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Hancock School Board adds two new teachers to staff list

With the first day of school less than six weeks away, the Hancock School Board made some crucial decisions Monday night about staffing for the coming year.

Principal Tim Pahl presented the board members with what he felt was a close estimate of enrollment numbers per class in the elementary grades. Many of these grades are at the point where two sections are needed and in some cases another teacher for the second section.

Pahl estimated that there will be 23 students in kindergarten with one section taught by Ashley Christianson. The first grade class was in two sections last year and with 32 students, Pahl recommended two again this year. Andrea Wink will teach one section and Jayna Ruprecht will move from kindergarten to first grade teacher.

Second grade is estimated to be at 29 students with Kim Voorhees as the teacher. Pahl stated that at this age level he felt it would be important to split this class. The number of special needs students in the class can also be a factor. The board agreed and decided to offer a full-time teaching position to Kathy Brenny who taught half-time last year and was a part-time para. The estimated extra cost to the district to increase her to full-time teacher, was $11,385. Pahl felt there would be classroom space for this extra class.

At third grade there is estimated to be 32 students who will be taught in two sections by Amy Brown and Hannah Plattner. Fourth grade is estimated at 21 students with Char Rustad as the teacher and fifth grade will have 22 students with Lynn Nelson as the teacher.

Sixth grade is another concern as there will be an estimated 30 students in this class. This class also has two paras and some students who have special ed class time so it was decided that it could be taught in one section. However, if additional sixth grade students enroll, this grade may also need to be split.

At the high school level another teacher was also added. The board had decided last month to offer Chad Christianson the Athletic Director position which would mean that some of his math courses would need to be taught by another teacher. Some additional math classes will be added to the curriculum to make a full-time math position. The board approved a contract with Kalee Nuest to fill this position.

 It was noted at the meeting that the district is still in need of a part-time ag instructor.  It is unlikely that any licensed ag or industrial tech teachers will apply for the position at this point.  The district has posted for a community expert in this area and no one has expressed interest in the position.  To fill the ag/industrial tech position with a community expert the Minnesota Department of Education would need to receive paperwork from the district by July 27.  If the position cannot be filled, an alternative class schedule has been created.

All coaching positions have now been filled except for the assistant girls basketball coach. The board approved a contract for Kaylene Opdahl as the head volleyball coach for next year.

Superintendent Loren Hacker expressed his delight at the growing enrollment in Hancock. He stated that this is not a common trend in most small schools. About one-third of Hancock’s students come through open enrollment. He added that the future success of the school will rely on open enrollment.

He stated that what a parent looking to send a student to a school is looking for is small class sizes but also comfort, social interaction and feeling good about the school. Most important though, are the teachers. There is no data that says learning decreases with larger class sizes but the quality of teaching has a huge impact. He sees all those good things at the school in Hancock and encouraged the board to continue to promote open enrollment.

Another major thing to attract students might be a good special education program. He added that it should be a goal of a school to move the students out of special ed and on to regular classroom work. The goal should be to have them ready to take the next step before they graduate.

Hacker went on to share some of his other impressions from his first weeks at the Hancock school. He stated that many of the policies and procedures he looked to put in place are already there. He said the district had a good plan for technology, transportation, facilities, evaluations and other important  issues needed to keep the district functioning. He also gave the board a detailed report on revenue and plans to give a similar report on expenditures at a future meeting. He informed the board about new legislation and some options they have regarding levies. He added that bookkeeper Lori Razink and former superintendent Jerry Martinsen knew what they were doing and had done a good job.

Hacker and Pahl also met with head custodian Aaron Solvie about future facility needs. One of the biggest issues was the ballpark fencing. He will be getting estimates on replacing the fence or looking into other options there.

The board tabled action on a van purchase in order to get more quotes, possibly on used vehicles. Official designates and fees were also approved for the coming year with very few changes. The board salaries were increased to $50 per meeting from $40 and officer salaries adjusted. A bid for milk products from Cass Clay was approved.

Two donations for elementary football were approved from Buddies and Hancock firemen’s relief association for a total of $500.

The next regular board meeting will be Monday, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m.