Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnum begins search for new superintendent


March 14, 2019

A superintendent search has started, it was announced at the March 5 working meeting of the Barnum School Board. The current superintendent, Dave Bottem, is retiring.

The board spoke about adding days to the school calendar for this year to make up for days missed because of the cold and snow but a decision will be delayed.

“It might be May before we make a decision,” said Bottem.

High School Principal Brian Kazmierczak reported that he and other principals are looking at online course offerings to share with other school districts.

“Right now, we are looking at a minimum of eight classes that we can offer,” he said. “There may be 15 classes. Several classes are work-based learning. But we still have more things to work through. There will be training after school ends.”

Kazmierczak also said that the students will register for next year’s classes after they return from Spring Break, which is March 25 – 29.

The band and choir will be going on a trip to Chicago, Gettysburg and Washington, D. C. beginning on March 24, reported Jeff Gilbertson, the band director, and Lori Koski, the choir director.

“There are 110 kids and 16 chaperones so we will take three buses,” said Gilbertson. “We will leave on Sunday and perform in Chicago at an assisted living facility built for performances. We will also stop at the Flight 93 Memorial; Gettysburg, where they have a Minnesota Memorial; before getting to Washington D. C. on Monday.”

Koski said that they will be touring the Holocaust Museum and performing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. They will also be visiting the Capitol, Arlington cemetery, Mount Vernon and the Smithsonian.

“We applied to go to the White House but we won’t hear for a week,” she added. “The government shutdown delayed the process. If we go there, we may have to eliminate one thing. We had to get permits for singing and performing.”

The group plans to leave Washington D.C. on Friday after touring Mount Vernon and will sleep on the bus on the overnight trip home. They plan to arrive in Barnum on Saturday, the 30th.

“We will have a slide show after we get back,” said Gilbertson.

“The kids will get a DVD of the trip,” added Koski.

Elementary Principal Judy Vitito reported that there will be a parents’ meeting on April 16 about ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) active shooter training. She held up a book that will be given to students.

“We are not just training ourselves but we are also training the students, including the elementary students,” she said. “We sent a letter with information about the parent sessions. Those went out today.”

Vitito also showed the three options that have been selected to choose from for the new elementary playground.

“It will be installed in July,” she said.

She also reported that the elementary newsletter is being sent out on social media.

“That’s better than sending out 360 copies,” she said.

Dena Hagen, Director of the Northern Lights Special Education Coop, reported that 12 school districts in five counties use the special education services offered by the cooperative.

“It is much more cost effective to do it this way,” she told the board. “There are a few kids that are deaf or hard of hearing. We have a specialized teacher for those students.”

The board also discussed changing the number of sections in some of the elementary grades.

“There will be smaller sections of kindergarten this year,” said Bottem. “Second grade will be smaller. We have talked about two sections of second grade. That’s two students over the board goal. We aren’t going to replace teachers but we’d like to provide options. We will have to discuss what the teachers are going to do and balance that with the budget.”

Several parents that were in attendance spoke about the hardship of having fewer sections of the grades with more students in each section.

“My child is doing well,” said one parent. “But there are days when she comes home and tells me that she can’t talk to the teacher because she is too busy with other students.”

Another parent said that she is a teacher in Willow River and sees kids that fall through the cracks.

“We moved to Barnum because of the school district,” she said.

“We have options,” replied Bottem. “We have things to talk about. The reality is that there are 30 fewer kids.”

“I ask that everybody be patient with us,” added Board Chair Paul Coughlin. “It is not reality to have three or four sections in each grade. We understand that this is impacting families.”

There was also discussion about the parents needing to fill out forms to determine if they qualify for free and reduced lunches.

“The forms will be sent out this summer,” said Bottem. “Every household with students will get one.”

“It helps with school funding if the parents qualify for free and reduced lunches for their kids,” said Board Member Colleen Fetters.

“The school can offer free lunches for all of the students if there are enough that qualify,” Coughlin added.

Bottem said that the number of parents that qualify is 33 percent now. It would have to rise to 40 percent for the school to offer a free lunch to all of the students.

The monthly meeting of the Barnum School Board is Tuesday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m.


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