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Student says teacher ruined her band trip

After a senior student missed out on her band trip to Florida, one teacher now has a complaint filed against him or her and the family is asking for reimbursement from the Frazee-Vergas School District.

Because of data privacy issues, the teacher isn't being named.

Debra Renollet spoke Monday evening on behalf of her daughter at the regular Frazee-Vergas School Board meeting. Before being allowed three minutes in front of the board, Renollet had to go through the channels of talking to the teacher, principal and superintendent.

Renollet read in a sometimes unsteady voice her complaint against the unnamed teacher. She said her daughter had two goals for her senior year -- getting on the B honor roll and having fun. Renollet said her daughter is working hard to achieve the first one, but the second one of having fun is over and done with and the school is to blame.

For three years, her daughter has been looking forward to the band trip to Florida -- which occurred earlier this month. She had been earning money toward the trip and attending every required band concert.

After her daughter found out she was failing one class at midterm, she talked to the teacher to see what she could do to get her grade up in time for the band trip. The teacher gave her some assignments, which Renollet's daughter completed and handed back in.

Just days before the trip, Renollet's daughter stopped in to ask the teacher if she would be fine with her grade and able to attend the band trip. The teacher told her not to worry, she would be fine. The next day, the day before the band trip, the teacher failed her.

At the school board meeting, Renollet said she and her family is asking for about $600 for the cost of money her daughter had earned toward the band trip she never got to go on, and $250 in gasoline for the concerts and band events her daughter was required to attend.

While the board didn't give Renollet any answers, Chairman Dana Laine said, "A formal complaint has been filed against the teacher. Action will be taken against the teacher."

Also at the board meeting:

-- Elementary Dean of Students Troy Haugen said student enrollment at the elementary school is once again falling. Four families have moved out of the district.

"Financially, there are no jobs here," he said.

On a better note, though, kindergarten round-up for the 2008-09 year is looking better than anticipated. Haugen said there are for sure 65, with possibly more, kids signed up for kindergarten in the fall.

"That's a good number to be at," he said. "A year ago, we were talking in the 40s."

-- A change at the school will be teacher requests, meaning parents will no longer be able to pick and choose who their children will have for a teacher. Haugen said the requests were getting out of hand. Unless parents can give a "legitimate and educational reason" why their child should be placed in a certain class or not with a certain teacher, requests will likely be denied.

Reiterating what he had once heard, Haugen said, "We're not a shopping mall. We can't pick and chose who we want."

Besides being unfair to other students, Haugen said by requesting a certain group of kids always be together creates cliques.

"It creates social friction too," he said. In the end, this will be better for the children, he added.

-- Superintendent Deron Stender is suggesting the school board allow him to act as director of community education. Long-time community education director Sharyl Ogard is set to retire this summer and the school is looking for her replacement.

In a written summary for the board, Stender said he was contacted by the licensing board of Minnesota Board of School Administrators in regards to the posting of the position.

"The gist of the phone conversation was the MBSA is keeping a watchful eye on the district -- I suspect that the watchful eye is closer than St. Paul -- and how it handles this process," he wrote.

In order to get his community education licensure, Stender would need to complete three courses, which he said Monday night he intends to do, regardless of the board's decision. He plans to take the classes through Minnesota State University Moorhead.

Although it would take him one year to finish the coursework, he said he is eligible for a waiver so he could be given the title of community education director now, even though he doesn't have the licensure as of yet.

"This is to reduce cost," he told the board Monday night. He said his plan would be to hire someone to basically run the community education department and have him sign off on the paperwork, since he would be the one with the licensure. He added that he doesn't think it would add any, if only minimal, extra duties to his list.

He said with that being done, the board could look at other avenues of people they would want to hire for the community education position if they didn't need to worry about having someone with the licensure.

Board member Mike Hiemenz said his concern was that superintendents have a reputation for moving around, and if Stender decided to move, the district would be left with no licensure.

Stender said he anticipated that subject coming up and said he has a three-year contract with the district as superintendent and has no plans to leave in that time.

He added that even if the district were to hire someone else with a licensure, there's no guarantee that person would stay for a long period of time.

Board member Nancy Dashner also pointed out that if someone was hired to work under Stender, he could supervise them while they got their licensure and could take over the position.

-- The board voted unanimously to enter into a tax exempt lease-purchase financing agreement with McKinstry, the company that will replace the high school's boiler, do some water conservation work and possibly replace some roofing. The company may also work on the ventilation at the elementary school.

The company will replace the steam boiler with electric and fuel heating systems, and will change out some of the pipes, or "guts," of the water system to conserve water.

The project is estimated to cost $1.2 million, which comes from the Health and Safety Fund. Monies in the Health and Safety Fund are levied for and not voted on as a district.

The school opted not to replace windows in the high school because the payback wouldn't be that significant.

McKinstry will also look into replacing the ventilation system at the elementary school, which could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $3.3 million, depending on what work would be done. That work will be determined by the next school board meeting in May.