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Paynesville Press - October 2, 2002

School board approves administration contracts

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board (District #741) took the following actions on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

*The board approved a proposed tax levy for 2003. In 2002, the school levied $964,585 on local property taxes. In 2003, the board approved a preliminary levy of $1,305,858, an increase of $341,273 or 35 percent. Most of that increase is due to the levy referendum passed in April, which will provide an extra $520,000 to the school district in its 2003-04 school year. The local tax levy for this is $277,500, just over 53 percent of the total amount. The district also has to levy $45,000 more for debt service due to reduced state equalization aid.

The preliminary tax levy will be used at the district's Truth-in-Taxation hearings in December. The board will have to approve a final tax levy in December as well.

*On a 4-3 vote, the board approved new contracts for its three principals: high school principal John Janotta, principal on special assignment Deb Gillman, and elementary school principal Todd Burlingame. The new contracts include a 3.3 percent salary increase for the 2002-03 school year and a 4.2 percent increase for 2003-04, totaling 7.5 percent over two years, the same as the current two-year teachers' contract.

The increase in the second year of the principals' contract could be larger or smaller depending on what health insurance rates do next year, as principals get full family coverage.

Voting in favor of the contract were Maurice Dosdall, Pat Flanders, Gretchen O'Fallon, and Allen Schmidt. Voting against it were Mark Dingmann, Deb Glenz, and Tami Stanger.

*The board unanimously approved a new one-year contract for Kyle Nehowig, athletics and Community Education coordinator. Nehowig gets a 1.2 percent increase in salary and health insurance and his contract was cut from 205 days to 199 days. Community Education pays for $4,000 of his salary.

He will also be able to attend any conference, subsection, section, or state MSHSL competition involving Paynesville students as a contract day, though at his own expense.

*The board approved lane changes for the following teachers: Cheryl Bungum, Phil Carlson, Ron Fuchs, Todd Knudsvig, Alycia Long, Pat Nelson, Joan Nevitt, Becki Quade, AnnMarie Stevens, and Charlene Strand. In response to criticism of the board's salary increase to Community Education Director Matt Dickhausen, approved in August and calling for a 12 percent increase in 2002-03 and a six percent increase in 2003-04, board member Deb Glenz noted that the lane changes along with the new teacher's contract, which was settled at 7.5 percent over two years, meant salary increases of five to 13 percent for these teachers. Four will have salary increases between five and six percent from 2001-02 to 2002-03, five will have increases between eight and ten percent, and one gets a 13 percent increase.

*The board took public comment from three parents of kindergarten students and also received a letter concerning the class sizes in the three kindergarten classes. The parents feel the new program needs to be evaluated and that it is not condusive to maximum learning due to the large class sizes (25 or 26 students per class).

That number of kids, in rooms not designed for so many, makes routine tasks difficult let alone learning the curriculum, said parent Becki Quade. Even getting 25 students ready for recess is highly time consuming, she noted. "I can't imagine 25 pairs of snowpants, 25 hats, 25 pairs of mittens," she said of the coming winter.

The district implemented all-day, everyday kindergarten in order to cut the cost of noon bus transportation, which made continuing with half-day, everyday kindergarten impossible. Teachers and parents proposed having all-day, everyday kindergarten instead of all-day, alternate day kindergarten. Everyday kindergarten provides better consistency than alternate days, but it required an extra teacher, which is being paid for, in part, by charging parents up to $400 per semester. Last winter, when it was being proposed, the district did have 75 potential students on its list, but didn't expect them all to be ready to enroll in kindergarten this fall.

The parents still agreed that all-day, everyday kindergarten was better than alternate days but wondered if more concerted volunteer efforts and continuing to take a day off each week might help the staff to have smaller working groups and to have time to prepare.

The board directed the kindergarten teachers and elementary principal Todd Burlingame to have another meeting with parents to evaluate possible improvements to the kindergarten program.

*The board approved assigning Ken Vork as the three-act play director and jazz band director for the 2002-03 school year. The jazz band was eliminated during the budget cut process last winter, but was reinstated thanks to donations.

*The board approved a long-term substitute teaching contract for JoAnn Gesellchen from at least Sept. 10 to Nov. 4. She is filling in for Karen Odberg.

*The board approved ECFE and Learning Readiness employment assignments for the first semester of the 2002-03 school year: teacher Kim Thompson (293 hours); teacher Becki Quade (146 hours); teacher Lonnie Lien (33 hours); teacher Jeanne Virant (31 hours); instructional assistant Margaret Utsch (250.75 hours); and instructional assistant Ann Mehr (42 hours).

*The board approved an employment assignment for Agnes Fangmeier for 177 hours as a special education clerical assistant. The cost of her employment will be reimbursed by federal funding.

*The board approved a 68.25-hour employment assignment for Diane Gilk, as an instructional assistant for pre-school screening.

*Flanders, as board chairman, appointed Dingmann, Glenz, and Stanger to a committee to implement the school board's goals for 2002-03. Their goals are: to continue to pursue a balanced budget and be fiscally responsible; to examine various organizational structures so that all students will be challenged to reach their academic potential; to encourage open communication and public involvement; and to review and update the employee improvement process.

*Flanders appointed Dingmann and O'Fallon to serve as the school board's representatives at a joint meeting of community agencies. The meeting, the idea of city of Paynesville Mayor Jeff Thompson, will seek representation from the city, township, school board, hospital district, lake associations, Chamber of Commerce, and the ministerial association.

*The board approved a change to its facility usage policy requiring groups to remove all materials and refuse within 24 hours of the completion of their event. There will be a $25 per day charge for failing to comply.

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