Cornell School Board; Longtime librarian’s legacy leaves district with $250,000
By Ginna Young
It started out like any other school board meeting at Cornell, but the Nov. 23 regular meeting, soon left everyone in shock and elation. The emotional outpouring came after superintendent Paul Schley notified the board that the district was the recipient of a sum of money, to be used for a memorial scholarship.
Schley has known that the district was bequeathed something for some time, but until that day, had no idea what the amount would be. After filling out the proper paperwork, it was simply a matter of waiting.
“…We never really heard much, so we thought maybe we’d get a few hundred dollars or so,” said Schley. “Today, I’m going through my mail and we have a check for $250,000.”
At first, board members thought Schley was joking, but he finally convinced them it was true. The funds come from the Robin R. Arnhold estate, which provided $250,000 for the Edith B. Arnhold Memorial Scholarship within the Cornell School District.
“I was almost shaking after I read it, I didn’t think it was real,” said Schley. “I can’t believe it.”
Edith was a librarian at the district from 1962-81, when she retired. She was born in LaCrescent, Minn., married Francis R. “Dick” Arnhold in Lansing, Iowa, in 1940, then they resided in Chippewa Falls the rest of their lives. Edith graduated from Westport High School in Kansas City, Mo., in 1934, and Cum Laude from the University of Missouri- Kansas City in 1942, with a B.A. in history and political science.
Then, in 1962, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from UW-Eau Claire, with a B.S. in history and secondary education, and a minor in library science, going on to receive her master’s in library science from UWMadison in 1967. She was a member of Beta Phi Mu, the honor fraternity for library science graduates. Edith’s great passions in life were books, sports and politics. At the age of 84, Edith passed away in March of 2001, after a brief illness.
Her daughter, Robin, 74, passed away in January 2019, as a result of complications from a fall.
Schley said he has already been in contact with the Community Foundation of Chippewa County on how to invest the funds and has an appointment made to clarify how much the scholarship amount will be. Usually, scholarships are determined by how much interest is collected on the principal amount.
“…That could be a pretty big check some years,” said Schley.
He also wants to determine what eligibility requirements will be set for applying for the scholarship.
“So, I’m going to get some more details narrowed down, but, Holy Cow,” said Schley. “Really nice for our kids.”
Middle/high school principal Dave Elliott also had some happy news to report in the way of scholarships, as he and others are working to set criteria for applications. There will now be two, $1,000 scholarships awarded to Cornell seniors pursuing a post-secondary education at a technical, two-year or four-year college/university, as part of the Pauline Johnson and Gail Mittermeyer Memorial Scholarship.
“We know we can have that running for at least three years, and then I hope that I can continue to have that go [on],” said Elliott. “I’m excited.”
Because of the memorial donations taking place, Schley has the future on his mind and wondered if maybe the community feels the same.
“You know our high school is an old building,” said Schley.
Although the high school has been welltaken care of and was remodeled in the early 2000s, along with the replacement of its boilers in 2007 or 2008, Schley says when the boilers are ready for replacement the next time, the plumbing and electrical will be old.
“I think it’d be a good idea if you’re thinking about what you want to do for a high school,” he said.
Schley had a few suggestions, such as building on current land the district owns, such as the parking lot by the baseball field and demolishing the current building for a parking lot. Or, he suggested the district could obtain a different piece of land in, or out, of the city limits to build on.
Drawing on board member Greg Baker’s knowledge, those at the meeting determined the oldest part of the high school building was constructed in 1915, with additions in 1921, 1951, 1962, and 1995, for the commons. Admittedly, the high school is mostly hallways and stairwells.
“See, that’s the problem you have, the old, old school right in the center,” said board president Lyle Briggs.
Schley said a new high school in some form is part of long-term goals and that he didn’t want this board, or a new one, depending on how far it falls in the future, to be caught unawares. He also advised having a community discussion to see what people have in mind for their high school.
“Sometimes, it’s good to get feelers out there for a couple years, and maybe somebody wants to donate or sell at a good price for future buildings,” said Schley. “This is long-term, but I want us to be ready. If we say we’re looking for something like that in the future, you never know what might happen.”
Something else Schley asked the board to think about, is two policies that should be developed – or not. He said the first is a new one, on policy about contacting legal counsel. Many school districts are seeing members of the board contacting attorneys on their own and having the fees billed to the school district.
The new policy would say that the board president is the only one allowed to contact the attorney, when directed by the board for matters involving the superintendent. Schley says he usually utilizes associations the district belongs to, in order to avoid legal fees, but on occasion, legal counsel is needed.
He asked the board their thoughts on the matter and if they wanted to proceed with putting together a new policy.
“If you don’t, we’ll just scrap it,” said Schley.
“I think we should,” said board clerk Eileen Sikora, “just to cover all the bases.”
Schley also said the district might want to change their policy about how meetings are run, when dealing with closed sessions. In the past, policies stated that board members “phoning in” could not be in on that part of the meeting, since it was not guaranteed they were alone at their location.
“COVID has changed that thinking,” said Schley.
The policy would now say that people listening remotely, would need to certify they are alone. With so many things happening virtually, the board agreed it would be good to add the clause to the policy.
“I think it makes sense,” said Schley.
Although not a policy, Elliott talked about how some students who are studying at home, instead of at school, are having a hard time with deadlines and assessments, and completing assignments. Elliott said kids in “My Choice,” which is where students can join classrooms virtually from home, need to understand that they still have to take tests when the other students take tests.
“We’ve gotta tighten up My Choice,” he said, mentioning that he understands there are reasons for at-home learning and that the district works with parents. “We need our kids in the building if they’re not successful and so you might get a little pushback.”
Schley says, unless the board directs otherwise or a lack of staff forces a closure, that the doors of the district will remain open for in-person learning.
“Our main goal is to stay open,” he said. “I think it’s the best for kids and our staff.”
Schley says he subbed for a few periods the other day, and after talking with students in those classes, the consensus was that the youth want to come to school.
“It verified in my mind, that we’re doing the right thing,” said Schley.
Elliott agreed wholeheartedly.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my staff for stepping in,” said Elliott, adding that he and Schley are filling in when necessary, even as just “discipline” for classrooms where teachers are instructing their classes, via Zoom. “We’re doing what we can to make sure it works.”
Paul Schley, Cornell School District superintendent, made sure he imparted good news loud enough to Board of Education member Greg Baker Nov. 23, as Baker and board treasurer Stephanie Seidlitz attended the regular meeting virtually.