By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

School board meets Jake, the robot


Lois E. Johnson

The Moose Lake FIRST Robotics Club team. From left, Instructor Aaron Krueger, and students: Courtney Laine, Kirsten Evenson, Future Hope Vang, Tachianna Charpenter, Levi Skelton and Aaron Bode. Several other students on the team were not able to attend the presentation. Skelton holds the Highest Ranked Rookie Award that the group won in the state competition.

The Moose Lake School Board met Jake, the robot, and the students from the robotics club that had entered the recent FIRST Robotics competition, at the monthly board meeting on Monday, March 21.

"We named it Jake after a virus that was on our computer that we used to control him," explained one of the students.

Arden Krueger, the Industrial Technology teacher, explained Jake was made rather crudely, though it's the first robot ever built and entered from Moose Lake Community School.

"We made an arm out of an old media table and used duct tape to hold it together," he explained. "When we needed other parts, the custodian found some for us. We also got help in programming from students in Barnum and Esko."

Their efforts paid off. The team won the Highest Ranked Rookie Award.

"We will lose several seniors but the juniors and sophomores are excited to come back next year and win a non-rookie trophy," said Krueger. "Our low tech robot beat out 43 others. Strategy was the key."

The students explained they spent hundreds of hours building the robot.

"We worked on it for two or three hours a day each week, and five or six hours on Saturdays," said one of the students. "And we worked on it at home, where we were trying to figure out the programming."

The experience of competing at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) was invigorating, Krueger explained.

"Walking into that arena was a state finals atmosphere," he said. "It was insane."

It was a state competition, and students from Hawaii and Alaska competed, they reported.

The students explained that Esko won the right to compete in the world competition, where 600 teams compete on six fields. There were two fields at the DECC.

"Overall, I think we did very good for our first year," said Krueger. "It was more involved than I thought it would be."

The board members congratulated the team.

Superintendent Robert Indihar showed a three-minute video of the new school construction.

The video spanned the time from November 6, 2015, to March 6. A camera was set up near the bus garage to show the progress. Later, it was moved to the Boldt Construction trailer, where it showed construction on the front of the school.

Later, the camera was moved back to the bus garage, where the action took place on the elementary and early childhood wings.

"At one point, the camera had fallen on the ground," he said. "You can see the edge of the lens."

The video is available for viewing on the school's Facebook page and on the school's website.

Supt. Indihar also presented a report from Boldt, the construction managers, that showed $4.4 million has been spent on school construction to date. He added a similar report will be available to the board each month as the construction progresses.

Jillian McGee and Pam Litsey, of the counseling department, gave a report about goals for next year.

Increasing the number of classroom lessons, teaching social media prevention measures and increasing the number of advisory council meetings were among the main goals.

More state funding will be allocated to the schools for counselors, McGee explained. In some schools, there is a need for drug and alcohol counselors.

"We need to teach kids social skills, both face to face and online," said McGee. "The problems are getting younger and younger and younger. Younger people are affected by it."

Ramp Up to Readiness includes anti-bullying curriculum and training. Meghann Levitt from Carlton County Txt4Life will talk to the students about getting a group going, McGee reported.

There will also be a Campaign for Kindness, were the focus is on good and respectful behavior. Mental health will be another focus. More funding is available to work with mental health issues, she said.

Litsey said they are starting a support system for the upcoming MCA tests, where they will do behind the scenes work.

In his report, Supt. Indihar said a school psychologist, Jennifer Brown, has been hired, and Moose Lake will share her time with Barnum.

The board discussed renewing Supt. Indihar's contract for another three years, from 2016-19. The terms of the contract had been reviewed and changes made by the Negotiations Committee.

Board member Tom Paull explained Supt. Indihar's salary will see increases each year over the term of the contract to bring his salary more in line with the salary of a superintendent in a neighboring school district. But other things brought up were not granted, he added.

Board member Jamie Jungers stated the superintendent's contract should have been discussed in a closed meeting of the full board.

"I'm disappointed we did not sit down and discuss this as a board," he said. "I didn't think that we'd do it this way. Before, we all met and talked strategies and what we could afford or not."

Paull replied it was the Negotiating Committee's job, and it had followed the same policies, procedures and programs it did for other administrative staff.

"Bob (Indihar) needs to be recognized for everything he did to serve on the committee for the new school and for all he has accomplished," he said.

Board member Julie Peterson added the superintendent's salary needed to be competitive.

Paull pointed out things will change a great deal once they have moved into the new school.

Jungers voted no when the motion to approve the superintendent's contract was voted on. The other five board members voted yes, and it passed.

A working meeting to meet with Aaron Hautala of Red House Media has been set for Monday, April 4, at 4 p.m., and another working meeting to meet with representatives of Boldt Construction and ARI, the architectural firm, was set for Monday, April 11, at 4 p.m.

The monthly board meeting was set for Monday, April 18, at 6 p.m. Note the time change.

The Athletic Liaison meeting between the Willow River and Moose Lake schools was set for Monday, April 4, at 6 p.m., after the meeting with Hautala from Red House Media.

All of the meetings will be held in Room 115.


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