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R-P board deals with range of issues


Fri, Jun 20th, 2008
Posted in Education

RUSHFORD - A school year that started with a flood closed with a number of retirements in the Rushford-Peterson school district.

Most recently, at the June 16 meeting of the school board, the board accepted the resignation of long-time 6th grade teacher, Chuck Poppe.

All board members plus superintendent Chuck Ehler expressed regret in accepting the resignation/retirement, referring to Poppe as "a fantastic teacher" and expressing gratitude for Poppe's long service.

Earlier in the spring, the board approved a request from Jackie Hoegh to receive insurance benefits for one more year if she retires at the end of this year.

Unintentionally, this action resulted in the board upsetting the faculty association at the state level because it appeared to represent negotiating with a single member of the union.

The result was a memo of understanding signed by the union and the board stating that any teacher seeking early retirement before June 1, 2008, could request the same benefit. The benefit dollars were capped at $25,000, which meant that at about $8,000 per person, a total of three teachers would be able to request the insurance.

Not only did Poppe's request come in after the deadline, but three teachers had already been approved for the benefit: Hoegh, Sandee Jeresek, and Jonathan Pettit. Thus, though they accepted his resignation, the board did not approve Poppe's request for the additional year of insurance.

The search for a 6th grade teacher will now be added to other searches in progress: a fourth grade teacher to replace Becky Lind who is moving into Hoegh's first grade spot, a middle/high school art teacher, a high school agriculture teacher, plus a new special education teacher and paraprofessional for the middle school.

Luke Rye was taken off unrequested leave to fill Pettit's position in 6th grade.

Brad Johnson, who retired as high school principal, was hired back part-time as the school's activities director.

The board approved a second variance regarding certification for community education director Beth Theede for the 2008-09 school year.

Land Rental--again

The issue of whether the district will lease a quarter acre of land to the Wilkemeyer Family Daycare was back on the agenda, with parties on both side of the issue present for the discussion.

Karen Wilkemeyer was present to represent her daycare. John and Glenda Erdmann and Cheri McRaven were there to represent the opposition and present a petition signed by 17 of the neighbors to the daycare who are against the school approving the Wilkemeyer's request.

Last month, the issue was raised but died for lack of a motion.

Board member Daniel Munson said "I think we need to discuss this, so I'll make the motion."

Ehler again expressed support for the Wilkemeyer's request on the basis that the district ought to be an advocate for children, and also because the Rushford business community is in the process of recovering after the flood, and the Wilkemeyers are a business.

Both Ehler and chairman John Nitecki wanted to make it clear that the issue isn't about the money (Wilkemeyers offered $500 per year for the land).

Munson proceeded to explain his position, which was that the district first needed a policy about land leasing before they should proceed with any individual cases.

Jim Kitchens said that he'd been "kicking this (issue) around" and had mixed feelings.

Kitchens said, "Part of me says 'we should give 'em a shot'; on the other hand, you (Wilkemeyer) bought the house knowing what the yard was like."

"I'd like to see it tried for the year," Kitchens concluded..

Greg Smith said he didn't think a one-year trial would be fair because it could involve the regrettable task of telling the renters they'd have to move their equipment after a year.

Roger Metz supported Munson's idea of forming a committee to establish a land rental policy.

Ehler said he thought it would be extremely difficult to come up with a policy "that can be consistent in every case." Smith agreed.

In the end, Munson moved to table the motion until the July meeting and to meanwhile form a committee to establish a policy. The measure passed unanimously.

Money

The board learned that Fillmore County Family Services has designated R-P the recipient of nearly $22,000 in unexpended funds.

In addition to that happy news, the board's insurance committee has found a way to save the district $36,000 by switching to another carrier for health insurance.

According to committee member Metz, there will be no reduction in benefits to personnel by switching from Blue Cross Blue Shield to Health Partners and that, in fact, a family on a $2,000 deductible would actually save $2,004 with the new carrier.

Finally, in what Ehler called a "very, very tentative" preview of next year's budget, the district appears to have a $27, 528 deficit according to a report prepared by Ehler and his staff.

However, this figure doesn't consider the new state funding formula or the money from Fillmore County Family Services, Ehler said, so the news is actually pretty good.

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