The Hastings City Council unanimously approved a proclamation affirming its support of diversity, equity and inclusion Monday night. The proclamation was made jointly with the Hastings school district.
The document states that the city appreciates the perspectives and contributions of residents of varying ethnicities, sexual orientations, language competencies, socioeconomic statuses, physical and mental health, gender identification, age, cognitive ability, physical ability, cultural affiliation, immigration status, family structure or employment status.
The proclamation also says that the city is becoming more diverse and that discrimination won’t be tolerated. The city will address barriers to access and evaluate its systemic procedures to ensure that everyone is included, it says, while acknowledging that this will require considering one’s innate biases and evaluating data on an ongoing basis.
“Therefore, be it resolved and proclaimed that Hastings will rise to be a community where all persons receive fair treatment and full access. In Hastings, ‘All are Welcome!’ ” the document reads.
The city and schools began holding community events related to inclusiveness a year and a half ago, Council Member Lisa Leifeld said. “We were starting to hear from people who were maybe new to town that we weren’t as welcoming as some of us really thought we were,” Leifeld said. “We need to embrace diversity and learn from it.”
City Council Member Tina Folch said the proclamation makes sense, since 15 percent of elementary-aged kids are now are students of color.
South St. Paul
Change in plans for city administrator hire
South St. Paul is moving forward with a new choice for city administrator after Shawn Kessel, whom the City Council had chosen to fill the role in mid-April, withdrew his acceptance April 30.
Kessel accepted a position with North Dakota’s commerce department, said Kori Land, South St. Paul’s city attorney.
Contract negotiations with another candidate, Joel Hanson, are now underway. Hanson serves as city administrator in Little Canada. The City Council authorized pursuing a contract with Hanson if Kessel declined the position. If all goes as planned, Hanson’s contract will be on the May 21 council agenda for approval, Land said.
Hanson will replace Steve King, who has held the position for 15 years and is retiring. King will stay on until July 27 to help the new hire acclimate to his job.
Elko New Market
Pete’s Hill Park trail opens
A new trail segment in Pete’s Hill Park, overlooking the highest point in Scott County, opened to the public Thursday.
The popular bike and pedestrian trail connects to a scenic viewing station on top of Pete’s Hill, which is now handicap accessible. A $36,000 grant from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community (SMSC) helped replace a previously unpaved, steep trail that was difficult for disabled residents to scale. “The new and improved trail offers fantastic views that all of our residents can enjoy, as well as new opportunities for people to learn about the park and our community,” said Elko New Market Mayor Bob Crawford. “I can’t wait to see people enjoy this new feature.”
SMSC Chairman Charles R. Vig, along with other local officials, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday to dedicate the trail. “Trails like this benefit the entire region, giving everyone a new opportunity to enjoy time outdoors, stay active, and engage with nature,” he said in a statement.
School board approves $2.6 million in cuts
The Shakopee school board has approved $2.6 million in budget reductions for the 2018-2019 school year, in part by closing a school for sixth-graders and cutting a mix of district staffers.
The board plans to save about $871,000 by closing Pearson 6th Grade Center and another $788,000 in staffing cuts.
In recent weeks, the school board has reviewed cost reductions to accommodate increased spending at the expanded high school, which will begin housing ninth-graders this fall. Tough cuts to special education, technology and staffing are critical to maintaining the district’s fiscal health, interim Superintendent Gary Anger said.
“We made every effort to minimize any impact on class sizes, spread out reductions to occur at all levels (both the district office and building level),” Anger explained in a local editorial last week.
In response to community feedback, board members struck the proposed $30,000 reduction in middle school sports, in order to save programming for the 700-plus children who participate. Instead, they instructed school administrators to explore increasing sports and activity fees — from $40 to $75.
After weathering back-to-back budget deficits, the board expects to end the fiscal year with a surplus of $425,320 and an unassigned fund balance of $1,201,652.
Judge sets Rod Thompson’s trial date
Former Shakopee Schools Superintendent Rod Thompson, who resigned last summer, will head to trial Nov. 26 on multiple charges including counts of embezzlement of public funds.
Scott County District Court Judge Christian Wilton set the date during a short hearing last week. Thompson faces 20 felony charges, including six counts of theft by swindle, 13 counts of embezzlement of public funds and one count of possession of stolen property, plus one misdemeanor count of receiving stolen property.
Authorities say Thompson used an assortment of schemes to make hundreds of personal purchases on the district’s dime — splurging on sports memorabilia, first-class airfare, concert tickets and an Xbox game system — over a six-year period.
He must first appear at a pretrial hearing on Sept. 26. Thompson’s attorney, Peter Wold, has said he intends to take the case to trial rather than negotiate a plea deal.