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Rushford-Peterson forms future facilities committee

By Kirsten Zoellner

Fri, Aug 2nd, 2013
Posted in Rushford Village Government

While admittedly not surprised with the results of a proposed $15 million new facility referendum last December, Superintendent Chuck Ehler gleaned a clearer vision for what the community wants. Now, the district is looking to setup a community task force for the future of the facilities.

“The committee would have the same task, although with a different flavor to it, as our Facilities Task Force did. Now, with information from the fiscal impact study and the demographic study, we can come up with viable plans for how to address the future needs of the district,” he noted at the July 29 school board meeting. “It’ll be more of an effort to update facilities. With more information available, we’ll be able to get more solid numbers. It’s a more concentrated effort to get a solid foundation to work off of.”

The committee already has 36 interested persons, but it is unclear how many will serve. In addition, ATS&R has been hired to facilitate the work of the committee and lead them through a series of four meetings. Upon their review, the committee is expected to develop a recommendation for board consideration for the upgrade of district facilities. The outcomes of the interactive meetings will be published on the district website and made available to local media. In the end, ATS&R would coordinate the information from the committee in hopes of leading to a successful bond levy.

“I think it would help to get the information out there, which is what the public asked for,” noted board member Julie Koop.

“More direction from the community is something that I seek,” echoed board chair Angela Colbenson.

The four meetings are scheduled for August 14 and 27 and September 11 and 25. The district hopes to have the work of the Future Facilities Committee completed by mid-October.

Recent public discussion of the superintendent’s contract was also a topic of the evening. Peterson, who’d written a July 21 Letter to the Editor in regards to Ehler’s contract, had a laundry list of over 12 items he found in error on the contract and expressed concern over Colbenson’s actions in securing Ehler’s contract temporarily.

This past spring, the board made the decision to settle the teachers’ contracts first and then the superintendent’s. To date, the teachers’ contracts are still unsettled. Meanwhile, Ehler’s contract expired June 30. Per Minnesota law, the district must have a superintendent. After, the contract expired, Colbenson consulted with legal counsel for the district as was advised to authorize Ehler to continue working until the terms of his most current contract until the board could settle a new contract.

“This is not a very professional contract,” stated Peterson. The retroactive date of the contract (July 1), undetermined salary, and benefits such as health and life insurance, vacation and bereavement pay, dues paid for Ehler by the district, and vandalism coverage were all mentioned, as well as action to continue the expired contract.

“Do you remember when we decided to go through the superintendent’s contract after addressing the teachers’? Why do you come upon this as though it’s just come out of thin air?” asked board member Greg Smith.

“Having Ehler continue as superintendent was wrong,” said Peterson. “We could have had a special meeting. What was done was illegal. MSBA doesn’t allow a superintendent’s contract to roll over and no board member or chairperson can legally grant authority. The board sits back and does what you and Chuck think is best. You say my comments will discourage people from attending. Taxing them right out of town will discourage them from attending. A lot of people are sick and tired of what you’re doing.”

“This was an error on my part, in an effort to bring teacher negotiations to a close,” noted Ehler. “It [superintendent contract] should have been settled. Angela was put in a difficult situation. The attorney was advising the chairperson. This could have been avoided. We don’t need to get into head-butting. As a board, decide what you want.”

After some further discussion, the board voted 4 to 1, with Peterson opposed, to allow the contract to continue until final negotiations can be completed, no later than October. Salary and term will be subject to negotiations.

In other news, the district has moved forward with School Reach, a new district notification system. Looking to improve communication between district staff, coaches, students, and families, the district has entered into a three-year pre-paid contract, of $4,329, for services. The tool will allow important messages from the district, notifications from teachers and coaches, and even attendance notification to parents in an instant using voicemail, email, or text communication. Standard communication will continue, but the district feels this will allow instant information, beyond simply emergency.

Plans for more managed access control to the facilities are also continuing. The district has received a quote for a three-door, plus one in Peterson, video intercom entry system, but the board has tabled the item until more information can be gathered.

The next regularly scheduled school board meeting is Monday, August 19, at 5:30p.m., in the high school biology room. The public is encouraged to attend.

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