School district needs a new plan to address mental health issues

Three options presented


Mary Bailey
Community Editor

Because the number of students with mental health issues is rising, and programs to treat them are full, District 831 needs a new plan.

That was the message at the Aug. 1 school board meeting.

Special Education Director Deb Wall said the district has a responsibility to serve students with mental health needs.

In the past the district sent students to neighboring districts that offer mental health services. Now those programs are full.

Students already identified will be able to continue, but newly identified students have no place to go.

Wall said the district will need to act early this fall.

The choices are creating a day treatment facility in the district, finding another district to partner with, or becoming a member of Northeast Metro 916.

A day treatment facility for grades kindergarten through 12 would require 6,000 square feet of space and additional staff, Wall said.

“We need a long-term strategy,” Wall said. “These students can bring buildings to their knees.”

Mental health problems can manifest as behavior problems, she said, but treating them as behavior problems is ineffective for the students, draining for the teachers and disruptive to the rest of the class.

Business Services Manager Larry Martini said in the past District 831 had a day treatment program. It was disbanded because the physical facility was substandard.

Martini said the district would need a centrally located space that is well-lit and architecturally sound. “A lot of space available in Forest Lake is not,” he said.

If the district did start a program, other districts might take advantage of it. “I’ve heard, ‘If you take it on, you’ll get kids,’” Wall said. “I occasionally get calls asking, Can you take a student for us?”

Board member Karen Morehead said Forest Lake was a member of 916 in the past but had to dissolve the relationship because of funding.

Information on the number of students affected,  and costs for the three treatment options, including transportation, will be presented at a future school board meeting.

Pay for performance

Superintendent Linda Madsen was awarded the full $9,000 possible for achieving performance goals. This amount is added to her $148,000 salary.

Board members evaluated Madsen’s performance using a survey with a rating scale of 1 to 5. “We’ve been really happy with the superintendent’s performance. Most of the time it’s 4 and above,” board president Rob Raphael said.

The categories include student achievement (particularly at the Lino Lakes STEM school), community engagement, legislative involvement, and financial considerations/innovations.

The vote to award the maximum pay for performance was unanimous.

The board did have issues with the survey itself and plans to make changes.

Other topics

– The board approved the strategic plan summary for 2012-2013 and the strategic planning report for 2013-2014.

– The 2012-2013 budget was adjusted to increase debt service expenditure by $517,691.

– Because of the switch to all-day, every-day kindergarten, the 2013-2014 calendar was changed to mark Oct. 15 and March 6 as regular days. Feb. 3, when the high school hosts a music festival, will be a staff day but high school students will have the day off.

– Future Problem Solving participant Katherine Taylor told about her experience with the project “The Global Status of Women in 2045.”

– Donations to the school district from August 2012 to May 2013 totaled $58,000.