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Public meetings set for input on facilities plan

The time has come for residents of the Cloquet School District to offer their input and advice on the district’s facilities plan. At Monday’s meeting of the Cloquet School Board, the Board formally set a public meeting date of Monday, Jan. 27, for a presentation on the plan to interested members of the community.  The meeting will be held in the high school cafeteria beginning at 7 p.m.

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This will be the first of four public meetings, each of which will build upon the input received from the previous meetings and will assist the Board in finalizing a plan to take to the public for approval.

“The District values and needs public input and support during this planning process,” wrote District Superintendent Ken Scarbrough in a letter to residents, “so three additional meetings have been scheduled. These meeting dates are all on Mondays — Feb. 10, March 3 and March 31.”

As part of its annual meeting Monday night, the Board retained the same slate of officers it has had for the last several years.

Gary Huard, who was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting, was re-elected as board chair for 2014, with Duane Buytaert serving as secretary and Dan Danielson as treasurer.

The board also voted to give a modest raise to its stipend for the coming year. Board members had received $40 per meeting and/or $160 per month in addition to mileage for their service. Board members voted 5-0 to increase that figure to $50 per meeting and/or $200 per month.

“It’s been about 10 years since the board received any kind of a raise,” Scarbrough noted during discussion on the measure.

Board member Dave Battaglia noted that Hibbing, which has a school district of similar size to Cloquet’s, pays its board members $300 per month.

In other news, the board renewed Scarbrough’s contract for a term of three years, running until 2017. The agreement calls for Scarbrough to receive a 1.5 percent raise in the first year of the contract, with future increases negotiated with the board. The 1.5 percent figure is the same amount received by district teachers. The terms of the new agreement allow for a re-opening of the contract should the Affordable Care Act make it necessary from a financial standpoint.

The board also tabled a request from Fond du Lac School Superintendent Michael Rabideaux to revise a 1990 agreement between the districts that allows Native American students to participate in all activities sponsored by either school. The agreement is one of a handful in Minnesota that allows Native American students to switch schools freely for athletic and extracurricular purposes.

Prior to the meeting, board members discussed a letter written by Rabideaux, noting that the purpose of the original agreement was to “encourage extracurricular involvement for American Indian students in a joint effort to improve attendance and graduation rates.”

However, board members noted that students moving back and forth between Cloquet and Fond du Lac had raised eyebrows among other Section 7A schools.

“There are students in Cloquet that are playing basketball at Fond du Lac, and Fond du Lac students played football in Cloquet,” said Battaglia, a former high school football and basketball coach.  “Despite the intent of the agreement, there are people saying that doesn’t make Fond du Lac a Class A school because they can draw from Cloquet.”

On the surface, the agreement would seem to run afoul of Minnesota State High School League eligibility rules, which require a year’s hiatus from activities for students changing schools, but the 1990 agreement was reviewed and approved by the League.

However, Scarbrough also noted that a copy of the original 1990 agreement could not be located in district offices, and board members asked to see it before voting.

Scarbrough also said he wanted a working definition of “Native American” as it pertained to the agreement to ensure it was applied accurately, and that the district was working with Fond du Lac officials to make one. The board may revisit the request at its Jan. 28 meeting – rescheduled from the prior night due to the facilities presentation.