February 26, 2015

 

District fined $15,050 for OSHA violation
ISD 2142 board hears report on ALI

by AJS

At the Feb. 23 board meeting for ISD 2142 held at the District Office in Virginia at 5 p.m., a thorough presentation by Roy Smith for Applied Learning Institute took up a large portion of the meeting. He is the Director of Education at ALI, which is in partnership with the IRRRB and local technical institutes.One million dollars was set aside by the State Legislature to ensure high school students can get skills training which translates into college credits, and trained talent that stays local for such entities as mining, health, paper/wood, energy and transportation. Businesses looking to set up in the area are making skilled workers available as their main priority.
With the area's aging population, upcoming retirees, and declining school enrollment, there are not enough workers to meet the growing demand for high-skilled, high-paid jobs. Applied Learning Institute has processed 8,000 students through its program, covering territory from Deer River to Silver Bay and International Falls to Floodwood. Northeast Minnesota has a 55 percent higher amount of technical graduates than the national average.
In the question/answer time, the concern about enough certified industrial arts teachers available came up. There is a dearth of qualified teachers, but there is a problem with State colleges which have such a certification program. ALI is even working with a Wisconsin campus for this need.
Next was the Superintendent's Report from Steve Sallee. His concerns fall into the legislative category. One issue is with what will be done in the transportation bill in education - watching if the miles to drive, especially here, match the funds allowed in reimbursements. He then gave the floor to Tom Cundy, ISD 2142 director of facilities and grounds, to discuss the water issue at Cherry.
The water is still considered "bad" even though chlorination of the line and "shocking" of the well were undertaken. A University of Minnesota lab did scoping of the line and found temperature changes (increase) at the 90-foot mark and at the 120-foot mark (out of 280 feet of pipe). This usually indicates a leak, and possible leaching in of surrounding materials which could taint the water. From the 101-foot mark to the 130-foot mark a five-inch pipe is inside the six-inch pipe. Most newer wells have a nine-inch pipe. The water flow is only 19 gallons/minute, while the Cherry city well, at more than 100 feet less in depth, has a 100-gallon/minute flow. The school was labeled "substandard" in 1980. The best, or only viable, option is to drill a new well; keeping a barrier between the two could allow the old well to pump only into the tower to cover the fire-fighting needs. With the board's approval to proceed into more research, mapping, and other steps, a geologist from the Minnesota Department of Health can now come to assess the safest, most effective site for it.
Cundy also reported on the OSHA inspection of three campuses. A few violations, including a poor electrical cord on a soda pop machine, brought about a combined fine of $15,050. However, two options were made available to the district. First is a 25 percent reduction in worker compensation claims to reduce the fine by 75 percent. Second is an automatic 30 percent reduction in the fines with no reduction in injury claims. As the district had only 21 claims for last year, one of the lowest reports, it can not be insured that claims could be reduced more (25 percent), and so the second option was approved. When asked, Cundy said all the schools study codes and go through mock OSHA inspections for practice, to be on top of potential hazards.
The financial report from Kim Johnson puts ISD 2142 in a higher ranking this year for funds on hand to expenses. Those extra funds may dwindle quickly with a new well for the Cherry School.
In other business, a used vehicle will be open for bids on the district's website. The 2000 Pontiac Bonneville has 228,000 miles. Though rated at a value of $100-150, two interested parties have offered $150-200. To avoid the appearance that district staff get favors, the car will be sold to the highest bidder on the website. The car still runs.
Members received their assignments to work with committees. One teacher's retirement (June 1, 2015) was accepted, two staff were terminated, some staff resignations were accepted, new coaches were hired and one dean of students was awarded a 0.1 FTE raise in rating.
Tabled was the ratification of custodian contracts due to a question over the language of water license payments. Until the board can meet with the union on the matter, no official action will take place.
Kim Jirik proposed a hike in the base pay for mentors. These are experienced teachers who assist first-time teachers, or new-to-the-district teachers for their first year here. Approval was granted.
The American Indian Advisory Board presented a resolution to the district with wording which caused concern that the district is portrayed as not meeting the needs of Native students, while much has been done in the last several years, and improvements are showing. This group has been joined by other leaders in the district, and will be an ongoing collaboration. The motion was not to accept the resolution as written, but to work to find wording which will accurately convey both groups' responsibilities and goals.


ISD 2142 board refunds bonds, saves taxpayers $1-1/2 million

By GDA

Taxpayers in the St. Louis County Schools District, ISD 2142, were saved $1,501,640.41 that they would have had to pay on the $78.9 million building bond referendum used to build and remodel their schools. The board, at a special meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 4, at 4 p.m. in the District Office, heard proposals from Ehlers on selling bonds at a lower interest rate for the $21,270,000 bonds. Interest rates are lower now, so by refinancing these bonds and paying off the original bonds, the district and its taxpayers will save a million and a half dollars in interest.
The motion was introduced by board member Gary Rantala of Babbitt and board member Bob Larson of AlBrook seconded it. It passed unanimously with all seven board members present.
The General Obligation Bonds will be Series 2015A with Ehlers selling the bonds.
The meeting adjourned at 4:30 p.m.


Minnesota's moose population remains at low levels

Data from the aerial moose survey just completed indicate that the downward trend in the statewide moose population continues, even though there has been no statistical change in the population during the past few years. Results of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' annual aerial moose survey place the 2015 statewide moose population estimate at 3,450. This compares with estimates of 4,350 in 2014 and 2,760 in 2013.
"All wildlife population surveys have inherent degrees of uncertainty," said Lou Cornicelli, DNR wildlife research manager. "Long-term trend and population estimates are more informative and significant than annual point estimates."
Overall, the number of moose is down approximately 60 percent from the 2006 estimate of 8,840. The DNR has conducted aerial moose population surveys in northeastern Minnesota since 1960. A spotter counts moose as a pilot flies a helicopter across 52 randomly selected plots of 13 square miles.
"Survey conditions this year were generally good across moose range, although there was much less snow compared to last year," said Cornicelli.
The DNR's ongoing moose mortality research project also is providing important information on population status.
"This year, 11 percent of collared adult moose died, as compared to 21 percent last year. Although adult mortality was slightly lower, which is good, the number of calves that survive to their first year has also been low," Cornicelli said. "This indicates the population will likely continue to decline in the foreseeable future."
The adult and calf moose mortality studies are in their third year. As part of several studies, researchers will radio collar an additional 36 adult moose in the next couple of weeks. Another 50 newborn calves will be collared this spring. Researchers hope information and insights gathered during the studies will help identify potential population and habitat management options that may stop or slow the long-term population decline.
Final decisions about moose hunting are made after the DNR consults with the affected Chippewa bands in the 1854 Treaty ceded territory of northeastern Minnesota. The DNR discontinued moose hunting in 2013 until the population could support a hunt.
The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the 1854 Treaty Authority contribute funding and provide personnel for the annual aerial survey. Most of the funding for the ongoing moose research project is provided by the Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).
A copy of the 2015 aerial survey is available online at www.mndnr.gov/moose. The Web page also provides information on the DNR's ongoing moose mortality research project.


 

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