Public comment change proposed; superintendent search firm retained

The Lakeville Area School Board had a regular meeting for the first time in over a year with a full board, as newly-appointed Board Member Robin Richards joined the other five members.

During the meeting, the board carried over three of its four officers from 2021 into 2022 with Judy Keliher as chair, Terry Lind as vice chair and David Anderson as clerk. Richards was installed as treasurer.

The board also conducted a wide range of other business, such as having the first reading of a policy that would move public comment to the end of School Board meeting, extending the lease on its district office site another five years, retaining a firm to help it conduct a search for a new superintendent, and tabling a policy with regard to masking and vaccinations for employees.

Following is a recap.

Public comment

The School Board heard a first reading of Policy 203, which sets forth several board meeting procedures, that proposes to move public comment during the board’s regular business meetings from near the front of the agenda to the end.

The change is being considered in an effort to have the regular meetings conducted with the level of decorum of a business meeting, Richards said.

In the past year, public comment time at school board meetings in Lakeville, the south metro, and across the country have featured tense moments with people airing grievances about masking, equity education, and racism. The input has led to many instances when the public has been reminded to keep comments respectful, and in some cases across the country, meetings had to be shut down due to shouting and threats.

Richards said the board wants to hear from residents at its public comment time, but also retain decorum.

The second reading of the policy change will occur at the Jan. 25 meeting when approval will be considered.

Last year, the board considered moving public comment to a special time outside the regular business meeting, but it never put it to a formal vote. The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District has held such listening sessions for several years, and the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District started having listening sessions in 2021. A designated public comment time during regular school board meetings is not required by law.

New lease

The School Board extended its lease at the Lakeville Office Building, 17685 Juniper Path, five years starting July 1 and agreed to monthly base rent increases of 2% annually.

The monthly base rent from July 2022 to June 2023 will be $11,548 for the 7,846 square feet in the building known as Juniper Commons. The rent would increase to $12,500 a month in the 2026-27 fiscal year.

The building is owned by Woodbury-based MSB Holdings-Lakeville LLC.

The original lease started May 15, 2017, when the district office was moved from the building it owned near downtown Lakeville due to lack of space and building issues.

The new district office space includes the School Board meeting room, other small meeting rooms, and space for administrative offices including those for Teaching and Learning, Business Services, Human Resources and more.

Superintendent search

The School Board retained the services of Illinois-based School Exec Connect for a base cost of $18,900 for consulting services, as the district looks to replace Superintendent Michael Baumann when he retires after the end of the 2021-22 school year.

School Exec Connect will conduct focus groups with stakeholders and create a districtwide survey to create a “superintendent profile” to be used in screening candidates. The company will recruit, screen, interview and present a slate of vetted candidates to the board.

As part of the contract, if the selected superintendent candidate leaves the district for any reason within 24 months, School Exec Connect will conduct a new search at no additional cost, except for expenses. It also says it will not recruit the placed candidate for the duration of the new superintendent’s first two contracts.

Policy tabled

A policy with regard to District 194 employee masking, COVID-19 testing and vaccinations was tabled at the request of administration during the Jan. 10 meeting.

Board Member Kathy Lewis raised some concerns that tabling the policy beyond a federally mandated deadline of Jan. 10 would expose the district to Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement action.

Board Member David Anderson said that OSHA would not commence enforcement of the policy until Feb. 9 due to the uncertainty of the constitutionality of its provisions, which are being reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard expedited oral arguments Jan. 7 related to judicial stays facing two federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The new emergency temporary standard took effect Monday, according to the National Law Review. As of Wednesday, no Supreme Court ruling had been issued.

The new standard requires employers of 100 or more employees, including school districts, to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or require unvaccinated employees to test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis and adhere to face covering requirements. Employers are being required to implement and an enforce a policy that complies with the federal standard.

Board members could next consider the policy at its Jan. 25 meeting.

Tad Johnson can be reached at tad.johnson@apgecm.com.

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