Milaca band director Andrew Nelson was recognized with the National Citizenship Education Teacher of the Year by Jim Tuorila of the St. Cloud VFW, Granite Post 428, at the Tuesday, June 18, meeting of the Milaca School Board.

Andrew Nelson didn’t get into teaching music for the recognition. 

The same is true for his passion of honoring those who have served in the United States military. That said, the Milaca band director was beyond humbled with the honor he was presented last week.

Nelson was recognized with the National Citizenship Education Teacher of the Year by Jim Tuorila of the St. Cloud VFW, Granite Post 428, at the Tuesday, June 18, meeting of the Milaca School Board.

The award is given to an educator who recognizes the importance of remembering veterans in their teachings.

The last time a teacher from central Minnesota won this award was 2001.

“Music has always been an important part of my life, music is an important part of a student’s life and also part of a veteran’s life,” said Tuorila, who first learned of Nelson’s approach while speaking at a district Veterans Day program a few years ago.

“What would Memorial Day be without the playing of taps? What would Memorial Day be without the playing of patriotic music in the background? I am proud to present this award to Andrew,” Tuorila said. “We need more instructors, whether it’s high school, elementary schools, band or choir, to be able to get up and recognize the veterans in our community. Because if we don’t do it, who is going to?”

Nelson first attended a VFW Commander’s Convention a few years ago at the state level and came away impressed at the veterans’ camaraderie.

It only furthered his interest in honoring them in his programs.

“I really didn’t know what (the convention) was at the time, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever been around,” said Nelson, who has taught band in Milaca for 15 years. “We all know veterans are terrific, but the camaraderie that they have — you can feel it and you can sense it. There were national post commanders there and they all know each other. They established that bond through their service.

Nelson said he really believes in what the district is doing regarding veterans.

“I’ve shared the concept of involving veterans with other schools and they’ve started adopting it, too,” he said. “It’s important to tell these kids what veterans have done, the more they’ll appreciate it. We get further and further all the time from the major conflicts because of what our military has done. The danger is if we forget, so we have to say what those things are and music is one way of doing that.”

Other Board Action

•Board Chair Jeff Larson reported there has been a tentative agreement on a new teacher’s contract. “I want to thank (board member) Rachelle Nelson for her work in leading our team,” Larson said. “Both sides gave. The meetings we had were productive and cordial to the end. I think it was a surprise to all of us that we were able to complete those negotiations rather quickly. That’s good news.” Superintendent Tim Truebenbach said not to expect the teachers to ratify the contract until mid-August, since they do not meet until then.

A contract for approval might be available in early September.

•Area Learning Center Director Steve Hammero presented a proposal that would allow Milaca to offer online classes to students on either a full- or part-time basis. Hammero said this in an option for students who no longer wish to attend Milaca schools and are instead thinking of attending online school, helping prevent them from leaving the district. It’s also an option for homebound and expelled students and would be available for any student in Minnesota — not just Milaca.

The board approved the submitting of the online school application, but would need further discussion if the application is approved before voting.

•The Buildings and Grounds Committee met on May 28 and approved bids from Johnson Controls to upgrade security in all school buildings. A new intrusion system will cost $46,000, and a new door security system will cost $72,000. The committee also approved a permanent 4-foot fence to be constructed around the football field at a cost of $4,000 to improve security and crowd control, Bryan Rensenbrink said. The other option would have been removable barricades, which Rensenbrink said would cost more and also would require more staff on-site.

•The board approved the fiscal year 2020 preliminary budget presented by business manager Robyn Vosberg-Torgerson. Projected enrollment is at 879 students in K-6, 835 in grades 7-12 and 60 in EC and ALC for a total of 1,774.

•The board approved a request for the robotics activity to be added to the C schedule of the teachers contract. Robotics was added to Community Education for students for the 2015-16 school year. It has been a Minnesota State High School League activity, with a state championship, since 2012. Previous compensation was 1%, or about $500. As a C schedule activity, compensation was approved at 5% for the current salary schedule, which will be about $2,500.

•The board approved a request for volunteer coordinator to be added to the C schedule of the teachers contract as a combined National Honor Society/volunteer. Damian Fish is the current coordinator. An increase from 1% to 4.5% was approved, bringing compensation to $1,677-$2,444. “There is a ‘serve’ component to National Honor Society that requires students to meet,” Milaca High School Principal Damian Patnode said. “The current NHS adviser currently supervises the Volunteer Club that was started this past school year. Combining these job duties would help streamline service opportunities and allow any student that wishes to earn service hours to do so.”

•Elementary Principal Steve Voshell said there are about 100 students currently enrolled in summer school and said attendance is holding at that number but added those numbers tend to decrease in July.

•Assistant Principal Jeff Meyer reported there were 18 out-of-school suspensions last school year and 65 in-school suspensions. In-school suspensions are not documented in a student’s file. Meyer indicated the biggest issues come in March, April and May.

•Community Education Director/Facilities Manager Bob Sumner said Meghan Hermanson is working on a variety of projects to utilize the courtyard, which has been sitting mostly vacant for several years. Sumner also said practices for “Seussical The Musical” have begun. The performances are set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 28, and 11 a.m. Saturday, June 29. Sumner said work on improving building security will begin in mid-July. Teachers and staff will now need badges to access the buildings, “which is a major change and the right step in building security.”

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