BY NIKKI MEYER
Krahmer, Shaffer & Edmundson, Ltd (KSE), represented by THS grad Derrick Greiner, was present at the March 18, 2019 Truman City Council meeting as the council reviewed their proposal for services as the City’s attorney. The council reviewed the proposal sent by KSE and asked Greiner several clarifying questions. It was stated that there were no conflicts of interest between the two parties, and the council voted to accept KSE’s proposal, with Greiner designated as the lead attorney for the City.
Greiner stated that working with Truman as a municipal client, “was something I had always had my eye on, particularly since starting in private practice [at KSE] in 2017. I knew at some point it might be coming open and really thought that it would be a good fit.” Greiner started life on a farm just outside of Truman, with his family moving to town when he was in elementary school. He graduated high school in 2008.
Greiner said, “being from Truman I think it was a nice fit to have an idea of some of the issues that are going on and being able to dive in and help.” He feels one of his strong points is his, “interest in seeing Truman succeed and being able to be a part of that in this fashion.” Greiner also stated that the firm is looking to, “hopefully pick up some additional municipal clients as well” down the road.
Greiner didn’t originally see himself working in law. His first degree is from Winona State University / Minnesota State University – Mankato is a Bachelor of Science in Teaching – Business Education. He stated that teaching, “was always the plan.” However, the summer after graduation he hadn’t secured a permanent teaching job. While he was doing substitute teaching he, “got a call from a temp hiring agency that I had dome some work for in college. They had a two-week administrative receptionist position at a law firm and so I did that.” As things sometimes do, “one thing led to another and next thing you know I was in law school.”
Greiner graduated cum laude from William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul in 2015. He then went to work as a judicial law clerk for Judge Douglas Richards in Faribault County. His practice areas include tax, real estate, estate planning and administration, ag law, and business law.
Greiner concluded, “We’re really excited for the opportunity and look forward to working with the council and the City and all of its citizens.”
Greiner is the son of Vickie and the late Rick Greiner.
BY NIKKI MEYER
A large percentage of people living in metro areas don’t own their own vehicle; they don’t need to. Public transportation is often available via rail or bus, and if those options don’t work odds are pretty good you can catch a ride from a taxi or a driver with one of the two big ridesharing services, Lyft or Uber.
Head to smaller, rural areas however and your options for getting from point A to point B without owning your own set of wheels get a lot more limited. The rails running through Fairmont aren’t meant for passengers. You won’t find bus stops in any town in Martin County. And taxis certainly don’t roam the streets.
Jason Mau, and others like him, saw a need for faster, easier transportation in the Martin County area. However, according to Mau, the big ridesharing services haven’t extended their networks very far outside of major economic hubs. “It took Mankato a long time just to get it. They opened it up and it’s....okay... but down here you can’t get it.”
Mau decided to imitate the two big companies and start his own ridesharing service. “It was called Taxi Share, in the beginning. And everybody liked what we were doing. A lot of people were getting rides and calling us the fast taxi or the fast ride.” Mau said the company’s average response time is 10-15 minutes. “So, my business is called Fairmont Area Taxi Share," but rearrange the first letters and... "now we’re registered under FAST everywhere else.”
What exactly is ridesharing? If you were to combine the ideas of carpooling and taxis, that would be pretty close to ridesharing. Ridesharing allows drivers who own their own vehicle to make money driving people around. However, it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. Some drivers choose only to work during the busiest times of days, or to pick up passengers as they commute from their day-job back to their home. Drivers simply mark themselves as available via their company’s smartphone app whenever they are ready for passengers. When they are done, they mark themselves as unavailable again. Ridesharing lets drivers operate when and where they want to, and gives passengers more options, often at cheaper prices. The number of available drivers for a ridesharing company isn’t limited to the number of permits it can get or cars it can afford to own, like a taxi company may be limited.
Right now Mau organizes about seven FAST drivers, though he’s always on the lookout for more. Drivers are currently required to have a 2007 or newer vehicle, a good driving record, and must be able to past a background check, for starters. FAST hubs in Martin County, though has transported passengers as far away as Mankato and Sioux Falls.
