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Chisago Lakes Schools

home : schools : schools
February 3, 2023

12/30/2022 10:33:00 AM
Mark Leigh finishes 32 year tenure as school board member
by JEFF NORTON


After 34 years on the board and over two decades as the board chair, Mark Leigh gaveled his last Chisago Lakes School Board meeting Tuesday, December 20 after not running for re-election in November.

The meeting started a bit later than expected as it was snowed-out on Thursday, December 15 and rescheduled to the following Tuesday night.

Dani Strenke also was taking part in her last meeting after 11 years on the board. She also chose not to run for re-election this fall.

Sarah Aadland’s tenure came to an end by vote totals,  after being appointed a year and a half ago when Melissa Donovan resigned.

“It is a special evening tonight to honor these three board members who were here for the school district,” Superintendent Dean Jennissen said.

Incoming board member Cory Spencer signed up for public forum and thanked the three board members for their service. He shared some memories he had, as he worked with them through the district at times.

Leigh also took a moment to state, “I just wanted to thank a bunch of people. My wife for putting up with me and as well as being great support. My family too. There were times years ago when I thought why I am doing this, but I think that once you commit, it’s something we’re trying to do for the betterment of everyone. There’s many people I’ve met and it’s been a real joy to be on this board. We’ve had great administrators, superintendents and great staff and everyone who makes this run. I’m just thankful to have been a part of that.”

Leigh thanked the board members — Lori Berg, Strenke, Aadland, Brenda Carlson and Jeff Lindeman — individually for their hard work and all they’ve provided over the years. He also thanked former members  and administrators Heide Miller, Joe Thimm, Noel Stensrud, Wade Carlson and Jerry Vitalis for everything they had provided him during his tenure.

“I’m proud of a lot of things I’ve done on this board,” Leigh said, fighting off tears. “I’m really thankful I’ve been a part of being able to form the vision here. I think that’s something we’re all very proud of.”

Jennissen alluded to the state’s budget surplus and how that could affect the district. “There’s lot of optimism as to how this will all go for public schools, and hopefully that will ring true,” he said. “The majority of that would be one time money. But there are some key things we need in the district that we want to be able to communicate and we want to get that info to board members and community members to get to our legislators and let them know what is needed at Chisago Lakes School District.

During his superintendent update, Jennissen also noted that there has been growth at the Wildcat Community Center and there are now 3,240 active members at the WCC with over 55,000 check-ins since the beginning of 2022.

There were some cost increase proposals at the meeting for childcare within the district, but Jennissen thought it be best to vote on the potential increase in January when the three new members are sitting. The proposal included Little Wildcat Preschool rate for the 2023-24 year going from $267 per month to $274 per month for Monday-Friday AM/PM. Monday, Wednesday, Friday rates would go from $160 to $164 and Tuesday and Thursday rates would go from $107 to $110 per month.

Kid’s Club would go from $39 per day to $42 per day and part time Kids Club would be an increase of $4 from $41 to $45.

“This came with a lot of discussion and thought,” Community Education Director Dan McGonigle said. “We recognize the burden these increases represent for families. However, when looking at the data, we believe we will still be priced in such a way as to make it fair for our families, while still being able to sustain the program.”

“Obviously the cost of everything has gone up and it’s a challenge for everyone right now,” Jennissen said.

He then directed any of the board members and future members with follow up questions to ask McGonigle.

Board member Jeff Lindeman asked how Kids Club salaries are determined and when told that they are part of collective bargaining, he asked McGonigle, “So the increases are going to other costs besides paying your employees? The cost increases are to pay for what things?

McGonigle said he was factoring in some salary. “I would suspect if a bargaining unit comes back with higher wage request, that’s certainly factored in to that number.”
He said that when coming up with the increases, the numbers were in relation to “a lot of different factors, including salary.”

The board did have a Superintendant Search Process topic on their agenda since Jennissen announced his upcoming resignation since the last meeting, but much like the Kids Club cost increase, the discussion was tabled until the January meeting so the three new board members could be a part of the process.







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