HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN – “I love hearing thoughts,” Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School Board Member Charles Bush said at the Aug. 24 work session.
He was referring to the structure of the school board’s work session meeting, noting that he wishes it could be less formal and more open.
Board Chair Jamie Wiech said board members are welcome to put a discussion topic on the agenda, and that having an agenda helps keep meetings on track.
“Otherwise, we wouldn’t have an opportunity to prepare,” she explained. “We would just sit here and spin.”
Superintendent Brad Sellner added that an agenda is also helpful if an expert needs to be invited to the meeting to provide information.
Bush also expressed frustration that the public does not regularly attend school board meetings, stating, “Are they not interested in what’s going on?”
What is a work session?
The HLWW School Board meets the second Monday of each month for a regular school board meeting, and the fourth Monday of each month for a work session.
Work sessions are designed for discussions and presentations; items are generally not voted on until the regular meeting.
In the past, HLWW only scheduled work sessions on an “as-needed” basis. The past several months, however, they have taken place every month.
“With the new format, I’d like to give it some more time,” Board Member Jesse Tintes said, explaining that regular work sessions are still relatively new, and it may take time for the structure to become more discussion-focused.
Ag office debate
Later during the Aug. 24 work session, Board Member Dwayne Diers motioned to build an office for the tech ed department, noting that although votes are generally not cast at work sessions, he hoped for an exception due to time constraints. (This item was not on the agenda.)
Without further discussion, Bush immediately seconded the motion.
Tintes then expressed confusion over the sudden request.
“I don’t know if I missed something or what happened here,” he said. “I need more of an update before I can vote on this.”
Diers explained that the tech ed department is taking over the office that previously had been utilized by the agriculture instructor, and he does not feel the ag department should be without an office.
Sellner noted that the office was originally constructed for both departments. When the space was recently evaluated, it was determined that it made sense for the tech ed instructor to utilize it, because the shop area is too dusty for office work, and the space is in a good location next to the shop.
Sellner added that the agriculture department still has a shop, three classrooms, a storage shed, a greenhouse, and the use of the Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) room.
High School Principal Jason Mix said the ag department had been using the space for storage, not as an office.
“I don’t know of any ag teachers that don’t have an office,” Diers said, adding that what they do with the space is their choice.
Mix stated that other teachers do not have an office, to which Diers replied that the ag program is different.
“I feel really blindsided by this,” Mix said. “We could have had a conversation that this is what’s going on.”
During Mix’s most recent meeting with the ag instructor, he said he had the impression that the situation was acceptable and that there was no problem.
“I’m not hearing that,” Bush said, stating that the ag instructor told him he was dissatisfied.
Middle School Principal Jim Schimelpfenig said that staff members who have issues should take them through the proper channels.
“I’m very concerned about the process that this issue has taken, and the direction of the work session,” Schimelpfenig commented.
Sellner stated, “If someone feels they’re not being heard by their principal, they need to come talk to me before they talk to a board member.”
Wiech added, “This is exactly why we need an agenda at our work session; no one came prepared with any information on this.”
Diers apologized for the way he handled the subject, and rescinded his motion.
Board Member Michelle Heuer then indicated that the ag instructor should meet with Mix and Sellner to discuss the issue and potential solutions.
Look for more coverage of the HLWW School Board meeting in Monday’s edition of Herald Journal. Click here to subscribe online or in print.