Bagstad hints about hiring international teachers – Park Rapids Enterprise

Superintendent Lance Bagstad told the Park Rapids School Board on Monday, Sept. 18, that neighboring school districts have been working through recruiting agencies and hiring teachers internationally.

“They are having great success with bringing some folks over from other countries who are qualified and professional educators, and are filling some of the hard spots to fill,” he said, mentioning Red Lake and Climax-Shelly schools in particular. “Willmar is kind of a leader in that. It’s just something to be thinking about.”

While he acknowledged that Park Rapids Area Schools have been finding the talent they need, he commended this example of “thinking out of the box.”

PAWN Special Education Director Eva Pohl reported that staffing issues continue to take up a lot of her time. “We think we’ve got things pretty well over here, and then another district doesn’t, and it kind of keeps going back and forth.

“I can tell you, if we have somebody who can help get the international teachers their visas and so forth – we did this over in Walker, probably six years ago – (hiring) one of the best speech-language therapists that we’ve ever had.”

She said there’s good talent out there, and she has talked to some people at career fairs who she thinks would benefit the area.

Reimagining Century School

Century School Principal Mike LeMier reported the K-6 Leadership Team met for the first time last week, anticipating completion of high school improvements, when grades 7-8 will move from Century to the high school.

“We got a chance to start to bring together some staff from across the different parts of the building,” he said, “and work on that visioning process of what we want our K-6 building to look like. … We get to reimagine an entirely new school, which is very exciting.”

LeMier reported school administrators met with medical professionals in the community to develop an interagency partnership to tackle truancy and attendance issues.

He suggested that doctors who see kids could help reinforce school attendance and provide “another lens” to view what’s going on. Johnson added that the district has received funding for this training.

Bus drivers are ‘a family’

Transportation Director Jack Johnson reported challenges between the school’s communication system and bus communications.

“They’re not connected very well, and they’re going to be,” he said. “We don’t have a full solution cleaned up yet, but we’re on path to try some stuff that may fail. But we’re working towards an application so they can, in real time, talk back and forth with each other.”

Meantime, Johnson praised his driver team, calling them “just amazingly tight. I’m so proud of them right now.”

For example, when a bus blew a radiator hose near Potato Lake, six drivers stayed behind to help recover the bus. He also noted that between substitute drivers and a past driver who is willing to come back, they were able to cover a day with five different sporting events.

“The team is amazingly close, and that’s the reason we’re fully staffed today,” he said, also describing them as a family.

In further administrative reports, the school board heard the following:

  • LeMier and High School Principal Jeff Johnson reported that they are sending a team of teachers to Sourcewell in October for training in Native American culture. 
    LeMier called this “Indigenous lens work, so that they can continue to bring that cultural competency back to us. It’ll be really helpful, especially as we’re looking at our ELA (English language arts) resource review, to keep that Indigenous peoples’ lens at the forefront, because there’s a lot of Indigenous cultures built into the new standards.”
  • Johnson said the Alternative Learning Center has been busy, often until 5:30 p.m., but tutoring will be starting soon as it becomes clear where students are struggling. 
  • Community Education Director Jill Dickinson praised Ronda DeWulf, who teaches five Early Childhood Family Education classes, totaling 70 children aged birth through age 5, as well as 27 school readiness students. Dickinson said the school readiness program is seeing positive outcomes.
  • Facilities Director Alan Vanderstad reported the football concession stand was repainted, and his staff has been working through some keyfob entry problems at both Century and the high school. 
  • Pohl reported challenges with covering staff leave for early childhood special education. Meanwhile, she said, special ed staff will be taking Handle With Care training. Regarding “what they require of us for no seclusions, no suspensions,” she said, “we want to make sure that our students have what they need.” 
  • Bagstad reported, on behalf of Park Rapids Area Virtual Academy Director Jill Stevenson, that PRAVA is full with 25 students and attendance has been good, with students adjusting well to the software the program uses.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.


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