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School board reviews voter guide; Skid steer solution gets discussed

A voter guide was presented to members of the Wadena-Deer Creek school board for their review at their October meeting.

The guide, which was prepared by superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom and communications coordinator Dana Pavek, gives the reasons behind the Nov. 3 levy along with a sample ballot and facts about the referendum. The guide was mailed out to District 2155 voters last week.

Absentee votes have already been cast and absentee voters have been requesting applications for ballots. The lion's share of the vote will be cast at the Wadena Memorial Auditorium at 304 Dayton Ave. Southwest from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 3. Voters must be registered to be eligible for the vote but unregistered voters will be able to register at Memorial Auditorium.

The board also heard about an Instant Alert System which is on the way. The system will link parents, guardians and students with district administrators and faculty via telephone land lines at work and home and with their cell phones. Parents will be able to keep abreast of weather-related changes to school activities and food accounts. The administration will be able to use it to schedule student conferences. Teachers will employ it to alert parents of upcoming special projects or assignments for students. Coaches can use it to notify parents when they team busy will be back from a sporting event.

Food Service and Community Education director Sandie Rentz has ordered the alert system, technical coordinator Aaron Johnson is setting up the database for the instant alert system and training is scheduled to begin next week.

New contracts were approved for ECFE/Preschool teacher Annette Lillquist, paraprofessional EFCE/Preschool Linda Johnson and Brian Silbernick, the WDC activities director and math instructor who will be replacing Darin Carstens as head girls' basketball coach. Silbernick coached basketball at Big Lake before coming to Wadena.

Mike Kenney, head of the school's grounds department, expressed frustrations with a late hitch in the leasing agreement for a Case skid-steer loader to clear the 2 1/2 miles of sidewalks on school property. Business manager Jerry Anderson found mistakes with the wording of the lease agreement shortly before Monday's meeting and the lease was sent to the school's lawyers for their interpretation.

School board member Pete Hayes asked Dahlstrom for her recommendation in lieu of having a working snow removal unit.

"At this point I don't have a recommendation other than that we don't have the equipment," Dahlstrom said. "We'll have to fix what we have or rent from some individuals."

The school rented a skid-steer loader from Mark Stone Construction last winter and has been considering the question of buying, leasing and renting another loader. Because of the myriad of budget cuts over the last several years, the school board has been unable to upgrade the equipment that Kenney uses for keeping the sidewalks clear. The five-foot angle broom attachment for the eight-year-old front mount John Deere 1565 mower is completely worn out according to Kenney. The four-wheel drive unit in the mower, which is essential in removing snow, went out in the last snowstorm last spring. Kenney gave the board a price tag of $5,000 to repair these units, without labor costs on the broom, and a required repair time of 4-6 weeks, during which the district would have to rent another unit for snow removal.

Kenney estimates the mower has 4-5 more years of life left if it is used strictly for mowing.

"If I don't have the equipment to do my job, that's wrong," Kenney said.

Case supplied Kenney with a demonstration skid-steer with the broom attachment two weeks ago but the window for using the unit is closing and the broom may be sold. Schools normally have to trade snow removal equipment every five years. If approved by the school board, Kenney is looking at a 20-year life span on the Case skid-steer.

While the passage of the levy referendum is uppermost in the minds of the school board, Kenney believes the leasing of a skid-steer, which several neighboring school districts already do, is the best and most economical way for the district to go in snow removal.

"This is a win-win situation," Kenney said.

Realizing the importance of the snow removal situation, the board verbally agreed to schedule a special meeting once the language of the lease is clarified by the school's lawyers.

"It is very important that we have the correct legal advice," chairwoman Ann Pate said.