Supt. Ness: School board reorganization

The Fergus Falls School District’s School Board held their annual reorganization meeting at 5 pm on Monday, January 8, 2018 in the Otter Community Room at Kennedy Secondary School.

Officers elected were Chairperson Melanie Cole; Vice Chairperson Matt Lemke; Clerk Blaine Danielson; and Treasurer Natalie Knutson. The basic salary was set at $450 per month covering all regular and special school board meetings, work sessions, retreats, two committee meeting/per month, and the annual MSBA conference. Any meetings outside of the basic salary conditions are paid at $25 per hour.

The meeting place for the School Board will be the Otter Community Room, located in the Kennedy Secondary School.  The meeting dates will be on the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month, starting at

5:15 pm.  Exception: July and November meetings on the third Monday of the month only; and December meeting on the second Monday of the month only; Summer meetings – June, July and August – will begin at 7:15 am.

The mileage rate has been the IRS recognized rate at $0.545. The Daily Journal is the official newspaper. Security State Bank is the official depository. The School Board passed a resolution allowing the Superintendent or School Board Chairperson authorization to contact legal counsel as needs require.

Committee/Board Representatives Minnesota State High School League & Co-Curricular: Matthew Lemke; Special Education Cooperative Board & Region 1 Board: Melanie Cole; Activities Committee: Melanie Cole, Blaine Danielson, Stephen Vigesaa; Curriculum Review Committee: Melissa Hermes Finance Committee: Melanie Cole, Natalie Knutson, Melissa Hermes; Buildings & Grounds: Blaine Danielson, Matthew Lemke, Stephen Vigesaa; Policy Committee: Natalie Knutson, Stephen Vigesaa; Wellness Committee: Natalie Knutson; 544  Education Foundation: Blaine Danielson; Meet & Confer: Blaine Danielson, Melanie Cole; Legislative Liaison: Steve Vigesaa; Staff Development: Missy Hermes; and Lakes Country Service Cooperative: Matthew Lemke.

Negotiation Representatives – Certified Staff: Melanie Cole, Matthew Lemke, Melissa Hermes; Principals: Blaine Danielson, Matthew Lemke, Stephen Vigesaa; Secretaries/Custodians: Stephen Vigesaa; District Wide Individual Contracts: Melanie Cole; Para Educators and Special Education Paraprofessionals: Blaine Danielson, Natalie Knutson; and Cafeteria: Missy Hermes.


The Fergus Falls Public Schools is an active member of Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA), as are most school districts in the state.  MSBA is a valued resource for our District, especially for the School

Board. The following information is from their website – and is only a partial list of the services offered to schools:

The MSBA staff respond daily to member questions ranging from administrative processes/procedures to school board governance to statutory requirements to guiding rules/regulations to negotiations proposals, etc. The MSBA’s Annual Leadership Conference is its largest meeting and not only offers nationally known speakers, dozens of breakout sessions and training opportunities, and access to approximately 200 product/service exhibitors.

Public Education Employee Relations Network (PEERNet) is MSBA’s comprehensive database of facts and figures relative to district salary schedules, work days and years, and fringe benefits for teachers, superintendents, and other administrators.

Read by more than 4,200 subscribers, the MSBA Journal is MSBA’s flagship publication. This magazine looks at education from every angle, chronicles life on a school board, features student art, contains the “Ask MSBA Column” which provides in-depth answers to commonly asked questions, and is a useful resource for finding vendors and services.

The MSBA staff send out emails containing links to the top K-12 education stories of the day. This daily service is used by nearly 2,000 subscribers. The MSBA Leader Newsletter updates members about MSBA news and events, topical news items, timely administrative topics, administrative job openings, and much more.

Supt. Ness: Generosity abounds

Our students and our staff take the gift of giving seriously, especially around the holidays. Our staff has collected personal funds and shared with students and charity organizations. Students have raised funds through Penny Wars and collected items through food drives, Toys for Tots, and Presents for Pets. I have seen many, many displays of caring for others…our staff and students resemble our community – very generous, thoughtful and compassionate!  Happy Holidays from the staff and students at Fergus Falls Public Schools!

Staff’s Favorite Holiday Things…

How does your favorites stack up against ISD 544 staff?  In a recent survey, we found out that 60% of our staff open presents on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Ham followed by prime rib and turkey are the favorite Christmas dinners. Only 15% of our staff hang mistletoe. The favorite holiday cookie is Peanut Butter Blossoms and sugar cutouts. The holiday song of choice is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “White Christmas.” Only 29% of our staff have a real tree; and 60% use white lights rather than multi-colored lights. The favorite TV show is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and next in line are “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  The holiday movie went to “Elf”. Our staff overwhelming preferred hot cocoa rather than eggnog; and fudge and krumkake/lefse were the favorite treats.  Caramel was by far the favorite popcorn; and finally 95% would rather give than receive a gift.

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Supt. Ness: Tragedy

I didn’t sleep well last week thinking about the most recent tragedy affecting our community and schools. I knew both Ryan and Sarah. Ryan was a member of the Noon Kiwanis where I am also a member.  I feel terribly sad for all involved and my heart breaks for Cheshire children – but, I know our teachers and others will support them well.

Whenever I hear of a suicide, it triggers memories of my brother who also died from suicide a few years ago.  At that time, I was told that suicide is the most selfish act one can commit.  I do not agree because I now know my brother was suffering from depression, anxiety, paranoia, and effects from medication – in other words, a mental illness. How can he be selfish, when he was too sick to think about his actions?

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