When FAST first opened, about three years ago, rides were booked over the phone and the company was averaging 10-12 runs per day. Later, the FAST Ride Share Facebook page launched and gave riders the option of booking online, and now FAST sees an average of 75-100 runs per day. “A few Fridays ago we had our busiest day ever with about 125 runs,” Mau said. And coming up just on the horizon, the company is hoping to launch a new app by April 1st. The free app will allow riders to book and pay directly from their smartphone, making the process easier than ever.
The cost of a trip is based on $1.15 per mile. A trip from Truman to Fairmont is a minimum $13 charge.
Mau said it’s been interesting to see where riders are coming from/going to. “That’s one thing that amazes a lot of people. About 15% of my business is people from the bars, but 85% is not.” The biggest chunk of that other 85%? “The place we do the most business is we take people to WalMart—employees and customers.”
Mau said the other biggest chunk is taking people to the doctor. FAST now works with Mayo to help transport patients who have no other means of transportation. “We do that 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” MRCI and Martin County Human Services also frequently utilize FAST’s services.
Mau feels that a ridesharing business isn’t just convenient for passengers, it’s also filling a big need in the community. “We’re taking people off the road that would typically go buy a car and not have insurance on it, or who don’t have a license, because they have no other choice. When people need to get to work at 5 o’clock in the morning, there’s nobody else out there.”
The need for transportation to work is an area FAST is looking to offer more services. Right now the company is working on setting up an agreement with Kerry Ingredients & Flavours in Blue Earth. Essentially the company will offer a ridesharing van for employees to get to work in the morning and home again in the afternoon. FAST will arrange for payment from Kerry, and employees will be able to have fees deducted straight from their paychecks, simplifying the overall appointment and payment process.
The success of the ridesharing business has led Mau into other ventures. “I’m a service guy. People ask for something and I try to figure out a way to make it work.” One thing he’s been asked about is party buses, which he now can provide, utilizing and agreement with another company, for groups of up to 44 people.
Mau said that’s also how the FAST Travel Agency came about. “I like to travel. I’ve been to about 30 countries and every state except Hawaii.” Mau said he looked into and decided to become affiliated with Travel Quest.
As if that weren’t enough, FAST will soon offer a courier service. “What we’re going to do is go 60 miles from Fairmont. We’re going to offer anywhere from 1-day to 2-day.” Mau said earlier that day he’d been to Mankato on a run for a local business. “Right now you want to mail something through the post office, it takes 2-3 days. It leaves here and has to go to Mankato and then it has to the Cities before it gets back down here.”
Along with offering to deliver small parcels, Mau said the courier service will be able to serve papers and have mobile notary capabilities. Food and grocery delivery will be possible as well. “You want a pizza delivered? We’ll deliver a pizza.”
Right now FAST Ride Share and FAST Travel Agency can be found on Facebook. Rides can also be booked by calling (507) 236-1241. For a Spanish-speaking dispatcher call/para un despschador espanol por favor llame 507 736-7032. $5 ride tokens are also available for purchase.
Truman Superintendent Lisa Shellum sits with Tina Raske, current special education teacher, who will also take on ECSE (early childhood special education) in the coming school year; Sara McMonagle, new Special Education Director for next year; and Myra Heckenlaible-Gotto, new school psychologist for next year. McMonagle will mentor Shellum as she works toward her SpEd Director license.
Updated March 8, 10:10 a.m.
BY NIKKI MEYER
“At bigger schools you’d likely see something like this,” said Truman Superintendent Lisa Shellum, “but I don’t know of another school out there our size that’s doing what we’re doing.” And Shellum has a lot of contacts.
Since the end of 2018 Shellum and several others have been hard at work creating a new structure for the Special Education (SpEd) services at Truman Public Schools (TPS). The change comes after the Southern Plains Education Cooperative (SPEC), of which Truman (ISD 458) has been a member since the co-op’s 1973 creation, moved to purchase and renovate the former Lincoln Elementary School building in Fairmont at an estimated cost of nearly $11 million dollars. As of July 1, 2019, Truman will no longer be a member of SPEC.
