Northfield School Board, Observer Report

Northfield Public Schools, School Board Meeting

By Connie Martin, Observer, League of Women Voters

May 22, 2023

1. Call to Order, 6:00 p.m. by Board Vice-Chair Corey Butler. All present except Board Chair Claudia Gonzalez-George.

2. Agenda Approval/Table File, approved as presented

3. Public Comment – none

4. Announcements and Recognitions

Dr. Deb Hinton, Director, Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA), honored Dr. Hillman as their Superintendent of the Year. She also presented a $1000 scholarship for Dr. Hillmann to give to a deserving student of his choice.  

Robert Coleman recognized Northfield’s early education staff for their successful fundraiser last week.

Ben Miller thanked the Legislative Action Committee for its advocacy work with the Minnesota legislature.

5. Items for Discussion and Reports

A. Policy Committee Recommendation – Policy 516 needs to be changed to allow nurses to keep and distribute acetaminophen or ibuprofen with parental permission. Questions: Jenny Nelson asked if aspirin should also be included; Dr. Hillmann will check with school nurses. Amy Goerwitz noted that aspirin can be dangerous for some children. Ms. Nelson also asked whether nurses will keep written track of students and dosages; Dr. Hillmann said yes. Mr. Coleman asked about revising this policy to include naloxone, since it was just approved in other changes last board meeting; Dr. Hillmann will check on that.  

B. School Handbook Transition – Updating to be online and more user-friendly, and will also make it so that each handbook doesn’t need to be board-approved annually. Some topics will require annual approval, including for example discipline or activity fee structure. Questions: Ms. Goerwitz asked about non-English-speaking families. Dr. Hillmann said there has long been a Spanish translation; there are not enough users of other languages to warrant full translations of each. Speakers of other languages can be directed to a translating website.

C. Superintendent Operations and Strategic Plan Update – Last week he reviewed applications for the district’s “Grow Your Own” grant, received from Minnesota Department of Education in 2022. This grant can be distributed as scholarships to four Northfield Teaching Fellows from the BIPOC community for a teacher professional preparation program. Together with the Healthy Community Initiative, they approved four new applicants. After leveraging all other financial aid, they can receive up to $2500 for financial aid; they will also receive advising support, living expenses cost up to $1000/year, and connection with a mentor teacher. Recipients this year are Xochitl Oaxaca, Ana Marquez Gatton, Ana Gallego, and Lupema Celis Castillo. All are associated with the Northfield School District.

2023 Legislative report: Dr. Hillmann described the session results as sweeping positive changes, the most consequential session since the Minnesota Miracle in the 1970s. Finance: The basic funding formula will be indexed to inflation for the first time. This will allow for better planning and more financial certainty. The new law will also allow a one-time renewal for operating levies without a new election (same terms and conditions). The special education cross-subsidy will be funded at 44% ($1.7 million additional funding for Northfield for next year). Curriculum: New screening process for literacy, also involving the University of MN to do follow-up and research. Three new requirements at secondary level: personal finance class, civics in 11th or 12th grade, ethnic studies grades K-8, offered in high school. Policy: Hourly school employees will be eligible for unemployment in the summer (paraprofessionals, nutrition workers). Other policy changes include (1) implementation of paid family leave system, (2) changes in requirements around student discipline. They are waiting to see exactly how those will be implemented. Dr. Hillmann thanked board members and members of the community who advocated for legislative action.

Questions: Ms. Goerwitz appreciates the 2% floor on indexing to inflation. Mr. Butler asked about the timing of curriculum changes; Dr. Hillmann replied that will be 2024-25 (not next year). He also asked about how paid family leave will be implemented and paid for. Dr. Hillmann replied that since Northfield has already had paid leave, we will see how Northfield will be impacted by this new legislation.

6. Committee Reports

Mr. Coleman reported on the Legislative Action Committee, which has met every other Saturday mornings, with 18-20 people each week. This year the committee concentrated on school funding. Members advocated with legislators (phone, letters, emails). The result has been positive change – local efforts made a difference. Mr. Miller suggested that people who are watching this meeting thank their legislators for progress.

7. Consent Agenda – approved (see board packet file for more detail: )

8. Items for Individual Action

A. iPad Lease Agreement – approved unanimously

B. Girls Swim and Dive Cooperative Sponsorship with Arcadia Charter School, as presented at last board meeting – approved unanimously

C. Dissolution of Boys Cooperative Sponsorship with Randolph Public Schools, as presented at May 8 board meeting – approved unanimously

D. Policy Committee Recommendation, including four as presented. (Policy 810 on energy and building management was not included because of feedback from community.) Approved unanimously.

E. FY24 Activity Fee Rates, as presented at May 8 board meeting. Mr. Miller expressed gratitude for feedback and support of community. Approved unanimously

F. Proposed 2023-24 Budgets, all funds. Mr. Butler thanked board members, administrators, community members, and Finance Director Val Mertesdorf for their work. Recognized the difficult cuts in programming, and that the final result is a balanced budget. Ms. Mertesdorf made comments, 2 items are different than were presented: fund balance percentage has been updated to new calculations. The special education cross subsidy is not yet included. Approved unanimously.

9. Items for Information – Enrollment report for May 2023: School enrollment numbers are stable.

9. Future Meetings

A. Monday, June 12, 2023, 6:00 p.m., Regular Board Meeting, Northfield District Office Boardroom

B. Monday, July 10, 2023, 2023, 6:00 p.m., Regular Board Meeting, Northfield District Office Boardroom

C. Monday, August 14, 2023, Regular Board Meeting, Northfield District Office Boardroom

Mr. Butler announced the Alternative Learning Center graduation 6 p.m. Friday June 2, Middle School Auditorium; and Northfield High School graduation, 2 p.m. Sunday June 11, Memorial Field. 

10. Meeting adjourned at 6:53 p.m.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s