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Kingsland School Board faced with some challenging decisions

Fri, Jan 8th, 2010
Posted in Education

The agenda for the meeting of the Kingsland School Board was short to begin with, and as it ended up, the board didn't get through item 1.

The first item on the agenda was the Election of Board Officers. The current Board Chair, Mitch Lenz, conducted the election. Normally this annual event goes smoothly and without controversy, but at this meeting members were unable to agree on a board chair. Nominations were made in the names of Mike Zimmer and the current Board Chair, Mitch Lenz. When the votes were taken for each candidate, it was a tie. Those voting for Mike Zimmer were Al Williams and Christine Beck and Zimmer. Those voting for Mitch Lenz were Deb Dahl and Peggy Merkel, and Lenz.

Lenz said that in 15 years he has never before seen anything like this happen. In two separate votes conducted by Lenz the vote was the same. Tied.

Board member Christine Beck said she voted for Zimmer because she feels the board needs new blood in that position. Al Williams also indicated that he felt there needs to be someone new in the chair position. Peggy Merkel shook her head and said, "This is not good boys and girls!"

The inability to elect a chair left the board in the position that no further business could be conducted. Zimmer commented that he had spoken to Lenz and he (Zimmer) had been told that Mitch Lenz was not going to be running for school board in the next election. "I believe it would be good for me to be the new chairman so I can learn from Mitch before he (Lenz) goes off the board," said Zimmer.

Lenz countered by saying, "I'll be the chair as long as the board wants me to be," and confirmed that he was not planning on running in the next election this year.

Zimmer had an idea: "let's flip for it" as many elections are determined this way. The board didn't agree that this would be an acceptable solution to the deadlock.

The meeting continued with comments from Lenz as to the importance of the board chair position and whoever is elected to that post from the board must understand all the various duties and functions that are required. Zimmer agreed, "That's why I think it is necessary to have a new chair this year before the experience Lenz has acquired is lost after he leaves."

The situation was lessened after Superintendent Strosahl suggested the Minnesota School Board Association be contacted to determine what needs to be done to break the twice tried, twice failed election of a board chair. Lenz indicated he would call the MSBA and report back to the board.

A work session to discuss the superintendent's contract and budget was scheduled and board members switched gears to talk about these issues. The main item of discussion was the decision that needed to be made regarding the superintendent's contract. It would appear as though members have decided to consider two contracts: one would be part-time and a full-time two or three year contract. The discussion centered on a full-time contract rather than a part-time contract. When asked about the current contract, chairman Mitch Lenz said that the contract for Strosahl expired in June of 09. He said that other budgetary issues consumed a lot of the time by the board and he had just not gotten around to it.

Lenz directed the group as to what their preferences were. Deb Dahl said she was in favor of a three-year contract. Al Williams said he wanted information on comparable school districts before he makes up his mind.

Mike Zimmer said, "The superintendent needs to be flexible and assume other duties as directed by the school board."

Lenz continued, "None of the board members have logged a performance issue with the current superintendent, so I assume he is acceptable."

There was an underlying thread of necessary experience running through the discussion. Lenz said, "If you hire a part-time superintendent he will work three days, and when things pop up in his off time, he will probably say, 'not my job.'" He also said, "During those off times the board chairman will have to assume those duties." He continued by saying; "A full-time superintendent will work seven days and get paid five of them, and when things go wrong at the school over the weekend, he will get it fixed."

Superintendent Strosahl took part in the discussion when asked specific questions but for the most part sat in silence as his job was discussed.

Christine Beck spoke up and said, "We are not trying to kick Darrin out the door."

Lenz quickly replied, "I'm not getting that. I feel there's something else beyond the money because you won't get a superintendent any cheaper!" referring to the current contract of Strosahl which was given to board members.

In final comments, Deb Dahl asked about the contract, "Is this something we need to all agree on?"

Chairman Lenz stated, "As long as the majority of the board agrees."

Final outcome: no board chairman was elected, the superintendent is working without a contract and there are voices of big cuts coming from the state for this year. "As your legislative representative, I can tell you that you will be facing more cuts next year," said Lenz.

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