Shakopee School Board meets with community members

School board members meet with the public following the regular meeting on Monday evening. The one-on-one conversations are part of an effort to rebuild trust in the board following the resignation and subsequent police investigation of former Superintendent Rod Thompson.

The Shakopee School Board handled a hefty agenda during Monday’s regular meeting including attendance area redraws, construction updates, activity and parking fee increases and improvements for the future.

The board then held a “personalized community engagement” session where members of the public could talk to the board one-on-one for 30 minutes following the meeting.

Fees going up

The board voted to increase activity and parking fees, as well as admission costs for visiting students and adults to Shakopee events.

Activity fees, which are the fees students pay for sports and other extracurriculars, will increase from $120 to $150. The fee was raised so they’re more in line with other metro schools, the board said. Shakopee was much lower than nearby districts and so there could be more increases in the future, Shakopee School District Finance and Operations Director Suzanne Johnson said during the meeting.

“If you look at the averages, we are still really low,” Johnson said. “We need something reasonable because we can’t fund these programs out of the general fund.”

The fee won’t keep low-income students from participating, School Board Member Matt McKeand said.

“We are not going to let any kid not play or not take part in something for financial reasons,” McKeand said.

There are also scholarships available to students who can’t afford to pay the activities fee, board member Shawn Hallett said.

Parking fees will increase from $60 to $100. Admission for visiting students and adults will go from $4 and $6 to $5 and $7, respectively. Students and staff of the Shakopee School District can still enter events for free.

Drawing lines in the district

The board looked at three options for the elementary and junior high attendance area redraws to bring to task forces. An official decision on the options will be made at the July 24 meeting.

The district is redrawing attendance areas because Pearson is being converted to an elementary school. No matter what option is chosen, about 500 kids will be moving to Pearson, Data and Testing Administrator Dave Orlowsky said.

The goal is to keep each school under capacity and evenly distribute students demographically.

Task forces will meet on Aug. 15 and Aug. 24, with public listening sessions in September and October.

A website will soon be available where residents can gather information on the redraw as well as submit questions.

Construction contracts, they are a-changing

The school board approved six change orders for the Shakopee High School and Vaughan Field Stadium construction projects.

Some change orders resulted from modifying original plans, such as creating more private shower areas in the high school locker rooms, whereas others came from “value engineering,” or finding a similar way to do a part of a project at a lower cost with little to no change in quality.

The change orders ranged from a $29,166 reduction to a $246,075 increase.

The search for an interim continues

Finalists for the interim superintendent candidate should be chosen by the end of July, with a candidate chosen by mid-August, Hallett said.

The personnel committee, which is headed by Hallett, received 17 candidates which were referred to the board or who had contacted the personnel committee.

“I really think we are going to have some strong leadership here in the near future,” Hallett said.

Three finalists (whose names will be released when they are chosen) will be interviewed publicly. The tentative date for that is July 20 at 6 p.m., depending on the candidates’ schedules.

For a permanent superintendent, that will be a “more robust process that the community will be involved in,” Hallett said.

A personnel meeting will be held July 13.

Departments and sub-committees

The district will be looking for residents to join a communications sub-committee, which would meet around six times a year, District Communications Supervisor Ashley McCray said.

The sub-committee would work to update communication channels, better reach the public, create new branding and marketing techniques and research target audiences, according to the proposal.

“We are trying to figure out new and innovative ways to engage the community,” McCray said. “We are taking a look at what we are doing and seeing what works and what doesn’t work.”

School board members Mary Romansky and Hallett would also be on the sub-committee.

The sub-committee should be up and running by the beginning of the school year, McCray said.

Consultants and contracts

The board approved a contract for a consultant to create and implement financial models for the district.

The models would help forecast the budget and would create alerts if numbers weren’t adding how they should, Johnson said.

The contract was approved for $6,250 per month and would last, at the longest, a year.

It shouldn’t take longer than six months to learn the models and start using them, Johnson said.

The contract could be cancelled with a 30-days notice.

“It’s going to be pretty quick learning once we get it all,” Johnson said. “We have to feel out what our needs are and if our tools are working with the staff we have, then we use them.”

School board of the round tables

Following the meeting, the school board moved to the lobby and each member sat at a table to have one-on-one conversations with residents for 30 minutes.

The “personalized community engagement” is an effort to have an open dialogue with Shakopee residents.

“We are changing the tone of dialogue and moving into active engagement,” board chairman Scott Swanson said.

School board members talked about many of the hot button issues at the moment — attendance area redraws, the hiring of a new superintendent, the budget, transparency and the new academy model.

“It was a smaller group than I expected,” Swanson said afterwards.

Swanson said he wanted to try the idea after having conversations with members of the community and finding that both parties came away with a better understanding of each other.

“To me, being able to myth bust, being able to answer that which I can and be as genuine as I can to an individual is really important because that’s where relationships are able to be developed and that’s where trust is developed, as well,” Swanson said.

The school board will discuss the first community engagement meeting and how to move forward in similar efforts at the next learning session on July 24.

CORRECTION: In the July 13 edition, we incorrectly reported that the Shakopee School Board chose three options for the attendance area redraw to bring forward to task forces. The board will make that decision during their July 24 meeting. The story also said that a contract could be cancelled with a 60-day notice, which was said during the meeting. School staff looked at the contract later and the contract can be cancelled with a 30-day notice. We regret the errors.

 

Maggie Stanwood was born and raised in small-town Iowa before moving to Wyoming in middle school. After her brief stint in the Wild West, she attended the University of Missouri - Columbia, where she graduated in May 2017 with a Bachelors in Journalism.

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