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Parents surveyed on four-day week

Bob Stroeing was sworn in as the new Blackduck School Board member. Board secretary Cynthia Nord administers the oath at the start of the board's Oct. 12 meeting. Stroeing replaces Pat Brown whose resignation was accepted at a special meeting two weeks ago.

An informal poll to determine the acceptance of the new four-day school week in Blackduck began with questionnaires to parents.

"Initial reaction has been mostly positive," Lorraine Warden told the school board at its meeting Monday.

She said youngsters in the lower grades are often "tired, but getting used to it," and that the survey will cover both elementary and high school family's reaction.

Superintendent Robert Doetsch said the survey is probably too soon for an accurate gauge of the degree of success in the change to the new schedule, however, by the end of the calendar year, a better assessment will be made.

The board met in closed session following the open meeting to consider items including a request for mediation asked for by the local teacher's union, presumably including an increase in salaries despite reduced working days and a drop in enrollment.

Doetsch said the total student count is down 14 from at the same time a year ago, but that not all the decrease in the number of students is because of the schedule change.

Board member Larry Zea commented that the loss of seven students from one family group alone means a loss of more than $63,000 in state aid. Board members said privately that the switch sending those youngsters to Northome was for private reasons and not because of the four-day week.

Moving quickly through a full agenda that preceded a closed session to discuss financial matters including a possible bond referendum, continuing wage and salary negotiations, the board nevertheless devoted a large portion of its meeting to football.

Athletic Director Theresa Rabe and varsity football coach Jesse Hickman briefed the board on meetings dealing with the football conference and scheduling. There was again extended discussion among board members, climaxing with approval of a motion by Grant Mistic to pursue returning to the 11-man conference to which Blackduck previously belonged.

A major objection to the present conference membership was the scheduling disparities resulting in more extensive travel time and pitting larger schools against weaker teams.

The board directed Doetsch and the staff to investigate improvements to the school's track facilities and seeking grant money from the Minnesota High School League for extracurricular activities.

A request from parent Jolene Cornell for kindergarten teacher's assistance was also heard during the meeting.

"If they could just have help for an hour or so every day," she asked the board, prompting Doetsch to acknowledge that Blackduck's special education students are growing in numbers.

Treading carefully with "political correctness," the board was told a number of those in kindergarten are from special education classes and that teachers must balance the line between the slower learners and those whose attention is lessened by boredom while waiting for others to catch up.

Board member Mark Sparby spoke for others on the board when he said, "Something has to be done to help all these kids."

Backed by high school principal Wendy Templin, Rabe said she will investigate having qualified high school students help out where possible.

In other action, the board approved rehiring Nancy Sydow as the ECFE para-professional, Kari Slindee as assistant speech coach and Andra Vaughan as the wrestling cheerleading advisor.

It was directed that the school advertise for a long term substitute teacher in Spanish and English-as-a-Second-Language.