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District 518 officers, compensation remains unchanged

WORTHINGTON — The Independent School District 518 board of education reconvened this week after the New Year. Board reorganization was the first item on the agenda.

Members will remain in the same offices as last year and receive the same annual compensation, which Board Chair Lori Dudley said has become custom on a two-year cycle if there are no objections.

Dudley is chair and is compensated $3,220, along with Scott Rosenberg (vice chair, $2,805), Joel Lorenz (clerk, $3,015), Brad Shaffer (treasurer, $3,015), and directors Steve Schnieder, Linden Olson and Mike Harberts ($2,705 each).

In addition, members are entitled to further compensation for negotiations, appointed committee and special board meetings, board workshops and meetings of board members out of the region. The rate is $30 for up to two hours, $60 for two to four hours, $110 for four to six hours and $160 for more than six hours up to a full day.

While Olson was agreeable to continuing last year’s compensation, he said he would like the figures further evaluated next year.  

Based on research and data he claims to have found, Olson said the average compensation public school board members across Minnesota receive is $5,180. That’s despite the average district student population being approximately two times less than 518’s.

“We’re way over the number of students and quite a bit under on the compensation,” he said. “I’d suggest we look at this a little more closely and see how they align — not only districts in the area, but also districts of the same size across the state of Minnesota.”

Structure of committees changing

The structure of the district's instructional and operations committees, which on meet Monday and Tuesday mornings the week before the monthly school board meeting, is changing.

The vacant seat on the two committees, which include three board members each, was on the instructional committee. Harberts, the newest board member, said he’d prefer to be on the operations committee, which discusses district repairs, maintenance and financial considerations.

“I feel I could bring more to the table on the operations committee,” Harberts said.

Shaffer, who had previously been the operations committee chair, volunteered to switch his position and serve on the instructional committee instead.

“I have never been on the instructional committee,” Shaffer said. “I could make that switch if necessary.”  

The committees will also likely swap days of the week they meet.

Both committees seemed to agree that, to accommodate members’ schedules, the instructional committee meeting should switch to Mondays and the operations committee meet on Tuesdays the week before the regular board meeting.

Shared facility discussed

An update on the potential collaborative project between Nobles County, District 518 and the city of Worthington to build a multi-use shared facility on the former Campbell’s Soup property was provided during Monday’s operations committee meeting.

The county, which is the lead agency on the potential project, continues to prepare the paperwork necessary to submit a $10 million bonding request to the Minnesota Legislature.

To date, none of the three entities have officially tapped into the project.

“There’s no obligation at this point,” District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard said. “That (bonding) request needs to be in at the end of the month to be part of the bonding conversation.”

With a potential for the three entities to split the estimated cost of $26 million, securing bonding funds would help with soil remediation, Landgaard said. Other grants and funding sources have also been looked into, he added.  

While there’s no definite timeline for the project, Landgaard doesn’t suspect the legislature will make a decision on bonding requests until the end of the legislative session. That leads him to guess that by June or July, all entities will need to determine if they are interested in moving forward.

Past conversation has indicated the site could potentially house the Nobles County Library, District 518 Community Education and Early Childhood Education, and a visitors’ center that would be home to the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau. It’s unknown, though, what interest the city has moving forward.

Fairgrounds road replacement

The operations committee also heard an update and recommended continuing to explore participation in another potential collaborative project being discussed on the opposite side of town.

Due to the deteriorating condition of the main roadway into the Nobles County Fairgrounds, the Nobles County Fair Association has asked various entities in the community to contribute cash or in-kind donations to replace the roadway that it says leads to many events beyond fair activities.

The current proposal is for the county, city and a combination of the Nobles County Fair Association, District 518, Worthington Hockey Association, Pioneer Village and Nobles County 4-H to split one-third of the estimated $300,000 cost.

Landgaard said, in his opinion, everyone in the county should be responsible for that road, which is owned by the fair association.

“(The county should) do a one-year, one-time levy and just pay for it, but that’s just me,” he said.

He said he’s doubtful the project would get accomplished that way, adding that something must be done to and that the district was brought into the mix because of its use of the Worthington Arena for hockey.

Schnieder, who is also Nobles County’s public works director, said the site has been surveyed, and he expects some of the quantities and a more firm estimate of the total cost to be finalized near the end of the month.

“At that point the group will meet again to look at costs estimated,” he said. “If appropriate, the fair association would probably make arrangements to go out for bids or get a contractor.”

None of the entities have officially given the nod to what degree they may contribute.

Schnieder said the county is, however, furnishing the engineering — “which they were planning on taking credit for in their contribution when they start looking at total costs,” he said.

Should the true costs come in near the estimates and a five-way split for one-third of the contribution occurs, the school district is looking at an approximately $20,000 contribution.

Board members have been adamant that if the district makes a contribution, it be made as a greater donation to the Worthington Hockey Association, to which the district already donates about $24,000 for ice time for its school sport.  

Operations committee members addressed a couple of factors that could possibly affect the district’s contribution, including volunteer work and lack of resources from some of the identified potential partners.

Schnieder said there has been some discussion of volunteer work that could potentially reduce the project to material costs, which he estimates between $120,000 and $150,000.

Lorenz questioned the practicality of getting volunteers to complete the work.

“...  You want the quality work done right,” he added.

Schnieder said the bottom line is that many of the organizations do not have the financial resources to tackle the project within their budgets. None of the organizations involved with the fairgrounds are out to make money, he added, but rather to provide a service to the community.

Other recommendations by Monday and Tuesdays committee meetings include:

  • Supporting the formation of a B.A.S.S. High School Nation fishing club. Nathan Holt told instructional committee members Tuesday that a group of parents would like to form a competitive bass fishing club for kids. The parents and volunteers would be responsible for all financials, and all Holt was asking of the district was for monthly meeting space and use of the Trojan mascot and logo.
  • Allowing Landgaard to continue discussing a potential daycare collaboration with a private business in Worthington. The private business, Landgaard said, approached him and brought up the idea of forming a large daycare that would guarantee a spot for the business and district’s employees. The idea was brought up because the business has lost a significant number of employees due to a lack of available daycare, something Landgaard said the district also experiences.
Alyssa Sobotka

Alyssa joined The Globe in July 2017 and covers education and crime beats. The Nebraska native earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska at Kearney. In her own sarcastic tone, her blog, Aimlessly Navigating, recounts the reality, pitfalls and triumphs of a young 20-something navigating to maturity. Follow her on Twitter: @alyssasobotka

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