An additional coach will be joining the Perham gymnastics team.

At a meeting Nov. 10, Perham-Dent School Board members approved a third coaching position to support more individual training and safety aspects. Each of the districts in Section 8A have at least three coaches.

There are two coaches in Perham now, head coach Jenna Kupferschmid and assistant coach Mike Peterson. The school district sets the number of coaches based on safety and the number of students involved in the program. There are about 13 gymnasts in Perham annually; Peterson said more are expected in the next few years.

“The individual attention that gymnastics takes as a coach, I think, is a high concentration,” said Erin Anderson, activities director. “I think she (Kupferschmid) feels we could do more if we did have a three-team coaching staff. And safety, I would say, is an issue. We have had some (injuries) in our gymnastics programs over the years…which we’ve had to attend to and we’ve done well with that, but this would maybe enhance that.”

Superintendent Mitch Anderson said while several sports include coaching staff at the junior high level, as well, the gymnastics team only has the varsity level. Board member Mike Hamman felt the danger of the sport warranted a third coach.

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One of the distinct factors about the Perham district is its “symbiotic relationship” with the Perham Area Gymnastics Academy, as the activities director said. The gymnasts practice at the gymnastics building by the elementary school, and continue working with the academy if they’re not on the varsity team.

“I think a lot of people mistake and think, well, it’s all spotting, and we don’t spot that much," Peterson said. "Our academy has done an awesome job developing our kids in their program so they really don’t need a ton of spotting, but they do need a lot of correction, supervision, one-on-one all the time.”

School board members agreed to post for the position.

Growing STEM at the middle school

Seventh and eighth grade students at Prairie Wind Middle School are being opened to the opportunities of science, technology, engineering and math through the school's new STEM program.

They're working with materials that range from wood to plastic to recycled goods and more, using different tools of technology like an educational drone, CNC laser cutter and CNC router inlay.

Andy Paulson, seventh and eighth grade STEM teacher, shows the school board an example of a pen that students create as one of their projects. Students work with a variety of materials and equipment pieces. (Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)
Andy Paulson, seventh and eighth grade STEM teacher, shows the school board an example of a pen that students create as one of their projects. Students work with a variety of materials and equipment pieces. (Rebecca Mitchell / Perham Focus)

STEM teacher Andy Paulson came to the Perham district last spring from Frazee-Vergas Public Schools, where he taught for nine years.

“They’re understanding materials and what the capabilities of these materials are, too,” Paulson said of his students. “Whatever widget you make...the process that goes into it is pretty fun for these kids to grow and see.”

While the program is new, it's possible the middle school STEM students will start selling items similar to Jacket Manufacturing at the high school, or will make and give things to elementary school students.

“The number of things that are related to careers that are linked to this stuff is amazing," said middle school principal Scott Bjerke at last week's school board meeting. "I think we’re starting to peak kids’ interest into this, and then they know what to take when they get to the high school because they’ve had a taste of it."

At the meeting, the board also:

  • Approved a contract with the Village Business Institute through June 2024. Services such as mental health counseling, legal counseling, crisis counseling, chemical dependency assessments/education and management training are available for staff members. The district pays $30 per full-time employee per year.

  • Approved the Minnesota School Employees Association master agreement for support staff members.

  • Approved a memorandum of understanding for providing EIDBI services with Empowering Kids through the second quarter. The services will likely be approved for the remainder of the school year. Board member Justine Anderson abstained.

  • Discussed the number of COVID-19 cases in students and staff at the schools, which they said has remained low. The cases are updated on the district's website daily.

  • Reminded the public that the next board meeting is on Dec. 8 at 5 p.m. in the high school media center. The meeting will include a truth in taxation presentation with time for public comments and questions starting at 6 p.m.