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Fourteen District 518 staff to retire

WORTHINGTON -- Fourteen longtime District 518 instructors will take advantage of the retirement incentive the school board approved last month, it was announced at Tuesday night's routine monthly board meeting.

Those with signed agreements to retire at the end of the 2012-13 academic year include Camilla Aker, Ron Vorwald, Mike Traphagen, Barbara Regnier, Patrick Shaughnessy, Clasine Lester, Sue Pennings-Witzel, Lana Grimmius, Sheryl Hoekstra, Denise Schlichte, Karen Weinandt, Jan Larson, Jeanette Varuska and Myrna Nystrom.

"We have great appreciation for all the work they have done for the Ddstrict," said Superintendent John Landgaard after the six board members present (Mark Shepherd was absent) voted unanimously to approve the retirement agreements.

Unanimity was the order of the night, as past meeting minutes, the consent agenda and all items on the main agenda passed without opposition.

Dave Skog, director of management services, said the District 518 budget was running according to plan, based on the monthly revenues and expenditures report.

"We continue to run ahead on revenues due to the shift repayment from the state, and our expenditures are at about 50 percent right now," Skog said.

Special education assessments coordinator Deb Stoll presented information on Minnesota's Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) licensure transition process, explaining ASD is one of 14 disability categories recognized under special education in 2013.

District 518 has approximately 444 special education students, Stoll said. If Worthington's averages are similar to those overall in the state, roughly 11.5 percent of local special education students are classified as ASD.

"Ten years ago that figure was 3.3 percent, so the incidence of ASD is growing," said Stoll.

Stoll explained that the increase in ASD-classified students inspired the Minnesota Department of Education to require new ASD licensure requirements, with existing special education teachers being given the opportunity to earn the new ASD license through a transition process that gives credit for experience.

"District 518 has 11 special education teachers interested in becoming licensed under this umbrella of opportunity, which closes on March 15, 2015," Stoll said. "Having 11 is fabulous, and our district will have a lot of support for ASD students at every level."

For ASD license transition eligibility, teachers must have held an up-to-date Minnesota teaching license for five years, be able to verify at least one year of specialized instruction with ASD students and have documented coursework or professional development aligned with ASD standards.

"They can get credit for things they already know and what they've experienced," Stoll endorsed.

"That's such a stark increase in the number of ASD students in such a short time," hoard member Steve Schnieder commented. " Is it due to better testing that more kids are identified, or is there a reason from a health standpoint?"

"That's a huge topic with many theories," Stoll replied. "There are lots of studies being done and much national and international interest."

Other business included the board approving Nate Hanson's status being upgraded to building principal level. Hanson, vice principal of the Alternative Learning Center, also oversees the after-school learning program and has added duties related to online learning opportunities.

A quote for a new special education van was also approved, and Skog requested that an old proofer food warmer from the Worthington High School (WHS) kitchen be declared surplus property so it could be disposed of.

The District 518 board also deferred a final decision on whether to build a new high school or simply renovate/add on to the existing WHS and build a new intermediate school until more detailed cost estimates and sites were available.

"Each option has costs, and pros and cons, but we can discuss that further either at a special meeting or at next month's board meeting," suggested Landgaard, who was then given permission to negotiate with a facilities consultant.

"We want to make sure it is the best decision for the students, and that we can have a sense of pride in whatever direction it goes," said Landgaard of the facilities question prompted by an expanding student population.

Landgaard also shared that he and Prairie Elementary Principal Josh Noble had met with representatives from local churches to discuss discontinuing the practice of release time for religious education.

"We had great attendance and a very good meeting, with some churches saying they might opt for Wednesday after school as a time for that," said Landgaard.

Landgaard is in negotiations for a piece of property for a potential bus terminal for the district, and said he would know more by next week.

Board member Brad Shaffer queried if there was any further information about a two-hour lockdown that occurred at WHS last Wednesday.

"It was merely precautionary, and the Worthington police and administrators on site deemed there was no immediate threat, so the day continued as normal," shared Landgaard.

Two items of interest on the consent agenda included the employment of Rachel Wills as WHS assistant girls softball coach and the appointment of Jorge Lopez as community representative to the Nobles County Integration Collaborative.

Other than a few District 518 administrators, no guests or visitors were in attendance at the meeting.

At the start of the meeting, Board Chair Linden Olson praised the following recent developments in District 518: the success of the WHS musical "Hairspray," directed by Jon Loy and Kerry Johnson; the success of the FFA meats team, with student members Carson Hagen, Turner Hagen, Trevor Wietzema and Kirsten Aljets, advised by Cody Dvorak and Randy Jacobs; the state qualifying performances of 13 WHS BPA members; and the selection of WHS seniors Elizabeth Luke and Gordy Moore as the school's 2013 Triple "A" award nominees. Additionally, Moore was selected Sunday night as the Region 2AA male Triple "A" nominee.

The next regular meeting of the District 518 board is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. March 19 in the Worthington High School Media Center.

For more information about recent proceedings of the District 518 board of directors, visit