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June 5, 2020

5/22/2020 11:10:00 AM
North Branch School Board reviews Internet learning, adopts new Superintendent contract

Overall satisfaction with distance learning for families in the North Branch School District is being negatively impacted by the poor Internet service in many areas of the district.  

The feedback from families involved in at-home learning, collected in a recent school district survey,  also shows that the district-provided devices are being well-received.

District community relations and grant writer Patrick Tepoorten told the School Board last week that only about three percent of households in the district said they have zero access to Internet;  but for many who do, their access is cell service, not ideal to participate in distance learning programming via cellphone.
North Branch District Technology Director Darin Marcussen has been working with Internet providers,  the school board was advised, and he’s been active in recent legislative activity to enhance broadband capability.  

Tepoorten added that the survey-generated Internet service details will certainly be shared with lawmakers and others working on Internet viability issues outside the greater metro area.

School Board member Tim MacMillan asked about options families in the district could be made aware of,  should distance learning be extended next year.
The Board was told that the district is in touch with Internet providers about needs that have been identified and efforts will continue on service options.
(The city of North Branch formed an internet committee over a year ago that’s  tasked with reviewing existing service issues and considering recommendations to present to elected officials. The focus so far has pretty much been fact-finding.)

Teachers and principals are keeping in good contact with North Branch learners during this electronic education experience, as school closures from the coronavirus situation were ordered.  

North Branch attendance policies that would impact being held back a year, or students’ grades and credits earned-- the School Board temporarily revised or waived last week.  

Superintendent Dr. Deb Henton also said Kindergarten through grade 5 students will receive an “asterisk” on their report cards, following advice from the state Dept. of Education.  Secondary grade students have a choice of achieving a pass-no credit  or an A, B, C grade.  

Nobody will “fail” because virus-influenced delivery of instruction has positioned academic achievement “out of the control” of students, Dr. Henton added.
“I am proud of our students and their families” for their extra efforts during this distance learning period, Henton declared.  

In other matters:  the Board agreed to advertise and put information on the website seeking applications to fill Darryl Goebel’s school board seat, which he vacated in mid-April.   Applicantions are due by June 11.  The goal is to have the new member apponted to start in July-- the beginning of the fiscal year.  See application details in district legal notices in this edition.

The Board okayed an estimated infrastructure (pipe) repair of $66,000, discovered during work being done on Hemingway and its extention to the new round-about on Hwy 95.  The district will forego purchase of a truck to shift funds to this surprise emergency expense.

New supt. contract
The three-year contract for new Superintendent Sara Paul was unanimously adopted.  Paul is succeeding Henton as of July.  The wage is $177,861 in year one and there is a stipend for moving expenses to relocate to North Branch not to exceed $10,000.  The contract  recognizes Paul’s advanced certification in school finances.

And, multiple motions were made and failed regarding the question of final compensation for spring sports coaches.  The coaches are paid half their wage at the start of the season and the other half at the end, which would be sometime in June.  The second half payment was potentially technically, a contract revision, which requires school board action.   See sports page for write-up.

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