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Paynesville Press - November 16, 2005

Board approves teacher, custodial contracts

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

*The board approved a canvass of the school board election results. The election was held on Tuesday, Nov. 8. Four candidates filed for four four-year terms on the board, and 198 voters cast ballots. Elected were David T. Johnson (175); Mark Dingmann (170); Allen P. Schmidt (170); and Debora Glenz (146).

Johnson will start his first term on the board in January; the other three are incumbents. (Incumbent Tami Stanger did not file for re-election.

*The board approved a new two-year contract with the teacher's union. This covers the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years. The new contract calls for a 3.75 percent salary increase the first year and a 4.5 percent salary increase the second year.

The new contract also increases the district's contribution to health care from $4,700 to $4,800 each year, as well as offering a new, more basic insurance plan as a choice for teachers. Fifteen teachers have opted for this plan, which starts on Jan. 1, 2006, superintendent Todd Burlingame told the board.

Other changes include: increasing early retirement benefits from 72 percent of unused sick days (up to 82) to 75 percent of unused sick days (up to 82); adding a step in the grievance process to include a meeting with the superintendent before going to the school board; limiting new teacher hires from advancing to lanes BA75 or BA90 with having a master's degree; creating a sick leave bank, where participating teachers can pool two days each; changing the process for assigning teachers to extracurricular positions; changing the contract language, referring to secondary teachers as "teachers in grades 6-12"; adding adoption leave; and making 630 grammatical changes.

The board's negotiating committee met with the union's team nearly a dozen times over the past six months before reaching a tentative agreement in October. The new contract was approved by the teacher's union by a membership vote on Monday, Nov. 7.

*The board approved a two-year contract with the custodial union. Their contract calls for a 4.70 percent salary increase the first year (2005-06) and a 3.54 percent salary increase the second year (2006-07), totalling 8.24 percent over two years. The contract also includes a change in review time for the seniority list from 30 days to 20 days; adding early retirement; capping uniform expense at $150 per year; and allowing custodial members to use the district annuity program.

*The board heard secondary school principal Lorie Floura report about attending a meeting hosted by the Department of Education and education commissioner Alice Seagren for high schools who received five stars in both reading and math this year under No Child Left Behind. Eleven high schools in Minnesota earned five-star ratings in both reading and math this year, and Paynesville was the only rural school to do so, noted Floura. The others were Eastview, Edina, Math and Science Academy (Woodbury), Moundsview, Northfield, Orono, St. Anthony Village, Rosemount, Watertown-Mayer, and Woodbury.

Elementary principal and curriculum director Deb Gillman also attended the meeting on Thursday, Nov. 3. Floura told the board it was a big honor to be at the table with these other districts and was a good opportunity to exchange ideas.

*The board heard an annual report about Community Education from director Matt Dickhausen. Community Education offered 212 total classes in 2004-05 with 2,783 total participants, not including the fitness center and special events. Summer recreation had 1,219 participants, with leading activities being community softball (170), fitness (154), gymnastics (143), basketball (123), karate (107), and tennis (86).

The fitness center saw its visits increase by nearly 50 percent in 2004-05, going from 15,276 visits in 2003-04 to 22,137 in 2004-05. A big factor was their contract with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, which, as of September, had 63 single memberships, 56 couple memberships, and 17 family memberships. (Under this program, insurance pays for the membership as long as the member visits regularly.)

The extra demand caused Community Education to remodel a storeroom and create a cardiac studio with extra cardiovascular equipment, said Dickhausen, at a cost of $13,500. The fitness center, even after this investment and putting $25,000 into its 2005-06 budget (to cover for memberships paid in 2004-05 but not fully redeemed until this year), showed a balance of $9,750. This allowed the fitness center to keep its rate for the third straight year.

Lastly, Dickhausen talked briefly about Adult Basic Education, which Community Education offers on Wednesday nights with 15 students and 108 contact hours in 2004-05.

*The board was informed by Gillman that the elementary school continues to enroll students in grades 4 and 5, with class sizes on the verge of being too large. In fifth grade, the classes have 30, 29, and 29 students; in fourth grade, they have 28 each. The district has already had to order extra textbooks and is "bulging at the seams." If enrollment continues in these grades, the district will have to consider its options, she said.

*The board heard public comment from teacher Rick Houske, who criticized the investigation done into boys' basketball coaching situation. "I gave the investigator all the facts, and she didn't follow up," Houske told the board, which listened to and limited his comments to ten minutes but did not respond.

Nor did the board discuss the basketball coaching positions, which were hired, without Houske, under the consent agenda.

Houske asked for the board to reopen the investigation or to go to an evidentiary hearing with a neutrel arbitrator. The investigator, he said, never spoke to any of his sources. "How can this be considered a thorough investigation?" Houske asked.

Houske challenged the reasons he was given for not being rehired as the ninth grade boys' basketball coach - insubordination and a difference in philosophy. "In short, I was fired for something I didn't do," he said, "and for a difference of philosophy" that the athletic director can't evaluate.

At best, Houske said athletic director Kyle Nehowig has been unfair in this matter, and Houske charged that superintendent Todd Burlingame had turned it into a power struggle. He asked the board to open all three coaching positions and start hiring again.

*The board approved the following athletic assignments for the winter season 2005-06: boys' basketball: Phil Carlson, head varsity; Ross Englestad, assistant varsity; Riley Flanders, ninth grade; Todd Knudsvig, junior high; Brad Nepsund, junior high; girls' basketball: Jackie Parsley, head varsity; Karla Nett, assistant varsity; Brad Nepsund, junior high; Kari Hatlevig, junior high; wrestling: Tim Woehler, head varsity; Tracy Piepenburg, assistant varsity/ junior high; David Kerzman, assistant varsity/junior high; gymnastics: Deb Nehowig, head varsity; Tessa Miller, assistant varsity; wrestling cheerleading: Sandy Spanier; and danceline: Jeanne Virant and Barb Werlinger.

Virant and Werlinger are sharing the head varsity coaching position for danceline, and Kerzman and Piepenburg are sharing the duties of the varsity assistant and for the junior high wrestlers.

The district still has an opening for a ninth grade coach for girls' basketball. If the district cannot hire someone, they can appoint a teacher through a process with the union.

*The board approved adding an extra hour per day to paraprofessional Polly Jaeger to help with technology and computer needs at the secondary school. The district needs extra help with its technology, said Burlingame, and have opted to try this arrangement and review its impact in a month. A list of duties for Jaeger, relating to this technology assignment, is being developed.

*The board approved support staff job descriptions, points, groups, and salaries, part of the district's re-evaluation of its pay equity program.

*The board approved the annual Assurance of Compliance with State and Federal Law Prohibiting Discrimination report.

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