Three new members take seats on Haakon School Board
New members Vonda Hamill, Craig Hanrahan and Bill Slovek took the oath of office at the July meeting of the Haakon School Board on Tuesday. The board chose Hanrahan as their president and Matt Reedy as vice president.
Hanrahan had come prepared, with several issues he wanted to address already on the agenda.
In the course of approving their annual designations, board member Kelly Blair noted when approving The Pioneer Review as the official newspaper that the newspaper had made an error when reporting on the opt out effort. He said the error had been in a front page news story, but the correction was on page six. Blair said he had taken criticism from the public on this and that he wanted the newspaper staff to be aware of his concern.
While reviewing the appointment of the superintendent as director of federal programs, board members questioned whether this responsibility is listed on her contract or whether she is paid additionally for this. Superintendent Dr. Julie Ertz explained that she is not paid any more to serve as director of federal programs, but that part of her salary is paid by the Title program for this responsibility. Ertz said last year $1,500 of her salary came from the Title program for this, and this year the figure is $2,500.
Board members discussed a proposed fifteen cent increase in the price of meals. Business Manager Marcia Jackson and Ertz explained that costs of running the school lunch program are expected to be higher. “We are estimating a $2,500 increase in expenses,” said Ertz.
Blair noted that the program had been in the red. “This increase
should make the program run,” he commented. “It should support itself,” Ertz agreed. The increase would affect student and adult meals charged at full price, but not reduced price meals, which will continue to be forty cents.
An agenda item to set the date of the annual school election and to set election precincts brought out concerns from board members. “I have a question about having a business as a polling place,” said Hanrahan.
“I was questioned about why we cut down to two polling places,” Vonda Hamill added. “I had some people who said it was just too darn far to drive.”
“It cut our election expenses from $2,800 to $1,100,” Matt Reedy responded.
Addressing Hanrahan’s concern, Jackson explained that the district and the county used to use the Milesville Hall as the polling place. “The county moved it to T-34 since everyone went there to coffee after voting anyway,” said Jackson. She added that the business was on a highway, while patrons had to drive on gravel to reach the Milesville Hall.
Regarding the reduction in polling sites, Jackson said “I really thought having two precincts was adequate.”
Hamill said she had voted at T-34 and that the voting table was right next to a table where food was being served. “I’m wondering if we could just set up a partition or screen,” she said.
Bill Slovek asked how setting the election date would be affected by a potential opt-out attempt. The board decided to table the election decisions until they have more information.
A handful of teachers and staff were in attendance, but no other district patrons were present for the budget hearing scheduled for 8:00 p.m. The board briefly discussed the proposal to separate the pension fund from the general fund. Jackson explained that the district can levy separately for the pension fund. The district will decrease the levy on capital outlay, so there will be no net tax increase. “So it’s not a tax increase, it’s a tax shift,” commented Slovek. The board tabled adoption of the budget, which does not need to be finalized until October.
The board reviewed their board policy book. Craig Hanrahan recommended to suspend the policy on public participation at board meetings. “The ten-day rule is what I have the most trouble with,” said Hanrahan. He said he would like to see a policy “that gives the public access to the board and still gives the board some safeguards.”
“It’s my suggestion we suspend the policy until October. That will
give us time to revise it,” said Hanrahan. “I want this board more open than that.”
The policy allowed for input from the public at meetings, but anyone who wanted the board to take action on an item that was not on the agenda was required to submit their request to the business office ten days prior to the meeting. If the policy was suspended, “If someone needs be on the agenda, what should they be doing?” Hamill asked.
Ertz said that people could come to a board meeting and request to be on the agenda that night. “But the board still needs to approve the agenda,” Hanrahan added. The board approved suspending the policy until October.
In the course of making committee assignments, Hanrahan proposed appointing an alternative school calendar committee. He suggested that two board members should serve on this committee to explain the modified four-day week schedule to the public. He added that he thought this committee should replace the committee formed earlier that was made up of board members, teachers, students, and staff. The board approved Hanrahan’s recommendations. Kelly Blair will chair the committee. Ross Williams was the second member named.
The board went into an executive session that lasted about a half hour to discuss a legal matter. After returning to regular session, they approved an amended mileage claim.
Hanrahan asked the board to approve a resolution he had drafted concerning certified professional leave. Hanrahan said the resolution would inform the public and staff that “In the future we will be very hesitant to approve certified professional leave beyond the negotiated contract.” Under the current negotiated contract, teachers may take three days of certified professional leave.
Dr. Ertz commented that Hanrahan’s resolution implies that the negotiated agreement was not being followed. Hanrahan acknowledged that the contract has been followed. “But I think it’s been abused,” Hanrahan went on. “The teachers have a contract to teach, and I think they should be here.” Anita Peterson noted that the board has looked at each request beyond the three days on an individual basis.
The board passed a motion to approve the resolution, with Kelly Blair and Anita Peterson casting “no” votes. Hanrahan went on to say that the same issue applies to administrative professional leave, but that he did not think a resolution was necessary.
“I don’t agree with this,” High school principal Jeff Reickman stated. “I encourage my staff to be as active in their profession as they want to be, and I plan to do this myself.”
Marcia Jackson gave an update on the new Government Accounting Standards Board reporting that she is required to do. She asked that the district’s 2003-04 financial records be audited rather than waiting two years. She said any mistakes would be corrected sooner and she could make sure she’s doing the new system right. The district could then wait two years to do the next audit. The board approved her request.