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Pequot Lakes teachers' union packs school board meeting

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More than 50 people, mostly teachers, attended the Pequot Lakes School Board meeting Monday, March 17, most sporting matching blue Education Minnesota Pequot Lakes (EMPL) T-shirts and buttons that said, “When?”

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Despite their overwhelming presence, not a word was spoken at the meeting regarding the contract negotiations taking place between the union and the district.

Superintendent Chris Lindholm said he received a request from EMPL to be included in this month’s agenda, but he denied the request.

“Our board’s practice is that we don’t allow groups to come and just randomly speak. Some districts have an open mic forum, but that’s their choice,” Lindholm said. “We don’t do that for any of the bargaining groups. Negotiations are not for public forum.”

Despite not hearing directly from the union, board members received a stack of signed statements from teachers asking the board to come to an agreement on a contract with EMPL that’s “reflective of the hard work and dedication” of members.

“We have directed our team to negotiate a contract that provides us with an increase in pay that keeps us competitive with other school districts,” the statement read. “We believe that an increase is due after years of sacrificing our pay to help the district build its fund balance.”

Lindholm said the district and union are in communication with one another and are working to schedule their next meeting date.

“We value the teacher negotiating team and we want to make sure we honor the relationship there,” Lindholm said. “We love our teachers, just like we do all our staff.”

At Monday’s meeting, Laurie Wig, director of curriculum, assessment & instructional technology, informed the board that several teachers are currently running trials on STAR reading and math assessments, which would replace several different assessment programs the district is currently using. According to Renaissance Learning’s website, cloud-based STAR assessments are the most widely used assessments in K-12 schools.

“STAR could potentially meet all the needs we were hoping for,” Wig said. “It would save the district a bit of time, money, and we would have a cohesive system.”

Wig said the district is currently using a one-month free trial of the software and hopes to have enough information on how to proceed by the end of the trial period.

Wig also discussed the use of cognitive abilities tests for second-graders. The tests have traditionally been used to identify students who are talented and gifted and were given to pockets of students in second, third and fourth grades. Wig said the testing may be more effective for the district if given to all students to create more appropriate class lists.

“It’s not a huge cost difference, and it’s not so dividing,” Wig said.

In other business, the school board:

• Approved Spanish teacher Chris Palmer’s proposal to pursue a class trip to Costa Rica. The cost of the nine-day trip would be $2,463 per student.

• Heard a report from student council secretary Britta Bittner, who said the student council is discussing allocation of funds for creating a “Patriot Pride” design for the mural wall and potentially replacing the mascot costume, “because he has extreme wear and we want him to look as great as our new facility.”

• Heard Lindholm discuss more frozen pipe issues the high school has experienced. The connecting lines to the city’s pipes froze over the weekend of March 8-9, causing backups in the new athletic complex, the science center and a hallway in the middle level. Frozen drains also caused flooding in the parking lot.

Chelsey Perkins can be reached at chelsey.perkins@forumcomm.com. Follow her at facebook.com/PEJChelsey and on Twitter @PEJ_Chelsey.

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Chelsey Perkins
Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her Bachelor's degree in professional journalism from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities. Perkins has interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before joining the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.
(218) 855-5874
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