By Anna Jauhola
The Kittson Central Class of 2020 made an informed and difficult decision regarding their funds raised for the class trip and the board of education approved that decision 6-1, but not without much discussion.
During its regular meeting on Wednesday, May 27, the Kittson Central School Board met in person, socially distanced at separate tables, in the Curtis Miller Auditorium. Superintendent Bob Jaszczak told the board that 18 of the 20 seniors met over the digital platform Zoom on Thursday, May 21 to discuss their options for the money left over from the canceled class trip.
“I think they chose wisely,” said Jaszczak, who sat in on the meeting in case they had questions on the particulars of what they could and couldn’t do with the money.
Principal Jami Carr moderated the senior meeting and said the students questioned all angles and finally voted 14-4 on the final decision.
Each student has received back the class dues they paid. The class also agreed to purchase a bench to place on school grounds. Per state rules regarding this unique situation, each student will also receive a base amount of $1,000 from the funds the class raised over the last six years. They can use that for a scholarship or donate it to an approved local entity.
After that, a percentage of the remaining amount of money — approximately $15,000 — will be distributed to each student based on how many hours they put into fundraising. This money may also be used as a scholarship or donated to a local entity.
Jaszczak said some students put in very little time toward raising funds for the class trip. Others put in a lot more. He said class advisers, Tina Turn and Brian Pastir, kept track of the hours each student put into fundraising from seventh grade through their final year and each student in the class has been at Kittson Central during the last six years.
“I personally struggle with the No. 4 element,” said Board member Mark Johnson, regarding the percentage distribution. “I have a hard time with community funds being donated on one premise and turned around and used for an entirely different one. But an even bigger problem I think is, was one student only going to go five days on the class trip? Were you going to drop one kid off in Ohio because he only raised that much money?”
“I feel that’s an unfair comparison,” said Board member Crisa Mortenson, whose daughter Ava is a 2020 graduate. “I think these kids have thought all of this through. They had to decide what to do with the money. Parents had nothing to do with it.”
Although advisers and administrators have encouraged students to participate in as much fundraising as possible, it’s not fool-proof to get everyone to work the same amount of hours. Jaszczak, Johnson and Mortenson spoke to the fact that a small number of people in most organizations or groups do most of the work. Teacher Mark Christenson, who has been a class adviser, said students in the past have asked to just pay for their portion of the class trip upfront. That defeats the purpose of raising money for the class trip, which is to involve everyone and make it as equal as possible. Otherwise, it ends up in a battle of the haves vs. the have-nots.
“And we always try to push the kids so they perform a service for the community, so it’s not just gimme, gimme, gimme,” Jaszczak said.
On top of this issue, board members wondered how fair the decision was to students entering the military who cannot accept the $1,000 as a scholarship. Because the money must be distributed by June 2021 and two students will be full-time military, they can’t take that money for scholarships. Instead, however, they can donate the money to a local entity. If they chose not to take the $1,000, it would automatically revert back to the Kittson Central Scholarship Fund.
Many of the board members wondered if the students’ decision will set a precedent for future classes. Jaszczak said, according to the state, this is a one-time-only situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the conversation and explanations, Johnson was not swayed and voted no regarding the disbursement plan.
“I understand, but like I started out saying, I cannot vote in favor of this,” Johnson said. “Just like any other board vote that’s taken place, I don’t think this is the way to do it. I think clause four is out of line.”
The other six board members voted in favor, so the motion passed.
In other business, the board:
• Approved a bid from Aggasiz Asphalt, Newfolden, to pave the new parking lot that will be constructed this summer west of the school and a bid to mill and pave the ice arena parking lot. Aggasiz’s bid for both was $170,500, which was about $18,000 more than the competing bid from Taggert Contracting. However, Jaszczak said Aggasiz bid to mill out 4 inches of asphalt to get below the deep potholes in the ice arena lot. “Even though Aggasiz’s bid is higher, I think we’ll get a better job out of it by taking out that full 4 inches,” he said.
• Approved a bid from Weleske Construction, Hallock, for parking lot site prep for the new parking lot west of the school. The company bid $19,362.50 for the prep work, not including the cost of gravel. The school will purchase gravel at $7.75 per cubic yard for a cost of $12,600. The other two bids were $2,700 and $9,800 higher.
• Approved a resolution for a public hearing regarding a proposed tax abatement. “This is the first step in the abatement process for the parking lot construction and the arena parking lot repairs.” The public hearing will be held at the June 22 board meeting.
• Approved the resignations of basketball coaches Chad Kujava and Steven Sjostrand, and of paraprofessional Lynn Mattson.
The next school board meeting will be on Monday, June 22 at 8 p.m.
By Anna Jauhola