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"Time is of the essence" for R-P School Board

Fri, Jul 24th, 2009
Posted in Education

A bump in the road to finding a new principal for the district was one of the key topics at the Monday, July 20th, meeting. The district has attempted to be ultra-proactive in both finding the person best suited for the district opening and in utilizing staff to the fullest. In this instance, "It didn't work out to our benefit," said Superintendent Chuck Ehler.

The district had been carefully looking at 22 candidates to fill the position left by former K-8 principal Joel Hovland's recent resignation. Along the way, the district made the decision to change the criteria to include requiring the chosen candidate to have a reading and special education background. With this experience, they would be required to teach and be the district facilitator for special education in addition to their role as an administrator. Of the 22 candidates, only two met these criteria.

While Mr. Ehler was under the impression that the top candidate would be accepting of the offer, it was in fact, declined, leaving the district in an awkward position as the school year draws closer.

Council member Kathie Ingram asked, "Is it too much responsibility?"

Ehler went on to explain that some administrators don't welcome the opportunity to be placed back in a classroom setting, but stressed that the district must strive to both meet the needs of the students and use personnel in the most effective manner.

Operating Levy

In a topic that left all but one council member publicly despising taxes, the council looked at the possibility of a new operating levy or the addition of a clause in the existing levy. The current operating levy of $840 per student was passed in 2002 and did not include an inflationary clause. Such a clause was not permissible at the time. The levy expires in 2012.

With a drastic reduction in aid to the district in the coming years, the superintendent gave "ballpark figures" of increases of $50 to $150 per student. While such an increase doesn't appear to overburden the tax base, it would represent anywhere from $35,000 to $106,000 for the district.

Council member Roger Metz pointed out, "The district has so many positive things going on (such as the recently MCAII scores). I think it would be received well."

"I think this shows fiscal responsibility on our behalf. We haven't been back in 8 years even through some troubled times," added council member Greg Smith.

Chairman John Nitecki cautioned, "Don't take lightly the impact on families. It's an additional burden that I'd like to stay away from, but I think it would succeed either way."

The district must notify the county 53 day prior to November 3rd elections if it intends to proceed with changes. In the meantime, the district will be gathering comparable figures from other areas throughout the state and southeastern districts to piece together a comprehensive picture.

School Day Hours

A change in the school day hours was also passed at the meeting, albeit amid some concern from Nitecki. Superintendent Ehler recommended to the council that the starting time of the school day be adjusted from 8:15 until 8:25 to allow for the district to facilitate a meeting time for teachers prior to the school day. These "professional learning communities," which would run one hour per day prior to class time, are aimed at improving instruction, staff development and improvement. Ehler made it abundantly clear that he does not support late starts or early outs to allow for this staff development.

Nitecki struggled with the issue. "I have a personal issue with taking time away from direct contact teaching time with students."

"I appreciate that you are sensitive to the impact on students. Our school day is jam-packed, but every contact moment you have with students is important," responded Ehler. He continued, citing the need to allow teachers time to improve their abilities.

Parents would still be able to drop students off as early as 7:30 to be supervised by para-educators. It will no doubt be interesting to see how students, parents, and staff react to the time change.

Other Notables

The district will be petitioning the Fire Marshall for an extension of time in the replacement or update of the theater curtains. This is to allow the district to pursue the new school initiative before making a sizeable investment.

There have been changes to the requirements for Truth in Taxation Hearings. The district is no longer required to publish a notice of proposed property taxes and notice of a public hearing. They are still required to hold the meeting after November 24th and to publish the date, time, and location of when the board will be discussing the budget and levy. They must also allow the public an opportunity to address the board in reference to school taxes. A meeting notice will be sent with tax statements.

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