School building names adding hyphens


Staples-Motley Elementary Schoool

Motley-Staples Middle School

Staples-Motley High School

These are the names of the Staples Motley School District buildings unanimously approved by the school board at their May 16 meeting.

Also approved on a split vote was the addition of a hyphen between the town names.

Superintendent Mary Klamm and the administration team suggested the renaming of the school buildings as part of the process of realigning the grade levels. Beginning this fall all elementary students in grades K-3 will attend school in Staples, a middle school with grades 4-7 will be in Motley and grades 8-12 will be in the high school building.

In addition to improving student achievement the administration hopes that realigning the grades and renaming the buildings will help build a sense of unity within the district instead of the divisiveness that they believe is present now. 

Transition teams of school staff, parents and students have been formed for each building to facilitate the moves. One of their tasks was to solicit building names and submit up to three suggestions to a super transition team. That team reviewed the options.

High school student Sara Oberlander, a member of the super transition team, presented the recommendations at the board meeting. Keeping the town names was overwhelmingly supported in the transition team discussions. She noted that the location of the school building determined which town name was listed first. 

Oberlander also said the high school students in particular wanted to add the hyphen to make the name grammatically correct.

“If you ask Ms. Sharp, she would say we need the hyphen,” Oberlander said, referring to one of the high school English teachers. 

Board member Bruce Lund, who also was on the super transition team, said the students in the buildings wanted to keep things as they are.

Board member Roy DiGiovanni was on the school board during the consolidation of the Staples and Motley School Districts. He said there was significant discussion at the time and the consensus was to not have a hyphen so it would be one name with no division.

Board member Chad Longbella remembered that was the agreement at the time to show no separation, but he felt that, as a school, they should be grammatically correct.

The motion to add the hyphen passed with DiGiovanni as the sole dissenting vote.

“We will change things as we go along as needed,” Klamm said. 

In other business,  the board:

o Did not approve the audit bid of Clifton Larson Allen as recommended by the finance committee. Mayer, Porter & Nelson, Ltd., of Staples has been the auditor in recent years. Board member Bryan Winkels said they had no problems with the Staples firm, but felt perhaps another set of eyes on the books would be beneficial. In addition to being the low bid, Clifton Larson Allen specializes in school finance. After more questions the board was split 3-3 on awarding the bid. The board will discuss the matter further at the June 6 work session.

o Approved without comment a paid leave of absence for Tom Riitters, middle school principal, until the end of the school year when his resignation, which was accepted at last month’s meeting, is effective. Notice was recently received that the Board of School Administrators has suspended Riitters’ principal license until the end of the school year. Riitters is on probation from Wadena County District Court for an embezzling incident that took place when he was employed by the Verndale School District.

o Heard the results of a communications survey conducted by J & J Solutions on behalf of the district. Sara Dregney said she was pleased with the response rate of five percent. She noted that the community is divided between those who have access to the internet and those who don’t. That division needs to be considered as the district develops communication options with residents. Over 80 percent of the respondents found the Cardinal Chronicle useful and appreciated the inclusion of the calendar, although they would like to see it earlier.

o Approved the cancellation of the marketing contract with J & J Solutions because of a change in the company’s structure. Sara Dregney, one of the owners, is moving out of the area.

o Approved a resolution to award refunding bonds as presented by Kelly Smith of Springsted, Inc., which will mean a savings to the district taxpayers of $57,189.

o Approved an increase in contract time for Deb Ferdon in Motley until the end of the school year.

o Approved contracts for Christian Halverson, middle school principal; Joy Rippentrop, Connections High School math teacher; Caleb Horn, choir teacher; Jeremiah Piepkorn, special education teacher; and Jeff Spandl, transportation on call assistant.

o Accepted resignations from Kay Martin, elementary art teacher; Jon Berggren, care and treatment paraprofessional; Jerome Miller, part time Connections High School teacher; and Aimee Jenkins, Little Cardinals Academy assistant.

o Approved naming Gretchen Bestland as varsity volleyball coach and Amanda Olson as varsity swimming coach.

o Approved the high school Spanish trip to Costa Rica in June.

o Heard from Lund that Freshwater Education District will move its business office and Area Learning Center to the Staples campus of Central Lakes College.

o Heard from board chair Mary Freeman that National Joint Powers Alliance will be awarding $1.5 million in Innovation grants including eight grant requests from the Staples Motley district.

o Heard in Klamm’s report about a number of unfunded mandates for education currently under consideration at the state legislature. She encouraged board members to contact Rep. Mark Anderson and Sen. Paul Gazelka to consider those mandates that are unfair to rural school districts.

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