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Students apologize to Board for vandalism

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Six remorseful young men appeared before the New Richmond School Board Monday night to offer personal apologies for their part in the Hudson vandalism scandal that rocked several local schools just about a year ago.

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Last June, a group of 14 Hudson High School students vandalized school property in New Richmond and River Falls, as well as at North and Memorial high schools in Eau Claire. The vandalism was part of a "senior prank," in which the vandals tried to implicate students from River Falls as part of the prank.

The 2007 Hudson graduates, Brandon Crockett, Nicholas Filipiak, Nathan Kovatch, Andrew Olson, Jacob Walczak and Samuel Wegleitner came before the Board individually to voice their regrets regarding the incident.

Their statements ranged from realizing the act was "one of the worst school acts in recent memory," to expressing "lack of judgment," "sorrow," and "hope that someday they will be forgiven."

Each of the young men expressed remorse and admitted their mistake. The remaining eight youth involved will need to arrange appearances before the New Richmond Board as part of their court-ordered apology.

In other business:

• During the open forum, Andy Lieffort presented the Board with a check for $1,000 from the New Richmond Basketball Association (NRBA) to help with equipment needs at Hillside Elementary.

• Jeff Moberg, New Richmond High School principal, updated the Board on some erosion issues the new school building site is experiencing due to the recent heavy rains. Moberg explained that the site remains within Department of Natural Resources (DNR) guidelines and that mitigation is currently underway to solve the erosion problems. The City of New Richmond and DNR have both reviewed the mitigation plans the District is proceeding with regarding the erosion issues, according to Moberg.

• Moberg told the Board that the footings for the future high school should be poured by the end of next week or the beginning of the next. The first area to be done is the kitchen/loading dock.

Water and sewer connections will be made to the new high school next week as well.

• Deb Heyerdahl, director of curriculum and staff development, discussed the District's test score results. Overall, said Heyerdahl, the reading and math portions of the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam (WKCE) and the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP), remain in the proficient and/or advanced level. Scores for language arts have seen a sharp decline and Heyerdahl said that is something the District will need to address. Across the board, ninth grade scores for MAP testing are below the national norm, a phenomenon Heyerdahl was at a loss to explain. She did express concern and said she intends to research that further.

Board member Greg Gartner requested a comparison chart of New Richmond's test scores alongside schools of similar student size in the surrounding area. Heyerdahl promised to put that together for the Board.

• Seven or eight candidates have been interviewed out of more than 50 applicants for the position of assistant principal/activities director, according to District Administrator Morrie Veilleux. Second interviews for the position will take place with the three finalists in the next week or so. Veilleux said he expects to have a recommendation for the position by the next Board meeting, with a start date of mid to late July.

• Principal of Starr Elementary and future principal of Hillside Elementary, Frank Norton updated the Board on the progress of Hillside's construction and Starr's renovation.

Everything is on schedule with Hillside Elementary and Norton reported that the "A" wing of the building is virtually complete except for the flooring.

"The walls are painted, lighting is up, there's porcelain tile in the bathrooms and the walls are going up in the administration area," Norton said. "The furniture is scheduled to be delivered over a two-week period beginning Aug. 18."

Norton said an open house is being planned for Hillside Elementary on Saturday, Sept. 6.

As for Starr Elementary, Norton and Veilleux proposed that polished concrete floors be installed throughout the building, to include the eight classrooms that were originally not going to have floors replaced.

Norton explained that the cost of putting in the polished concrete would pay for itself within a year to a year-and-a-half based on maintenance costs for the old flooring.

"It's a long term investment," Veilleux said. "I recommend we go ahead and do it."

Delivery for furniture at Starr Elementary is also scheduled for Aug. 18.

• The state mediator will meet with the teacher's union on Tuesday, June 24, for contract negotiations.

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