Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

School board rejects negotiations over video use

E.M. Schultz
Posted 12/6/19

REGIONAL – The St. Louis County School Board rejected a request to open up bargaining with the district’s teachers union over a proposal to utilize video surveillance, including in …

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School board rejects negotiations over video use

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REGIONAL – The St. Louis County School Board rejected a request to open up bargaining with the district’s teachers union over a proposal to utilize video surveillance, including in classrooms, as a constant monitoring device over staff who may be facing disciplinary action. This issue came to light after the district chose to install video and audio equipment in the classroom instruction areas of a teacher they believed had behaved in a manner not befitting the position. According to the minutes from a Nov. 12 special meeting, this recording equipment will be turned off after the 2019/2020 school year, “barring any further incidents of conduct unbecoming of a teacher.”
Union representative Evan Sansted noted that the use of constant video and audio recording would amount to a significant change for teachers and would impact the terms and conditions of their employment. Sansted said the union believes that if the district plans to use surveillance in employee discipline, they have a right to bargain over the issue. They would like to establish a mutually agreed-upon process for using video surveillance in disciplinary matters, which he said is currently lacking in the contract.
Yet Superintendent Reggie Engebritson recommended the board deny the request to bargain over the issue, and the board adopted Engebritson’s recommendation without much discussion. School officials note that video surveillance equipment is allowed on school grounds as stated in District Policy 712 “Video Surveillance Other than on Buses.” This policy also states that “a video recording of the actions of employees may be used by the school district as evidence in any disciplinary action brought against any employee arising out of the employee’s conduct in school district buildings or on school grounds.” That’s the policy that the teachers union would like be able to bring under the contract.
In other action, business manager Kim Johnson reported that taxpayers in the school district will see little to no increase in the taxes they pay next year, at least for the operation of the district’s schools. According to Johnson, the 2020 levy will jump just 0.19 percent next year, or $12,817 overall. Johnson said only those whose property values have increased will see significant changes in their taxes.
Johnson also reported that the taconite bond replacement funds the district receives is set to increase, which means taxpayers will be paying $125,393 less than they did in 2019 on the district’s capital bonds.
The board will meet again at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 10 at the district office.
In other business, the board:
Heard from Engebritson regarding Medica insurance hikes. Engebritson says rates were initially going to increase by twenty-one percent, but the district was able to negotiate and drop the increase to fourteen percent.
Heard from Engebritson regarding staff and student surveys that were recently completed. She is in the process of reviewing them and will share the results at the board’s next working session on Jan. 7.
Approved a shared Student Resource Officer (SRO), who will spend four days at the Mt. Iron-Buhl School and one day at the Tower-Soudan School. The board was unsure when the SRO would start and believed it may not be until the beginning of the next school year.
Recognized Board Member Pat Christensen for completing his Minnesota School Board Association training.
Approved the hiring of new teaching staff, support staff, and coaching staff. North Woods will see the additions of preschool paraprofessional Suzanne Holter, substitute van driver Samantha Schultz, and as-needed before and after school care program supervisor Maxine Olson, while Randy Lislegard will join the staff at Northeast Range as an assistant football coach.
Accepted the resignations and retirements of several staff members and approved the termination of one staff member. The resignations included North Woods Learning Resources teacher’s aide Jean Pohto and Tower-Soudan Community Education Coordinator Leone Graf.

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