STMA mixed over raising activity fees

by Samara Postuma

Contributing Writer


The St. Michael-Albertville School Board tabled discussion of activity fees following a staff recommendation not to raise them.

The board also heard a request to add a spring play at the high school, heard a report about technology education and engineering, and had a first reading about scholastic eligibility.


Activity Fee Increase

Supt. Jim Behle recommended that the district not increase activity fees for next year and reaction from the board was mixed.

“We’ve got some economic problems here and why don’t we increase activity fees like our neighbors do? Costs are going up and we got to cover it,” board member Gayle Weber said in support of increasing the fee.

Board member Doug Birk asked questions on what the activity fee includes. “Our fee may be low but it’s different. Some sports and activities don’t include a uniform and families incur additional fees,” he said.

The board agreed to table the discussion and discuss at the next meeting. Research will be compiled by Benson on what other districts are charging and including in their fees.  “I’d like to see a cost of required elements of participation. What’s included and what’s not,” Birk said.



In other news, the board heard from High School Social Studies Teacher Josh Mann and two students on the possibility of bringing a spring play to the school.

Both Principal Bob Driver and Mann helped put together St. Michael-Albertville’s first theatre club during the 2013-14 school year that just wrapped up and students have expressed interest in having a third opportunity to perform aside from the fall musical and one act play.

“Because of sports schedules in the fall and the limitations of the one act play, a third production that wouldn’t include singing or dancing or musicals would be a great opportunity for STMA to have more AAA [Arts, Academics and Athletics] students,” Mann explained.

The school board listened to the presentation and discussed the possibility but had previously decided that no new activities would be added until the budget is more set.

“This might be something to look at for next year,” board member Drew Scherber said.

Board member Weber suggested the theatre club partner with the STMA Arts Council and explained that she would be happy to pass along any information to the council.


High school engineering

In further matters, school board members also heard from high school teacher Chris Rude about the technology education and engineering program he teaches. The ninth grade program includes engineering and manufacturing education as well as 3D printing.

“Students take something from the computer and put it in your hands,” Rude explained. The programs offered are because of a $15,000 grant called PRIME that the STMA engineering program is receiving for three years. “PRIME takes rock solid programs and helps make them better,” he said noting that STMA is the only PRIME site in Minnesota with a goal of helping get kids excited about engineering.

The board recommended that more outreach and awareness is made to girls as typically the classes are mostly boys.


Scholastic eligibility

In other news, the board had its first reading of a potential new scholastic eligibility policy for high school athletes. “The middle school principals feel that the policy they have in place for the middle schools works. They currently review grades two times each semester,” Activities Director Brian Benson said.

The proposed high school policy would mean that satisfactory progress towards on time graduation is happening. “Students need to prioritize academics over athletics,” Benson said. The policy includes verbiage surrounding the failing of classes and if any more than one class is failed students would be ineligible that trimester.

School board member Jeanne Holland expressed that she would like the middle school and high school policies to be more similar, while Benson held firm that two policies are good for kids.

Several board members expressed interest in verbiage that would include extenuating circumstances yet noted that it can become difficult to manage quite quickly.

“Something extenuating for a family might not be to us,” Supt. Behle said, asking that more definition given.

The board will revisit the policy at the next meeting with a decision so that the new policy can be included in the high school handbook that goes to print in June.

In other action, the board:

APPROVED two preliminary make up days to be added to the 2014-15 calendar. The calendar currently includes three days but will now include June 4 and 5 if there is a need for additional make up due to weather. Graduation will take place Friday, June 5, 2015.

ADOPTED proclamations in recognition of National Teacher Appreciation Week, National School Nurse Day and School Nutrition Employee Week.  The proclamations recognize the important roles of teachers, nurses and school nutrition employees in ensuring that students receive the very best education supported by healthy, well-balanced meals and a healthy environment.