St. James School Board sets 2021 hears board report regarding large-scale STEM education program, and passes summer food program budget

Sean Ellertson
St. James Plaindealer

On Monday night, the St. James School Board approved one item of new business, and Middle School/High School Principal Karla Beck shared news of a massive grant from JAMF through a St. James  High School alum.

In her board report, Beck showed the board the work that JAMF, a software company that developed Jamf Pro, an application used to configure and automate IT administration tasks for macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS devices.

JAMF's CEO, Dean Hager, is a native of Ormsby and a graduate of St. James High School.

JAMF, based out of the Twin Cities, sponsors a project called "MATTER," which brings Apple technology classrooms into areas of diversity. Thus far, MATTER has done projects in the United States in Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and has done international projects, including one featured by the Matter website in Zimbabwe and Nigeria.

"They go into underdeveloped places where there's diversity, and they bring coding, STEM education, and they bring in devices," said Beck. "They renovate spaces, provide facilitators, they train facilitators and they do this to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars in these locations."

"[Dean] and I started talking about this great project and as we were talking I said 'Dean, you know you are talking about St. James, right?' and he looked at me and his jaw just dropped."

"He said 'we've been looking to go somewhere else and I'm coming to my own backyard.'"

Starting this summer, Hager and JAMF are sponsoring a hub inside the  St. James Middle/Senior High School for approximately $250,000.

The project will be the JAMF's first rural project.

"I am so pumped. It's going to be so great," said Beck.

Prior to Beck’s report, the board passed the summer food budget.

The district estimated the cost of the summer food program to be $236,597. Of that, $98,597 will go towards staff, $120,000 will go to food and milk costs, $10,000 will go to non-food costs, and $8,000 will go to mileage. The projected income for the program is expected to be $248,961.60.

Breakfast meals ($2.4625 reimbursement x 30,240 meals) is expected to yield $4,466.00. Lunch meals ($4.3175 reimbursement x 30,240) will bring in $130,561.20. Weekend meals ($6.78 reimbursement x 6,480 meals) will equal $43,934 of the total.

The 2021 estimates are based on 2020 being served currently.

The summer food program has three sites within the county where meals will be served: one at Northside, one in Madelia, and one in Butterfield.

Principal Liam Dawson gave a report on the happenings at Northside Elementary, including new hires, I Love To Read Month, and the annual food drive.

This year's food drive collected 2,492 items and 1859.2 lbs of goods.

Superintendent Steve Heil provided updates on funds received to use for the compensatory education gap.

The district received approximately $500,000, around $350,000 of which will go towards the compensatory education gap.

Other funds will be used for the hire of fourth and sixth-grade teachers, as well as a contract for a second nurse in the district. Heil also provided updates on upgrades and changes to the weight room at the middle/senior high school.

To start the meeting, art teachers Lisa Becker and Lynn Rolshoven presented the board with what the arts programs have been working on throughout the year.

Other items: Acceptance of gifts:

- Southwest Initiative Foundation donated $3,500 towards the Equity Summit

- St. James Rotary Club donated $250 towards the Equity Summit

- St. James Rotary Club donated $125 towards the Equity Team

- St. James Chamber of Commerce donated $125 towards the Equity Team

- St. Paul and Minnesota Foundation donated $7,529.84 towards the Davidson Memorial Scholarship

- Smithfield donated $112 towards Equity Team banners, they have generously offered to donate to the St. James Public School District.