ANDERSEN ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR
JEREMY WALTNER – PUBLISHER
Emily Andersen didn’t just take the oath of office as a new member of Freeman Public School Board earlier this week, she was also elected board president.
Andersen was elected on a 4-1 vote at the board’s reorganizational meeting Monday night, July 12. Slade Ammann, Doug McCune, Kyle Weier and Andersen all voted in her favor while Cody Fransen nominated and voted for former board chair Kyle Weier, who was ultimately elected vice president.
Andersen, who moved to Freeman after marrying Mike Andersen 14 years ago, was joined by McCune as a new member of the board Monday night. Both ran unopposed for election earlier this year and replace Mark Miller and Corey Gall, who chose not to seek re-election.
“I’m excited and grateful to be able to serve the community in this way — to be a little more actively involved than I have been,” said the 37-year-old, who grew up in Humboldt and whose dad was a school board member at West Central for many years. “It’s just a great opportunity for me to use the time and talents I have to give back.”
One of the board’s biggest decisions Monday night was to hire an architect to design a new wrestling facility on the district’s campus — a move that comes in response to concerns about a previous proposal submitted by CO-OP Architecture.
Based on those concerns, the district put out an RFP (Request For Proposal) earlier this spring and heard back from three firms: Stone Group, JLG Architects — both of Sioux Falls — and ISG, a Minnesota-based architecture and planning firm.
On a 5-0 vote, and based on a strong recommendation from McCune, the board gave its nod Monday night to JLG Architects; the district will pay the company 6.5% of total construction costs, which was the most competitive rate of the three groups. ISG came in at between 8 and 10% while Stone Group was at 12%.
“Based on my experience with them they’re a very good firm,” said McCune, whose company, Puetz Design + Build, has worked with JLG Architects on seven projects in the past 12 years, including a $25 million community center in Watertown. “They’re employee-owned and have 30 licensed architects on staff. They certainly have the capacity to do a project like this.”
New Freeman Superintendent Jake Tietje, who started with the district July 1, told The Courier that bids will go out no later than the first week of October. Realistically, he said, ground isn’t likely to be broken until next spring.
School officials have been considering building a wrestling addition onto the east side of the elementary gym and west of the bus lane since hearing a pitch for the facility from wrestling coach Chris Sayler in February.
The wrestling facility isn’t the only project school officials are considering. The district has also been asked by the city of Freeman to work in partnership to develop new youth ballfields on the northeast portion of the campus, east of the main parking lot. The board has not committed to the project but has discussed either gifting the land and/or contributing financially to the project. The city of Freeman has already committed $150,000.
Meeting Monday night, Tietje said he is looking forward to working with the city on the establishment of the new baseball/softball field complex, but that he first wants to see the wrestling facility get off the ground.
“I’m very excited to work with (Mayor) Mike (Walter) and the city on this project and to make it a reality,” Tietje told the board in his superintendent’s report. “We decided we’re going to see (the wrestling project) through first — take those first steps — and then pick up where we left off (with the ballfields).”
Monday night’s meeting was also the first for Kalynn (Katie) Juhnke, who was hired earlier this year as the new middle school/high school principal.
Also at the July 12 meeting, the board:
Hired Lucy Witkop as a new school counselor to replace Josh Faulkner, who resigned earlier this year. Witkop is a Marion native who has been a school counselor in California and has also been a long-term substitute in the Parker School District;
Agreed to establish a building and grounds committee at the recommendation of Teitje, who told the board the committee could work with upcoming projects on school grounds, which also includes the installation of a new scoreboard at the track and football field complex. The committee will include Tietje and board members Fransen and McCune, as well as any other guests the committee feels should be invited to a meeting as it relates to a particular project. “It’s very common that districts would have committee work that goes on outside of board meetings; we’re going to have a lot going on in the next couple of months … there are going to be a lot of discussions to be had and those discussion can’t always wait for a board meeting. We can hopefully increase the speed in which we communicate with these architects and other individuals who will be part of these projects;”
At the recommendation of Tietje, agreed to re-energize a task force to look into a possible sports co-op and/or consolidation with Marion after a failed vote of a three-school sports partnership earlier this year that also included Freeman Academy.
“I know there has been much discussion about a task force; I don’t want to ignore this,” he told the board. “Is this something we wanted to consider? What are the parents, what are the students, what is the community feeling about a direction moving forward?”
Board members agreed that a task force would be a good idea.
“I think it’s at least worth making a task force to find out where we stand,” said Weier, “and if it’s done it’s done.”
“I agree,” said Andersen, who along with McCune agreed to serve on the task force. Wrestling coach Chris Sayler and Athletic Director Kristina Sage also agreed to serve, and Andersen said the four of them will appoint additional members.
Watch next week’s Courier for minutes from the July 12 meeting.