Houston School Board

Members of the Houston School Board are pictured here. From left to right: Mark Swenson, Arlin Peterson, Josh Norlien, Tom Stilin, Mimi Carlson, Gene Lundak and Richard Erdmann. 

By Jordan Gerard

Editor, The Caledonia Argus

The search is on for a new superintendent as the Houston School District will bid Superintendent Krin Abraham farewell at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

Abraham announced her retirement at the Jan. 21 board meeting, but it was not official until the board accepted her letter at its regular meeting on Feb. 11 (postponed from Feb. 4). The board approved starting a new superintendent search.

She notified the board in advance in order to allow sufficient time to search for a new superintendent. 

“I love this place, I love this district, but I need to be done,” she said at the Jan. 21 meeting. 

The board commended Abraham on her seven years of service to the district. Board member Arlin Peterson said she put a lot of effort into teaching and it was fun to be on staff with her. 

“Krin puts the same amount of effort and desire of what she wants to do here as she did in a teacher,” he said. “Krin stands up to her word ... she points out important knowledge that we must know from both perspectives. She’ll argue with us if she needs to.”

Abraham said she first stood up for what students need and ensured, “...this district is a place where every student wants to work and adults want to work.”

In her letter, she cited Houston Public Schools have made great strides in all aspects, from well-maintained buildings to curriculum that fits in-person or online learning and every student receives the “just right” instruction and implementing social emotional learning. 

Abraham said she’ll miss colleagues and students in the district, but added, “...once a Hurricane, always a Hurricane!”

Board members will also need to review the job description, as pieces were added to account for Abraham’s responsibilities outside of the normal superintendent parameters. The board can seek help from the Minnesota School Board Association to define the job description. 

COVID update

Abraham updated the board on the COVID case numbers. Houston County had the distinction of having the highest percent increase in the state of Minnesota recently, she noted. 

Zip code-wise, Houston is back to single digit case numbers with seven active cases. Two weeks ago, the local area ticked up to 10 cases, which was the first double digit number recorded since Dec. 24, 2020. 

Abraham added that if the zip code is back to single digits, that speaks well of the district staying in the current learning model. That is a 4-1 hybrid face to face, which means kids are in school four days a week and then one day with distance learning. 

The school district is also not required to do 50% occupancy on buses, but it is still recommended they follow that rule. 

Most on-site staff has received the first shot of the vaccine Thursday morning, Feb. 11. 

“I commend Houston County, Audrey Staggemeyer and Public Health at Houston County is doing a fantastic job,” Abraham said. 

Surrounding towns were also under 10 cases, with the exception of Caledonia. 

Scoreboard replacement

The school board discussed a replacement of the scoreboards in the high school gymnasium, as the boards were temporarily inoperative  in the middle of a game recently. The boards were installed in 1995. 

The estimated cost is about $10,000, depending on which model the board chooses. Activities Director Dale Moga said a few donors were willing to donate enough funds where the school’s portion would be reduced to about $4,000. 

Other news

The board approved the 2021-22 “loose” calendar for both on-site and Minnesota Virtual Academy school year. They did not discuss an option of half-day Wednesdays, as previously mentioned at the Jan. 21 meeting. 

The board accepted varoius donations for the weight room, COVID supplies, the Eagle Bluff Trip and funds to the library update project. 

The board also accepted Moga’s resignation as Activities Director. The board hired Catherine Ludowese as an MNVA Operating Engineers teacher, Rebecca Leither as the instructional trainer for Ludowese’s position, and Diana Pruka as an elementary school paraprofessional.

The board increased Dawn Kennedy and Robert Ralph’s contracts. 

Next meeting

The next meeting will be Feb. 18, at 6 p.m. in the high school library, via in-person and Zoom.

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