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June 13, 2021

5/21/2021 12:23:00 PM
North Branch School Board honors teacher; authorizes hockey co-op with St. Francis

North Branch’s regular school board meeting on Thursday, May 13 ended up being more of a recognition of sorts.

Pam Newbauer, a seventh grade history teacher was recognized as one of the winners of the Education Minnesota Central Outstanding Leader Award for 2021 as well as being named North Branch Area Schools’ Teacher of the Year for 2020-21. One of Newbauer’s students was on hand with her mom to tell of the impact that Newbauer has had on her family.

Kelly Hischer, who was speaking on behalf of her child Lila, said that Newbauer knows how to connect with kids, even virtually. She said her child, and countless others around the district, have enjoyed the benefit of having her as a teacher and they were grateful.

Superintendent Sara Paul gave late year updates on where the district was at with it’s stated goals as well as where spring COVID-19 numbers have gone.

Paul said that she feels the district is moving well towards their goals of preparing all of their learners for success, despite many of this year’s challenges.   She also listed the other NB goals as raising accountability for all staff and programs, increasing community engagement and committing resources to district priorities. Paul feels like each goal is being moved closer to and that staff, students and parents throughout the district are working well together towards those common goals.

 For COVID-19 numbers, the week of May 3-9 saw eight confirmed cases among the student body with 40 close contacts. There were zero cases among staff. Although she said the 40 close contact number was a bit concerning, the district feels they are on the right path. “We’re doing everything we can to keep these kids in schools,” Paul said.

Hockey co-op OK’d
The North Branch boys hockey program will form a co-op next year with St Francis. The joint team will be called the Northern Edge Stars. Despite churning out some high level talent the past half decade, including an NHL player, and making it to the state tournament just a couple of years ago, North Branch found itself with a low number of players beyond upperclassmen this last year. They had seven seniors and eight juniors, but only three combined freshmen and sophomores, and they weren’t able to feature a junior varsity team.

St. Francis was in a very similar situation with 17 upperclassmen and only six combined underclassmen.

“It’s a tough reality that we just don’t have a large number of players in this cycle,” Activities Director Andrea Schmidt said. “And St Francis is in the same spot as us, so it’s a natural fit for a couple of years.”

Co-op agreements are required to be two years, and Schmidt said she is hoping it’s just a two-year cycle and then they can be back to an independent team. But, she said, in the meantime, this is a great fit as the youth programs between the two schools already are a joint operation and many of the players will have played together as children.

St. Francis, with the bigger enrollment, will be the host school, and they also have the home rink whereas North Branch doesn’t have a rink. Both teams were in Section 5A last year and could potentially move to Class AA this year with the combined enrollment. Schmidt said they were too early in the process to know that for certain.

Graduation and prom are both now on the calendar for the high school. Prom will be more of an end-of-the-year celebration as it will take place on Friday, June 11 with a combination of indoor and outdoor activities. Graduation will take place on Sunday, June 13 and will be held indoors in the gymnasium. Although not all the details were available at the meeting, Paul said they do have some fun and creative things in store for the event.

The draft of the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school calendars were approved unanimously. For more information on key dates, check out the calendars on the North Branch Area Schools website.

The next couple of weeks will be important for the school district as they will have a negotiation session with the North Branch Education Association on Wednesday, May 26, and the board will follow up with a work session on the next day.

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