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Placement major issue for board

Differences between parents and teachers over who knows youngsters best were the focus of a spirited discussion during Monday's meeting of the Blackduck School Board.

It was the second exchange of ideas that night, an earlier one touched off by the resignation of board member Mark Sparby and involving the method by which his successor would be chosen.

Sparby served 4½ years on the board and was re-elected to a second term last November. In a letter of resignation, he said his job here had been eliminated but he had subsequently found employment in Watford City, a North Dakota town in the heart of the current oil boom.

He called on the board to seek someone to fill his position from the ranks for past board members but comments from the audience and the board itself determined otherwise. One suggestion called for appointment of a runner-up in last fall's balloting and others asked if a special election was possible.

Citing advice from the Minnesota School Board Association, board chairman Dale Compton said the cost of a special election was another factor.

On a motion by Rachel Larson, the board agreed and directed Superintendent Robert Doetsch to advertise for applicants interested in appointment to the board. They will be asked to outline their reasons and background in a letter, with the final choice to be made by the board following interviews.

The person selected would serve until the next election in 2012.

Sparby had urged that a choice be made of "someone that has no hidden agenda and truly (has) the kids at heart. I feel that is how I voted and maybe I possibly made a few mad but let's face it, the board is meant for the kids and to make their school a better environment for them to learn and grow."

As a family man, Sparby said, he "could not handle being away from my family for a long period of time" and they have agreed to move to Watford City. His wife will work for the county, he told the board and two of their girls have already started school there. A third daughter will start her senior year in Watford City next fall.

The listing issue involves lists being prepared for elementary grades, placing students in a class with the teacher requested by the parent. At present the assignment is determined by Lorraine Warden, administrative assistant for the elementary grades. Teachers had requested that their input be considered as well.

The resulting discussion involved both parents and teachers, as well as board members who worried aloud that if a parent doesn't get a child in the class and with the teacher requested, will the parent just move the youngster out of the Blackduck School and go somewhere else.

Not likely, was the general reaction but it brought out further discussion as to how parents and teachers view a child. Parents know a child's interests but teachers also know how a youngster "fits in" in a group and interacts with others. Largely avoided was the desire to achieve a balance among special needs students so they do not all wind up in just one class for each grade.

Earlier the board had given first reading to a new policy regarding the use of restrictive procedures for children with disabilities.

Compton steered the issue of listing towards further discussion at the board's next meeting.

Accepting the advice of architect Jim Lucachick, the board agreed to a bid from a Detroit Lakes firm for installation of a new roof. It was one of only two bids received, Lucachick said, with several Bemidji firms saying it was "too large a job" for them.

The Herzog bid was below the half million dollar figure the board had contemplated. Work will begin in June and be finished before the start of school next fall.