The regular meeting of the School Board of Independent School District No. 544 was held in the Otter Community Room at the Kennedy Secondary School. Chair Natalie Knutson called the meeting to order at 5:39 pm. The following members were present: Kirby Anderson, Melanie Cole, Missy (Melissa) Hermes, Natalie Knutson, Matthew Lemke and Stephen Vigesaa. Jeff Drake, Superintendent, Renae Macheledt, Finance Director, and Elaine Jahnke, HR Director, were also present. 

Missy Hermes, clerk, established a quorum. 

Matthew Lemke made a motion to approve the agenda as presented. The motion was seconded by Stephen Vigesaa and carried unanimously. 

Natalie Knutson offered the resolution of acknowledgements for the following and moved for its adoption:

Thank you to Michele Harding for the donation to the Otter Angel Account, an account created to anonymously assist families unable to pay for student meals.

The motion was seconded by Melanie Cole and upon roll call vote being taken, the following voted in favor thereof: Kirby Anderson, Melanie Cole, Missy Hermes, Natalie Knutson, Matthew Lemke, and Stephen Vigesaa;

and the following voted against same: 


Whereupon said motion was declared duly passed and the resolution adopted.  

Reports were presented by: 

  • Kirby Anderson – 544 Education Foundation, Finance, Activities
  • Melanie Cole – Spec Ed Coop, Region I
  • Missy Hermes – Staff Development, Policy
  • Natalie Knutson – Wellness, Buildings & Grounds
  • Matthew Lemke – MSHSL
  • Stephen Vigesaa – Curriculum Review
  • Jeff Drake – Superintendent

General Consent Items:

The following consent agenda was presented for approval: 

  1. Minutes from December 12, 2022 regular School Board meeting 
  2. Bills and Treasurer’s Report - reviewed by Melanie Cole and Kirby Anderson:

General Fund


Food Service


Community Service


Building Fund


Debt Service


Trust & Agency







  1. Personnel

Support Staff Resignations: 

  • Maddison Rocholl, Special Education Paraprofessional @ Adams; Last work day 1/13/2023
  • Molly McGuire, Student Services Aide @ McKinley; Last work day 12/21/2022
  • Cassandra Twedt, Special Education Paraprofessional @ Adams; Last work day 12/16/2022

Support Staff Hires: 

  • Molly McGuire, Special Education Paraprofessional @ McKinley; start date-1/3/2023
  • Natasha Baker, Special Education Paraprofessional @ Adams; start date-1/3/2023
  • Samantha Stodola, Special Education Paraprofessional @ KSS; start date-1/3/2023
  • Chelsea Hilbrand, Para Educator @ Adams; start date-1/4/2023
  • Jennifer Cronk, Special Education Paraprofessional @ Adams; start date-1/12/2023
  • Emily Borowski, Student Support Aide @ McKinley; start date-1/5/2023

Certified Staff Hires/Contract Changes:

  • Michael Millard, REACH teacher/part time @ KSS; effective 12/07/2022
  • Pablo Damian Rodriguez, math overload contract (.083 FTE) @ ALC; effective 1/23/2023
  • Rebekah Meder, FCS overload contract (.083 FTE) @ KSS; effective 1/23/2023

Head Coach Hire:

  • Chris Grabowska, head football coach; effective 2023-24 school year

Melanie Cole moved to approve the consent agenda. The motion was seconded by Kirby Anderson and carried unanimously. 

Old Business: 

  1. Natalie Knutson, school board chair, reported on the annual performance appraisal of Superintendent Jeff Drake, stating that he met all expectations.

New Business: 

  1. There was a first reading of the tentative FY 2023 Certified Seniority List for Independent School District #544 - Fergus Falls Public Schools. No action was taken.
  2. Matthew Lemke moved to approve the 2022-2023 District Calendar Revision due to snow days on 12/13/2022 & 12/15/2022; make-up days 06/01/2023 & 06/02/2023; move student 3-hour early out to 06/02/2023 and staff development day to 06/05/2023. The motion was seconded by Melanie Cole and carried unanimously.
  3. Stephen Vigesaa moved to approve Commerce Bank’s Certificate of Authority to Renae Macheledt and Jeffrey Drake. The motion was seconded by Kirby Anderson and carried unanimously.
  4. Melanie Cole moved to approve the following Lakeland Mental Health Center Agreements with ISD #544, effective 01/01/2023-12/31/2023: 

- School Based Mental Health Practitioners (2)

- School Based Mental Health Practitioner (1)

- School Based Mental Health Professional (1)

- School Based Mental Health/Chemical Health Practitioner (1)

The motion was seconded by Matthew Lemke and carried unanimously. 

A Joint City and School Board Work Session will be held at 4:00 pm Monday, January 23, 2023 in the Otter Community Room at the Kennedy Secondary School. 

The next regular School Board meeting will be held at 5:15 pm Monday, January 23, 2023 in the Otter Community Room at the Kennedy Secondary School. 

Missy Hermes made a motion to adjourn the meeting at 6:11 pm. The motion was seconded by Melanie Cole and carried unanimously. 

A work session followed the regular board meeting.


Melissa Hermes, Clerk


On behalf of the Fergus Falls Public School District, I extend a warm welcome.  We are honored that you have entrusted us with the care and education of your child. 

The Fergus Falls Public School District is a special place.  Our mission statement outlines our commitment to each and every child:  “The mission of the Fergus Falls Public Schools is to prepare productive and engaged members of society by creating an environment where all students reach their full potential.”

What will your child’s experience be as a member of our school community?  Children will be surrounded by adults who care about them.  We will provide the necessary support to help ensure that each child is successful.  Children will be challenged.  That’s how new skills are developed and how learning, confidence and leadership is fostered. 

In providing a robust 21st century learning environment - we emphasize the five “Cs” - Core Knowledge, Creative Problem Solving, Communication, Contributing Citizen and Character.  These core competencies ensure that our students will be well-positioned for success wherever their dreams take them.

We pride ourselves on providing a rigorous academic curriculum with a diverse selection of electives.  We support our students with a 1:1 technology initiative to augment instruction, we have strong vocational programs and excellent participation among our students in the arts.  A large percentage of our students are involved in co-curricular activities and our programs are highly respected and competitive.  In summary, we offer the family atmosphere of a small rural school combined with the opportunities typically only found in much larger districts. 

Through the process of discovering and developing their talents, interests and skills, our students are going to make great memories, grow in confidence, become leaders in our school and community and form lifelong friendships.  Once an Otter, always an Otter!

Warmest Regards,

Jeff Drake