By law every school district in the state is required to provide certain special education services to qualifying students. Many small schools, however, do not have enough students with needs to afford hiring the necessary staff. Instead, they may join or purchase services from a special education cooperative. So, for example, instead of trying to find, hire, and pay for someone to come for a few hours twice a week to work with the one or two students who need occupational therapy, the cooperative hires an occupational therapist and the member schools are able to contract for the amount of occupational therapy they require in a given school year. The cooperative then bills the school, along with receiving money from the district in others ways as defined by the state, to pay the service providers.
Currently SPEC has its administrative offices in Fairmont and leases the former Winnebago Elementary School for use as an Alternative Learning Center (ALC) by special education students who are level 4, meaning those whose IEP (individualized education plan) stipulates they are best served by spending 50% or more of their school day in a learning environment outside a traditional school. Last spring SPEC’s director, Dr. Sarah Mittelstadt, made presentations to the member schools on the possibility of purchasing the Lincoln building, which would be large enough for both classes and offices.
After reviewing Mittelstadt’s numbers, the Truman school board voted against the purchase. Shellum concluded at the time, “It would have taken a great majority of [Truman’s] lease levy authority dollars for the next 20 years, plus upwards of $10,000 a year out of the general fund... staying with the co-op wasn’t fiscally responsible to our own district and taxpayers, considering we currently only have a handful of students who attend.”
With Truman as the lone “no” vote, SPEC offered the district $50,000 to withdraw from the co-op, allowing SPEC to move forward with the purchase. Truman agreed to withdraw as a voting member district.
After the vote to withdraw at the end of the school year, then-superintendent Dr. Virginia Dahlstrom and the members of the board began looking at other possible providers for SpEd services. As Shellum transitioned into the role of Superintendent, she also completely reorganized the classrooms inside the school in anticipation of the direction the district would be moving when it came to special education. A ‘Specialty Floor’ was created, which houses the SWIS (School Within a School) program, Title I programs (and Title I teacher Laurie Sherman’s therapy dog), the Special Education room, and a Sensory and Therapy Room. “We take care of our own,” Shellum stated. “We’re getting to keep [kids who previously went to the ALC] here in our school building and have a closer and more positive relationship with them.”
In December Truman got the response that it was “too big” to be absorbed by existing staff and “too small” to warrant hiring additional staff at the educational district first approached in May. Tom Melcher, the Director of the Program Finance Division at the Minnesota Department of Education, suggested after looking at the SPEC withdrawal agreement specifications that Truman go back to SPEC and get the same services as it had as a member district. The withdrawal agreement states, “Truman shall be considered a non-member district for any services purchased from SPEC after the effective date of withdrawal.” Members of the Truman school board met with SPEC representatives, however in late January Mittelstadt notified Truman, “We decided it would not be possible for us to provide any services for Truman for 2019-20; we just have too many unknowns to make commitments.”
Though Truman had approached the two educational cooperatives, other possible plans were also in the works while waiting for answers from the co-ops. Inside of a month Truman independently secured agreements with providers for every service the district and its students require which are not currently provided by TPS staff. “Being able to pull all of this together for a school our size is amazing,” Shellum said. “We are basically our own co-op.”
The new framework for services comes with multiple benefits for the school. First, the cost of services is in-line with what Truman was paying through SPEC, though the school will see an increase in the amount of time providers are spending with students. Most notably, speech and language services will go from 2.5 days per week to full time, with new pathologist Allison Seeman also acting as a literacy coach for small groups and as a social/emotional group leader for students. Shellum will be working toward her Special Education Director licensure, with Sara McMonagle working in Truman 2-3 days a month as director and mentor to Shellum. School psychologist Myra Heckenlaible-Gotto will hold office hours once a month and perform not only student evaluations but also act as a student group leader and provide staff support for academic needs.
