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GHEC board talks insurance, SRO

GRANADA– On Thursday evening the Granada-Huntley- East Chain School Board met and discussed a number of upcoming changes regarding the district’s health insurance provider, auditing service provider and School Resource Officer position.

Regarding health insurance, Superintendent Doug Storbeck said that two years ago they switched from south central service co-op as their health insurance provider to PEIP (public insurance employee program).

“I have been in conversation with I think about 18 school districts… that were notified by PEIP that our insurance rates will be going up by 50 percent,” Storbeck said.

He said the program is doing that because it wants them out of the pool. Storbeck said they had three births in the school district last year that causes the district’s usage to go up.

Storbeck said he thinks conversations need to be had, likely with local state senators in regards to the issue. He said many of the other districts have an aging staff so it will be a bigger issue for them. He said he estimates the average age of teachers at GHEC is below 40.

The district has looked into some other insurance providers. The district’s finance director, Brian Mittelstadt, said he’s worked with an agent recommended by PEIP, but that the company’s increases were between 15 and 20 percent more than what PEIP had. He said they found the MN Health Consortium, which rates are just 9.5 percent higher.

“Instead of 20 smaller schools or schools our size, we’re part of 150 schools our size,” Mittelstadt said.

He said that year over year there may be changes in rates.

“I think for this year, this is the way to go but we’re going to have to have that on the radar for next year,” said Board Member Chris Pytleski.

The board approved MN Health Consortium as health insurance provider beginning July 1.

The board also heard an update from Storbeck regarding the position of School Resource Office, which is filled by Deputy Chris Gerhardt of the Martin County Sheriff’s office. Gerhardt was approved as SRO in 2019 on a three year contract with the school paying 66 percent and the county paying 33 percent.

Storbeck said he’s been in communication with Gerhardt as well as Chief Deputy Corey Klanderud.

“I said we’re probably not going to go with the same contract that we’ve had the last three years, that we’d see a reduction in our usage of SRO. I don’t think there’s a person I’ve talked to that doesn’t feel like Deputy Gerhardt provides an asset to our school district in more ways than being an officer. He connects with students and does a lot of things similar to a social worker at times… he does a great job,” Storbeck said.

However Storbeck said they’re looking to reduce his position to three out of five days rather than five full days, which would involve the school paying about 40 percent of his contract and the county would pick up the rest.

Storbeck said Gerhardt could be at the school every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but he’d prefer him to be at the school a portion of every school day if it works out.

“We’d love to have him here but we have to be fiscally responsible,” Storbeck said.

Storbeck said he’d like to attend a Martin County Commissioner meeting at some point to show the district’s support of the position. Board Member Brad Mattson said he thinks it’d be good to speak to the commissioners and point out that they’re paying part of Gerhardt’s wages as taxpayers.

“We’re hopeful that it will work out for everybody,” Storbeck said.

Moving to other matters, Storbeck shared that the company that previously performed the district’s audit, Edie Bailly, dropped them in January. Mittelstadt added that Eide Bailly didn’t renew their contract because of the district’s size. He said the GHEC was not the only small district that the firm let go.

Storbeck said that they’ve gotten three proposals back for other auditors and said he recommends the board go with Abdo, Eick and Meyers, LLP, which he said is a little more expensive but the work the firm will do is more than the others proposed. The board approved of a three-year agreement with the firm.

In the absence of principal Taylor Topinka, his report was read by Storbeck. It included that there are several new high school elective classes added for the 2022-23 school year including two ELA (english language arts) classes, elective social studies, strength and conditioning class, Spanish III and five new or modified agriculture classes.

The report also said that there are some big events quickly coming up. Prom is Saturday, May 7 and the theme is Hollywood nights. Graduation commencement exercises will take place at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 27.

Keri Murphy’s curriculum and instruction report included that GHEC teachers have completed instructional rounds and that elementary teachers observed other teachers doing intervention times and will meet in the next few weeks to provide each other feedback. The middle and high school teachers completed rounds virtually. The special education teachers observed other special education teachers in Fairmont.

In other action, the board:

— Approved Leah Rode-Mulder as an assistant track coach for the 2021-22 school year.

— Approved a contract for Spencer Chirpich as a full time floating sub for the 2022-23 school year.

— Approved adding an elementary robotics advisor for the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.

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