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OLMSTED COUNTY NOTEBOOK Chatfield school system names new superintendent

CHATFIELD -- A former superintendent from Willow Creek, Minn., which is near Duluth, has been tapped for the head post for Chatfield schools.

Phil Minkkinen will start as superintendent July 1. He has served in the same capacity for Willow Creek since 1998. He replaces Jeff Miller, who left the district at the end of the school year to pursue other opportunities. Miller had been in the district for 13 years.

The district conducted a statewide search to replace Miller. Minkkinen won out over 43 other applicants, said LuAnn Hare, administrative assistant to the superintendent.

"We're excited to have this process complete," she said.

Minkkinen takes over a growing district that is strapped by outdated facilities. A $24.6 million referendum to build a new high school and remodel existing buildings was soundly defeated by voters in May. It was the third referendum rejected by voters since 1997.

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School officials have said they will assess another possible referendum when a new superintendent takes over.

Hare said Minkkinen has been to a few meetings about the failed proposal, but said she has no idea on where it rates on the superintendent's priority list.

The Chatfield school district has 998 students.

-- Lanier Holt

Stewartville school fees increase

STEWARTVILLE -- State budget woes and rising health costs will take more money out of parents' pockets in the Stewartville School District.

Dan Pyan, director of business services, said the district is increasing fees for high school and middle school sports by $20. Fees for activities such as plays and speech will increase by $10 next year as well. A few games also will come off some teams' schedules to reduce costs, said Pyan. The district also is looking at reducing its number of bus routes.

The district, Pyan said, is trying to raise about $10,000 to $15,000 a year to deflect some of the $90,000 increase the district expects to see next year in healthcare costs.

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Those costs, he added, will not be offset by state funding, which will either stay flat or decrease.

A few teachers have retired, saving the district about $20,000 a teacher as the new hires are making less than their predecessors, according to Pyan.

The district is also in danger of losing up to $120,000 in its per pupil funding as its enrollment decreases, Pyan said. Stewartville schools will have 1,733 students this fall, down from the 1,753 that started last school year. Two years ago the district had 1,813 students. -- Lanier Holt

Council meetings

Byron: 6 p.m., June 25, Fire Hall

Chatfield: 7 p.m., June 23, Thurber Building (City Hall)

Dover: 7 p.m., July 3, City Hall

Eyota: 7:30 p.m., June 26, City Hall

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Oronoco: 7 p.m., July 21, City Hall

Pine Island: 7 p.m., July 15, City Hall

Stewartville: 7 p.m., June 24, City Hall

Olmsted News is a weekly report of what's happening in small cities in and bordering Olmsted County. If you have news or comments, call area reporter Lanier Holt at 285-7635, or e-mail him at lholt@postbulletin.com.

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