Getting students to go to school would appear to be a simple thing, but for some there are factors that stand in the way of them being in class.

In fact, at the start of the 2017-18 school year the Redwood Area School District opted to put in place a new program to address the fact that 22 percent of its students were considered chronically absent – 15 days or more during the school year.

Andrea Iverson, student accountability advocate, was brought on board at the school to work with students over the past year and to find out what was keeping them from getting there each day. Iverson recently talked about the progress that was made during the first year of the program. 

Iverson spoke, along with Darcy Josephson, RASD director of teaching and learning, during a recent meeting of the Redwood Area Board of Education.

The school district uses what is known as achievement and integration funding for the program.

Iverson spent much of the year keeping tabs on students and communicating with families to find out why they are missing so often, and when a student was absent Iverson would make contact, even if that meant going to their house and knocking on the door.

Iverson said in many cases there are issues of anxiety the students are facing, and so part of her role meant helping those students and their families find the resources they needed.

“Sometimes it is about needing transportation,” said Iverson, adding in other instances it may be issues of homelessness.

While homelessness did not mean students were living on the streets, couch hopping and being in different places often meant not getting up in time for school.

Iverson added at times there are chemical dependency issues in families, whether that be in the students themselves or in other members of their family, and other times finances are getting in the way of students not having an alarm clock to wake them up in the morning or having anything to eat. The issues Iverson sees are not limited to the oldest of students.

In fact, she worked with students of all ages during the school year.

Although there are significant challenges facing a number of students in the local school district, Iverson sees an opportunity with each case to find a solution.

Iverson said she enjoys solving problems, and has seen success stories of those students who were once chronic in their absences now much more consistently in school.

Sometimes, she said, it is about celebrating the small victories when a student makes it to school.

During its meeting, the school board took action on the following items:

• Authorized submission of the annual Q-Comp report to the Minnesota Department of Education.

• Adopted a resolution approving a Q-Comp agreement for the 2018-19 academic year.

• Accepted the resignations of Naomi Prodoehl from her position as seventh-grade girls volleyball coach; Paige Pistulka from her position as C-squad girls volleyball coach; Andrea Ochs from her position as a Cardinal Kids Club assistant; Amy Ahrens from her role as an elementary-school paraprofessional and SACC assistant; Julie Rohling from her position as varsity softball coach; Cecilia Kurtz from her position as a middle-school paraprofessional; Angie Sisco from her position as a middle-school paraprofessional; Denise Kerkhoff from her role as speech coach and Corrie Tews from her position as junior high softball coach.

• Rescinded the motion from its previous meeting accepting the resignation of Scott LeSage from his role as finance director effective May 28 and approved a revised resignation effective as of June 30.

• Approved the employment of Dillon Thooft as a full-time Reede Gray fourth-grade teacher for 2018-19 at a salary of $41,200.

• Approved the employment of Tom Anderson as director of finance and support services effective as of May 21 at a salary of $80,000 prorated for the remainder of the 2017-18 school year and $80,000 for the 2018-19 school year, $83,000 for the 2019-2020 school year and $86,000 for the 2020-2021 school year.

• Approved the employment of Brandon Thurk as a middle-school boys basketball coach at a stipend of $1,956 and Matt Lundeen as a junior-high girls basketball coach at a stipend of $1,956.

• Approved the summer maintenance crew for 280 hours each, including Lori Allex at a rate of $12.25 per hour, Lori Jenniges at a rate of $11.25 per hour, Carol Gewerth at a rate of $11.78 per hour, Terry Greenslit at a rate of $12.25 per hour and Mark Dressen at a rate of $11.25 per hour.

• Approved the employment of Christian Schmitz as summer technology help for 25 hours per week at a rate of $10 per hour.

• Approved the employment of Kate Russell as prom art decorations specialist at a stipend of $761.

• Approved the employment of Naomi Prodoehl and Preston Preuss as ALP teachers for the summer for 80 hours.

• Approved the summer hours schedule in the district. From now through June 1 the office will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from June 4 through Aug. 3 the hours will be 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:30 a.m. until 12 p.m. Friday.