greatest strength is building relationships.” Eklund also noted Shockman is pursuing a special education teaching degree and “will be a phenomenal special education teacher.”

• The board acknowledged five donations or contributions: Grandy Lions, $1,170 for the bowling program; Loyal Order of Moose Lodge No. 1544, $150 for the bowling program; Gordon and Alice Stone, $1,000 for boys basketball; Leroy and Darlene Gilman, assorted hats and mittens valued at $100; and Karen Lyons, $100 for the FFA Greenhouse.

• The board approved an increase from 6 1/2 to seven hours per day for the media secretaries in both the elementary and high school due to increased responsibilities. The change will become effective July 1, 2017.

The next Braham Area School Board meeting will be 7 p.m. April 24.