By Jordan Gerard
Editor, The Caledonia Argus
Houston School District’s new superintendent Mary Morem attended her first school board meeting on Thursday, July 15.
Morem is familiar to the area, having previously worked for Caledonia School District as principal. After moving away to take on roles at other schools, including Jackson County Central and Triton Public Schools, she has returned to Houston.
She’s already gotten a jump start on the job, meeting with several staff and committees, communicating with former superintendent Krin Abraham and talking to parents.
At the school board’s regular meeting, Morem reported the board received a public comment from a parent new to the district, who asked about transportation for preschool age kids.
Covid-19 cancelled the availability of preschool transportation, and with current guidance from the state, kids will need to wear masks on public transportation. Morem said more guidance would be coming from the state.
Onsight instructional coach
A topic previously discussed by the board and tabled twice, Morem said “instructional coaches are very valuable,” but did not have enough insight of Houston yet to decide if the district needs one.
“It’s very critical whoever we decide to hire, they relate to all grade levels,” she said, noting that would be a unique hire. Instructional coaches are able to help teachers connect curriculum with state standards. The board did not take action.
Wednesday early outs
The board discussed early outs on Wednesdays during the school year, but has tabled it twice. Morem said she is a supporter of early outs and noted that her previous school, Jackson County Central, partnered with churches and community groups to provide opportunities for kids after school. During that time, teachers and paraprofessionals would have professional learning communities.
So far, an early release time of 2:30 p.m. has been tossed around, in order to provide extra help to kids who need it and for the district to close the gap opened by Covid-19. At the May 20 meeting, high school principal Michael Mangan said about 20% of high school students need extra help and extra time.
The board agreed an early out could be a solution, but also mentioned that parents should be brought on board before decisions are made.
Morem also advised using paraprofessionals and Hiawatha Valley Education District resources and outside sources to help kids. Board member Mimi Carlson said the district advisory council could help with that decision. The board did not take action on the matter.
As typical for superintendents, Morem was appointed the Individual Official with Authority (IOwA) and authorized for wire transfers.
The board approved two memberships with Southeast Service Cooperative, one for professional development and one for employee assistance program. They also approved membership to the Minnesota Rural Education Association.
The 10-year Long-Term Facilities Maintenance Plan was approved for FY23.
The board accepted several donations, all for prom. Ronald and Rae Evenson for $350, Larry Jerviss, Steven and Holly Westby, John and Nicole Evenson and Jerome and Sharon Knudsen, all for $100.
Finally, the board approved its second quarter pay. They also noted the district website had been updated.
The next meeting of the Houston School District is Aug. 5, at 6 p.m. in the high school library.