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Bernard Bus Service fights for R-P contract

Fri, Jun 25th, 2010
Posted in Education

At the Monday, June 21st, school board meeting, Mike Bernard, owner of Bernard Bus Service, and attorney Joe Hammell spoke before the board, contesting the recent bidding process for the district's transportation needs. Ready Bus Line, of LaCrescent, was recently approved for the contract, coming in with the lowest bid, nearly $30,000 less than Bernard. According to Bernard, the bottom line is that they should have been awarded the contract.

Hammell presented a historical perspective to the board, noting that Bernard Bus Service had served the district for 15 years. In addition, they had met district requirements that the contractor have a physical presence in Rushford, as well as having a qualified mechanic on staff. Furthering their argument, Hammell noted Bernard Bus Service had endured the flood of 2007 alongside the district, providing transportation despite suffering flood damage.

Bernard assured the board repeatedly the numbers he was presenting were the same as original figures. Knowing the actuals and basing his bid on numbers provided by the Transportation Committee, Bernard believes his bid, as a whole, to be the most advantageous in savings to the district when spread over a four-year span (a two plus two option). According to Bernard, the first two years must be budgeted, but the second two are negotiable.

John Nitecki, Transportation Committee Chairman, responded to the claims, "Let me be blunt. I'm somewhat offended and insulted." Nitecki indicated that Bernard had been given the numbers days ahead of time and asked to verify them in case of disagreement. No issue had arisen. "We didn't want it to come to this point. You're still negotiating, that's not the reality. Our committee went into this with a clean slate. We did not give preferential treatment to anyone. We didn't rush through, in the hope this didn't happen. I don't appreciate it, quite frankly."

"I didn't come to offend you," responded Bernard. "I'm trying to protect the 15 years I've put in here. I've graduated four Kindergarten classes. I'd like to think the board would be disappointed if I didn't fight for it. I'm here to fight to continue to transport R-P students."

It was not immediately clear whether or not the board is obligated to re-evaluate the bids because of Bernard's contention. Not wanting to speculate, board Chairman Dan Munson said the board will confer with legal counsel before making any further decisions.

In other news, the district has been awarded Alternative Delivery of Specialized Instructional Services (ADSIS) funding for the 2010-2011 school year. This will finance the retention of interventionists Margaret Marklowitz and Tracy Knutson.

Not so fortunate was the fate of industrial education teacher Mark Winkels, who was placed on unrequested leave in May. The board has accepted the hearing officer's findings. Chairman Munson reiterated, "It's not our job to micromanage teachers. That's what we hire administration for. We do what's best for the kids, the district, and the community."

Winkels will retain only a .48 position and benefits from recall rights to the former position for up to five years. He will receive a letter of assignment for the upcoming year and is under contract for the fulfillment of the .48 position unless he resigns it.

The board also approved the new hire of Colby Lind, at .48, for agriculture classes and FFA advisor. The position replaced full-time former teacher Dawn Lubahn who was terminated in May. Lind's hire is conditional until new licensure is received from the Minnesota Department of Education.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is Monday, July 19th, at 6:30 in the high school biology room.

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