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Bemidji School Board: New principals join district

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji School Board welcomed a new elementary principal to the district Monday evening as it also reconnected with a former teacher now hired as the new assistant principal at Bemidji High School.

Jason Lutsik, a native of Mahnomen who most recently was an elementary principal in the Staples-Motley School District, has been hired as the Lincoln Elementary principal.

Ranae Seykora, who from 1998 to 2009 taught in the Bemidji School District, also serving as a diving coach, has returned to the district, now as an assistant principal at Bemidji High School.

Both hires, effective Aug. 12, were unanimously approved by the board.

"We're excited to have you," said School Board Chairman John Pugleasa. "Thank you and we're excited to see your contributions."

The board met Monday evening in its final regular meeting before the 2013-2014 school year begins, approving, among numerous actions, a joint powers agreement authorizing a three-week exchange program for eight Chinese middle school students and formalizing its consensus on actions expected to result in nearly $600,000 in savings for local property taxpayers.

New principals

Both new principals were introduced to the board as Superintendent Jim Hess said they were the top applicants for their respective positions.

Before serving as an elementary principal in Staples-Motley, Luksik, who received his bachelor's degree from the University of North Dakota and master's degree from Moorhead State University, worked as a third- and fourth-grade teacher and a superintendent/principal at Pine Point Public School in Ponsford, Minn.

"It was a pleasure meeting this young man, visiting with him and interviewing him," Hess said. "He really stood out among all the applicants."

Appearing before the board, Luksik said he and his wife are both Mahnomen natives.

"Bemidji's a great place. I came here a lot as a kid," he said.

Further, he said, as he researched the school district, focusing specifically on Lincoln Elementary and its school plan, he was impressed by the school and its goals.

Seykora, who received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Bemidji State University, previously taught kindergarten, fifth- and sixth-grade in the Bemidji School District, having served as a teacher at J.W. and Central elementaries and Bemidji Middle School.

"She did a marvelous job for us (then) and we're just delighted to have her back among District 31 employees," Hess said. "She nailed the interview. She just rose to the top immediately and was the unanimous choice."

Most recently, Seykora served as an elementary principal in the Grand Rapids School District.

Speaking before the board Monday, Seykora said her return to the district thus far has been "phenomenal" and she is enjoying reconnecting with families and students.

"It's really fun to be back and see the familiar faces," she said.

Chinese exchange

The school board also authorized an agreement with Bemidji State University and the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities that will allow for eight Chinese students to complete a three-week immersion program in Bemidji Middle School.

The students, staying with host families, will attend BMS from Sept. 3-20.

"This is really a very first step in what we hope to be a long and prosperous relationship," said Chris Leinen, director of business services.

Hess, noting that similar exchanges have occurred through programs such as the Rotary, said BSU approached the school district as it networked with its own Chinese colleagues.

Initially, the idea was to offer an exchange for middle and high school students, but the program was scaled back for the initial year and will be reviewed upon its completion.

"Hopefully, (we will) build on success over time," Hess said.

2014-2015 finances

The board indicated its consensus to allow legislative changes to occur that are expected to result in a decrease of nearly $600,000 in its local property tax levy for the 2014-2015 school year.

According to the district, legislative changes should result in $591,715 in savings, thanks to new formulas approved in the last legislative session.