The Waconia School Board is reaching out to former school board members and board candidates to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of John Weinand following charges of felony theft from a former employer.

The board agreed to the approach at its Sept. 13 meeting and invitations went out last week to 19 past board members and past candidates going back to 2016 with an application deadline of this Friday, Sept 24. The approach is consistent with board policy and is similar to the process used in 2020 following the resignation of a board member.

The intent is to bring an individual with interest and potential experience on board and up to speed as quickly as possible, board members noted. A selection is expected to be made at the board’s Sept. 27 meeting.

The individual chosen to fill the vacant position will serve at least through the current term which expires Dec. 31, 2022. The next scheduled school board election is fall 2022.

There was little mention of Weinand’s resignation at the last school board meeting, although board members did acknowledge his years of service. Superintendent Pat Devine also noted that board members, no matter what their capacity, do not have access to district funds.

COVID-19

As reported last week by the Associated Press, Minnesota schools are seeing increases in weekly coronavirus cases as students return to classrooms across the state. Waconia is no exception.

School District 110 had 26 confirmed student and eight confirmed staff cases through the first three weeks of school, and is tracking cases by school and grade level on dashboards which are posted on the district website.

While current levels are considered low, a spike of five cases in a Bayview Elementary fourth grade classroom pushed that class into quarantine and distance learning last week.

When a highly infectious classroom is identified, board members agreed that district administrators have the authority to employ focused mitigation strategies such as student and staff quarantine, and classroom mask wearing to slow down the spread of the virus.

The use of masks for the general school populace and visitors continues to be recommended, but is not required inside or outside District 110 facilities, although face coverings are required on all district-provided transportation.

Meanwhile, the fight over whether schools should require masks to help slow the pandemic shows no signs of dying down. Like many other districts across the state and the populace in general, the masked versus unmasked debate continued at the latest Waconia school board meeting with advocates for each position restating their case. The issue has drawn considerable attention and public remarks at the last three school board meetings.

In terms of vaccination rates, Devine reported that 72 percent of Waconia high-schoolers and 56 percent of middle-schoolers have been vaccinated.

District finances

The board at its latest meeting agreed to enlist a firm called Intellex Forensics Inc. to conduct a forensic financial audit. Board members determined earlier this spring to conduct the audit to evaluate discrepancies between preliminary and final budgets over the past few years, and to identify and address potential inefficiencies in the budget process.

A board committee evaluated several firms to perform the audit. It landed on Intellex at an estimated cost between $13,500-$23,000. The audit is expected to take three months to conduct.

The board also certified the district’s 2021 levy limit payable in 2022. That figure is $19.1 million, up from $18.5 million last year, and reflects increases in state aid, property valuations and number of pupils in the district, according to Finance Director Todd Swanson

In other business, the school board recognized several educators for professional accomplishments, including Essence Award winners at the district level, and accomplished educators, who are eligible for state teacher of the year honors. Those two candidates are Courtney LaTour, second grade teacher at Laketown Elementary and John Kelzer, industrial tech teacher at Waconia Middle School.

The board also agreed to use an application process to select student representatives to the board for the 2021-2022 school year. In the past, representatives were chosen from the high school student council. The new process is intended to gauge student interest, open up participation, and help students better understand the role of the school board.

Load comments