Supt. News

Recent thoughts from Superintendent Jerry Ness. Click here for an archive of previous newsletters.

January 17, 2019

On Monday, January 14, Fergus Falls School Board held two meetings. The first meeting of the calendar year is always to “reorganize” the school board for the year. Immediately following the reorganization meeting, the school board conducts a regular business meeting.

Acting clerk and chairperson Melanie Cole began the reorganization meeting by welcoming and seating Kirby Anderson as a new board member with the Oath of Office. Following establishment of a quorum and approval of the agenda, officers for 2019 were elected as follows: Chair - Matthew Lemke, Vice Chair - Melanie Cole, Treasurer - Kirby Anderson, and Clerk - Missy Hermes.

The basic salary was set at $450 per month, which includes all regular and special school board meetings, work sessions, retreats, two committee meeting/month, and the MSBA conference. Any meetings outside of the basic salary conditions will be paid at $25 per hour. The Certified Staff Negotiators will receive a $500 stipend.

The School Board meetings will be held in the Otter Community Room at Kennedy Secondary School. The meeting dates will be on the second and fourth Mondays of the month, starting at 5:15 pm. The exceptions include: July and November meetings on the third Monday of the month only; and December meeting on the second Monday of the month only; and summer meetings (the last meeting in May through August) will begin at 7 a.m.

The mileage rate has been the IRS recognized rate, which is currently set at 58¢ per mile, effective Jan. 1, 2019. The Daily Journal will be the official newspaper. The Board approved a Resolution Authorizing Wire Transfers – Mark Masten for sales tax and payroll taxes; Sheri Smith for payroll taxes and HCSP; accounts payable secretary for rent and superintendent’s contract; and accounts receivable secretary for retiree payments of insurance.

The Board approved Security State Bank as our official depository, along with a resolution authorizing to employ legal counsel that the superintendent or school board chairperson are authorized to contact as needs require. The Board also approved participation of the District in the Minnesota School District Liquid Assets Fund.

The School Board approved the following committee assignments: Minnesota State High School League & Co-Curricular – Matthew Lemke; Special Education Cooperative Board & Region 1 Board – Melanie Cole; Activities Committee – Melanie Cole, Matthew Lemke, Stephen Vigesaa; Curriculum Review Committee – Missy Hermes; Finance Committee – Matthew Lemke, Natalie Knutson, Kirby Anderson; Buildings & Grounds – Melanie Cole, Natalie Knutson; Policy Committee – Natalie Knutson, Stephen Vigesaa; Wellness Committee – Natalie Knutson; 544 Education Foundation – Kirby Anderson; Meet & Confer – Stephen Vigesaa, Natalie Knutson; Legislative Liaison – Stephen Vigesaa; Staff Development – Missy Hermes; and Lakes Country Service Cooperative – Matthew Lemke.

Negotiation representatives were set as follows: Certified Staff (teachers) – Melanie Cole, Matthew Lemke, Missy Hermes; Principals – Kirby Anderson, Matthew Lemke, Stephen Vigesaa; Secretaries/Custodians – Stephen Vigesaa; District Wide Individual Contracts – Matthew Lemke; Para Educators & Special Education Paraprofessionals – Melanie Cole, Natalie Knutson; and Cafeteria – Missy Hermes.

2019 MSBA Leadership Conference

The Fergus Falls School Board members and board members from around the state will be attending the 2019 MSBA Leadership Conference. The Leadership Conference, “Leadership and Trust,” is scheduled for January 17-18, 2019, at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

The conference features nationally recognized speakers, workshops on a variety of topics, a School Excellence Showcase (formerly called Show & Tell), and a trade show. This year’s conference will be headlined by keynote speaker David Horsager. Horsager is the best-selling author of “The Trust Edge.” Horsager received great acclaim from members during his appearance at the 2013 Leadership Conference.

January 7, 2019

Emergency Drills

The Fergus Falls Public Schools, along with other schools in Minnesota and around the nation, are required to complete drills with students and staff on emergency procedures. Each year we are required to complete Fire, Code Yellow, Code Red and Tornado Drills, which may include evacuations of the building.

The most common drill is the fire drill. Each building must complete five Fire Drills per year including one in the first ten days of the school year. During this drill, the students and staff evacuate the building to predetermined meeting sites. Each staff member has a “Red Binder” containing emergency procedures and class rosters. The key during each drill is to exit the building quickly by a safe route and take roll at the evacuation site. To make sure all students are accounted for, they take roll again when they return to their classroom. If a student is missing, staff are to inform their building principal.


December 17, 2018

Positive Audit

Eide Bailly completed the audit for Independent School District No. 544 Fergus Falls Public Schools for fiscal year ending June 30, 2018. After the second reading, the School Board approved the audit at their December 10, 2018 School Board meeting. The full audit report is located on the School District’s website at

In Eide Bailly’s opinion, the financial statements in the audit report present fairly, in all material respects, the respective financial position of the governmental activities, each major fund, and the aggregate remaining fund information of the District, as of June 30, 2018, and the respective changes in financial position and the respective budgetary comparison for the general fund for the year then ended in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States of America.