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Two new Verndale school board members seated

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Scott Veronen and Jeremy Schwartz took their chairs for the first time Monday night as the District 818 school board kicked off the New Year.

The Verndale High School graduates were elected to the board in November. Veronen is the manager of the Burger King in Staples. His wife Jennifer teaches kindergarten at Verndale and they have a child attending Verndale Elementary. Schwartz is a consultant with Alexandria Technical College. The two new school board members took the oath for a four-year term along with board veteran Bill Blaha and promptly waded into Monday's large slate of new and old business.

The question of buying a new mini-van or a used one with 26,000 miles to replace the school's 2002 Ford Windstar van was debated at length. Superintendent Paul Brownlow gave the board all the information he had on the two options. Chairman Marcus Edin made a motion that Brownlow take the new van option, a Dodge Grand Caravan, and make the best deal he could. The asking price of the Dodge van is $20,186. Board member Tony Glenz asked Brownlow to inquire about a quicker delivery date, which Brownlow had been told would be 6-8 weeks.

Verndale was chosen to receive a $200,000 technology grant in December 2009 and has hired Sandie Cottrell at .50 FTE for 18 months to serve as the technology integration specialist. According to Brownlow, the school will eventually have 30 Eno White Boards. Cottrell's job will be to get new technology up and running and aid teachers in improving their technology skills and incorporating them into their lesson plans.

The board floated a bid for a $5,000 Minnesota State High School League Foundation Grant to improve leadership skills among the student body.

"We're hoping to promote leadership," Brownlow said. Grant money would be used in a variety of ways but one idea that Brownlow likes is senior trading cards that younger students could earn and pass between themselves in a concept similar to trading baseball cards.

The application stated that according to economic statistics, Verndale has the highest poverty rate of Wadena County's four major communities. Sixty percent of Verndale students receive free or reduced lunch. Of the 465 students in the building, 48 percent are open enrolled and 18 percent are special education students. The grant would potentially serve all 215 of Verndale's high school students.

A school calendar for the 2010-11 year has been set and a total of 181 days were adopted for teacher contracts. The staff will report Aug. 31. Students will have 173 days of school with classes beginning Sept. 7. The final day of school will be June 1.

The board directed Brownlow to do a four-month projection of the school's food costs in the face of possible state aid delays. District 818 had an unappropriated fund balance of $1,226,626 which makes it eligible for state aid payment delay, under a state statute, of up to $875,498 for the months of March, April and May.

The board hired four coaches. Kathy Zacharias will be the new speech coach, Dan Johnson will be the varsity softball coach, Matt Parker will serve as the varsity baseball coach and Chris Bounds will be the C-team boys' basketball coach.