Mrs. O plans retirement, will work through 2017-18

Holyoke JR/SR High Principal Susan Ortner recently submitted her formal notice of retirement that was accepted by the Re-1J School Board at its March 7 meeting.
    Her retirement will officially be effective June 30, 2017, but the board approved her working two 110-day contracts for the 2017-18 school year. This will allow the administration the chance to conduct a search and find a replacement for the principal position.
    2017-18 calendar approved
    Official approval of the 2017-18 school calendar was given at last week’s meeting. Highlights for next year’s schedule are the Monday (instead of Friday) late starts, Monday inservice days and only three days of inservice for staff prior to school starting for students.
    The first day of school for students will be Thursday, Aug. 17, and the last day will be Friday, May 25. The calendar incorporates 169 student days and 186 staff days.
    Settlement agreement finalized with BEST Health Plan
    A final settlement agreement for the health plan with the Boards of Education Self-funded Trust will see the school district paying back $200,000, to be made in five equal installments of $40,000 over five years.
    The agreement notes that one of the annual payments may be postponed to the sixth year with 90 days written notice to BEST.
    Superintendent John McCleary said this ends up being about 18 cents on the dollar. He said the $40,000 will show as a budget line item each year.
    Board member Dennis Herman added that while this is a lot of money, it’s a lot better than it could have been.
    After five years in the BEST Health Plan, last March, BEST program administrators came to the district to say they were facilitating the removal of Holyoke from the program, with health insurance to run out July 1.
    While panic was the case, McCleary said it was beneficial, as the district is seeing a $94,000 decrease in health insurance coverage this year. There’s also an increase in employee satisfaction with a new program, he added.
    McCleary said in January that the district wasn’t arguing incurred costs of around $50,000-$60,000. However, there was no clear language around the termination, and no directive as to what payback was required if a district was terminated as opposed to voluntarily leaving.
    After extensive negotiation, the district agreed to a $200,000 settlement, down from what BEST was saying was a $620,000 debt.
    Budget priorities identified
    Reviewing the discussion from the Feb. 22 board meeting, McCleary outlined the 2017-18 budget priorities and parameters from the district budget and facilities committee.
    Standing priorities set by the committee follow:
    —Approve a balanced budget.
    —Fund step increases for all employees.
    —Fund the increased employer PERA contribution.
    —Provide and cover the full cost of insurance for individual employees.
    —Maintain class sizes annually and adjust internally to meet instructional needs.
    —Continue to support and fund the new teacher salary schedule put into place during the 2015-16 school year.
    —Maintain the technology implementation schedule through the use of the mill levy override targeted funds.
    —Stay flexible with capital projects budget.
    —Develop a responsible increase of ending fund balance, with $1.6 million as a goal over the next five years.

  Superintendent evaluation tool nearly ready
    Extensive changes in the tool used by the board to evaluate the superintendent have been reviewed and considered, with materials updated and prepared by board member Pat Wiebers.
    In the evaluation draft packet for last Tuesday’s work session prior to the board meeting, six sections were covered.
    They included evaluation domains (indicators, rubrics and rating sheets), goals to be completed by the superintendent and approved by the board, 360-degree evaluation, school board self-evaluation, informal evaluation question options for each domain and sample summary forms.
    Good feedback was received for moving toward finalization of the evaluation tool. Timelines were reviewed, and it was agreed that the board self-evaluation piece could be handled at a different time than when the superintendent evaluation process is conducted.
    McCleary shared a draft of 10 proposed superintendent deliverables for 2017-18.
    Other business

    In other business March 7, the Re-1J board:
    —Noted the next board meeting will be held Wednesday, March 22, with a work session prior to the 7 p.m. meeting.
    —Heard an explanation of the BEST construction grant bid process. McCleary said bids were to be opened in public Thursday, March 9, at 5 p.m. at the school administration office with several designated people to be present.
    —Received an update from Elementary School Principal Kyle Stumpf on the selection of the new reading curriculum for the 2017-18 school year.
    —Looked at upcoming changes in policies, including school board member conflict of interest, voting method, federal fiscal compliance, federal procurement, bidding procedures, expense authorization/reimbursement, staff ethics/conflict of interest and privacy/protection of confidential student information.

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