The district will also recapture money that the state previously sent straight to SPEC, and is able to acquire funds that were previously lost to the district, which will have a positive effect on the district’s general fund. Truman will hold all of the teacher contracts and thus be able to claim all of the aid that previously went to SPEC for the instructors. In the past several years SPEC has also been claiming three-year-old students that were in Special Education and the district was not receiving this money. SPEC has been slowly transitioning this over to all SPEC member districts, so Truman will also be able to claim and keep 100% of this aid. The change in the inflow and outflow of funds will have a positive impact on Truman’s financial plan, about which Shellum stays very mindful and positive.
“We have so many good things going on here in Truman and we don’t want to miss opportunities to improve our students’ education while saving taxpayer funds,” Shellum stated. She has also looked at opportunities for general education programs that could both increase offerings and see cost-savings. “I take opportunities to connect with our area superintendents, inviting conversations about how our districts can work together.” Shellum and the board have secured a meeting with a neighboring district to begin discussions on potential future educational opportunities.
Truman’s enrollment continues to rise, with the school gaining several new students since the start of 2019. Enrollment in the 3 and 4-year-old preschool classes, as well as the pre-school census, indicate strong numbers for incoming classes. “That speaks well to the quality of education we are offering,” Shellum said.
From Left to Right – Martin Luther Athletic Director Tom Taylor, MLHS seniors Isaac Johnson and Sierra Geistfeld, GHEC senior Rachel Stauter, GHEC Athletic Director Erin Danner, TPS Athletic Director Kayla Anderson, and TPS seniors Lydia Studer and Clay Gieske.
The AAA award is used to recognize and honor high school seniors who have excelled in the classroom, on the athletic field, and in fine arts. Each high school is allowed to select one male and one female student to receive the AAA award. This year there were five recipients from our three schools.
MLHS recipients are Sierra Geistfeld and Isaac Johnson.
Isaac Johnson, son of Brent and Heidi Johnson, has participated in choir where he was a section leader, as well as solo ensemble and drama. He is in his church’s praise band, basketball in which he is a captain, golf, baseball, and trap. He was a participant in the “Top 100 basketball camp” this past summer which is a coach’s only invitation camp. He carries a 3.0 grade point average which includes a construction class that meets before school. Next year he plans to attend Alexandria Technical School and pursue a degree in carpentry.
Sierra has participated in band, pep band, choir, drama, volleyball, and basketball, student government, as well as singing in her church choir. She has a 3.94 GPA while taking over five AP, PSEO, and college level courses. Next year, she intends to go to college and is considering a career as a veterinarian technician. Her parents are Bruce and Chris Geistfeld.
Rachel Stauter is the daughter of Rob and Lynda Stauter. Rachel has been on both the GHEC high honor roll, and regular honor roll. She has participated in Band and Choir, been a member of the Theatre Arts productions the last three years, and has played volleyball, basketball, track, and been a cheerleader. Rachel has a been a member of National Honor Society and a Student Council Representative for her class since she was a 7th grader. Next year, Rachel plans to attend the University of Northwestern in St. Paul where she plans to play basketball, and will pursue a degree in Elementary Education.
Lydia Studer, daughter of Chris and Courtney Studer, has shown positive qualities in all three aspects of academics, fine arts, and athletics. She stands out among her peers due to her dedication and pride she puts into everything she does for our school and community. Lydia has been involved in Knowledge Bowl, student council, Youth in Government, math contests, band, FFA and school plays, as well as her participation in volleyball, basketball and softball. She is looked up to as a leader by the student body, as demonstrated by her hard work and dedication for maintaining high honors all the way through high school. She was inducted into the National Honor Society her junior year, and servers as TPS’s FFA President, Student Council Secretary and Class Vice President since 7th grade. Lydia plans on attending Iowa State next fall and majoring in Animal Science.
Clay Gieseke shows positive qualities in academics, athletics and in the social life within high school. He is part of our National Honor Society and shows his leadership qualities by being the Class President since 7th grade. Clay volunteers his time with many activities in the school and community. Some of these examples are FFA, church groups, 4-H, band, Knowledge Bowl, school plays and his participation in football, basketball, baseball and trap. He also helps raise money for organizations within our community. Clay plans to attend Lake Area Technical Institute in Watertown and majoring in Agriculture Production this coming fall. He is the son of Peter and Amy Gieseke.