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By Caroline Downs
The Kenmare school board voted to accept the resignation of KHS science teacher Nichole Kunz, following action take during the regular January 17th board meeting and a special meeting called for January 19th.
Kunz submitted a brief letter of resignation to Superintendent Duane Mueller and high school principal Robert Thom by e-mail, dated January 12th. The board discussed the resignation in executive session on January 17th and reconvened to unanimously reject a motion to approve the resignation, then to unanimously approve a motion to dismiss Kunz for failure to perform contracted duties without cause.
However, in Thursday’s special meeting, the board reconsidered its actions. “After visiting with legal counsel, we’re going to revisit the issue of the Nichole Kunz resignation,” said board president Lars Christensen.
At that time, the board approved the initial resignation by a unanimous vote.
Superintendent Mueller explained the classes taught by Kunz would continue to be offered. KHS science instructor Thurstan Johnson will teach the two sections of 7th grade life science.
Two sections of biology will be taught through the North Dakota Center for Distance Learning, with certified high school teachers instructing the Kenmare students via computer. The classes will be monitored by local school staff members.
Students enrolled in the Advanced Biology class will complete the coursework through the ODYSSEYWARE program, available online. “They can work on that at home or at school,” Mueller said.
He noted no students would lose credits because of the resignation and that the district hoped to hire a science teacher. “Everybody is going to get the best possible instruction under the circumstances,” he said.
Students can earn exemptions from semester tests
Board members discussed a new semester testing procedure recommended by Thom at the December meeting.
The new procedure would require semester tests in all subject areas, covering cumulative information taught during the second semester. However, students could earn exemptions from tests based on grades and low absence rates. No student who earned an in-school or out-of-school suspension would be eligible for a test exemption.
Thom suggested one mandatory semester test for each grade level, including math for 7th graders and freshmen, earth science for 8th graders, biology for sophomores, English for juniors and Problems of Democracy for seniors.
Board members Mike Zimmer and Lenny Rodin repeated their concerns about student behavior and activities if exempted from a test, but agreed they were willing to try the procedure at the end of the current spring semester.
Michele Nelson repeated her previous concerns that students advancing to college might be lacking in test preparation if this procedure was adopted. “But this idea promotes attendance, it promotes study and it promotes keeping their grades up among all the students,” she said.
Thom said he presented the new procedure to students during an assembly and the idea was generally well-received. “The kids I’ve talked to individually seem excited about the opportunity to earn exemptions,” he told the board, “and when it’s time for the tests, I’ll remind them of your concerns.”
He also noted that several students asked about taking the semester exams even if they earned exemptions. “If a student wants to take the test or a parent wants their student to take the test, that test can only improve their grade,” he said.
The board passed the revised end-of-the-year semester testing procedure on second reading. The procedure will be added to the student handbook.
In other business:
• The board approved minutes of the December meeting and the district’s bills for payment, as presented.
*Board members Lars Christensen, Roger Johnson, Jan Kostad and Michele Nelson, along with Superintendent Duane Mueller, will represent the school district at the annual North Dakota School Boards Association Negotiation Seminar, scheduled for February 9 and 10 at Bismarck.
• The board approved revisions to the Activity Trips Policy on second reading, which includes an increase in pay for activity trip drivers equivalent to the rate for first year bus drivers.
• Board members approved a school board election date of June 12th at the Kenmare Memorial Hall, with the election to be held in conjunction with the city of Kenmare election that day. Positions held by Roger Johnson, Lenny Rodin and Mike Zimmer will be listed on the ballot.
• Superintendent Mueller announced the arrival of four new students that day, increasing the district enrollment to nearly 300 students.
• Mueller announced the tile damages in the high school commons area would be repaired during spring break in March. He also noted a final walk-through of the Phase II classrooms of the high school renovation project would take place sometime in February with J2 Studio architect James Devine.
• The Kenmare School District did not receive any bids for the ceiling tile removal and replacement project at the high school. The board requested bids to be submitted by January 13th. “We had one call from one out-of-state company,” said business manager Renae Murphy. “I think the problem is the asbestos removal.”
• Board president Lars Christensen asked board members to contact him or Superintendent Mueller about items to be placed on meeting agendas, rather than bringing up those items unannounced at meetings. “I want everyone to be more prepared for the meetings,” he said. He also noted he would include an “Additions to the agenda” item at the beginning of each meeting.
• The Transportation Committee, with members Craig Ellsworth, Nelson and Christensen, will meet Thursday, February 2, at 7:30 am at the high school to discuss options for a new bus if a federal transportation grant is awarded to the Minot Regional Education Association (REA) in 2012. Previous grants have reimbursed the district for 25 to 50 percent of the purchase price of a new bus.
• The Policy Committee, with members Christensen, Johnson and Kostad, will meet Thursday, February 2, at 8:30 am at the high school to discuss district bullying and attendance policies.
• The Activities Committee, with members Johnson, Zimmer and Christensen, will meet Monday, February 13, at 8:30 am at the high school to discuss participation in spring sports and activities.
• The Building Committee, with members Zimmer, Kostad and Rodin, will meet Monday, February 13, at 10 am at the high school to discuss projected enrollment numbers for 2012-2013, the need for more classroom space, and ideas for a second gymnasium to be added at the high school.
• The next regular meeting of the Kenmare school board will be held Tuesday, February 14th, beginning at 8:30 am. The agenda will include the superintendent’s evaluation.
• The public is welcome to attend committee and regular school board meetings.