By Emily Bialkowski
The Caledonia School Board is considering hiring another administrator for the 2014-15 school year and discussed the topic at length March 17.
The option was brought forth a year ago but was set aside when budget projections indicated a tough financial year. The board is revisiting the matter because Caledonia continues to assign double – sometimes triple – duties to existing administrators. Paul DeMorrett is the principal of both the high school and middle school and is the athletic director. Ben Barton is the elementary principal and superintendent. Nancy Runningen is the community education director, testing coordinator and title grant coordinator.
“You would be hard pressed to find a district to be so thinly administered as us,” Superintendent Ben Barton began. “The truth is there are many jobs that need to be done and new mandates that continue to be placed on school districts.”
All board members expressed concern over the workload each administrator possesses, but some said their enthusiasm to hire another administrator waned when considering the financial implications.
“My only thing is I believe the position could be warranted, but I have really big concerns about sustaining it financially,” Board Member Jean Meyer said.
Board Member Kelley McGraw fervently supported adding an administrator.
“We’re in dire need of getting in an administrator,” he said. “This isn’t one of those things we can talk about for seven months. … Get the best now. We can’t reasonably expect Mr. Barton to continue on the path he’s on and succeed without help. We can’t reasonably expect Mr. DeMorett to succeed without help.”
“I know we need that support in our district, but I’m also worried about the long-term sustainability of that,” Board Member Amanda King said.
Board Member Jared Barnes expressed concern over current administrators getting burned out.
“I don’t think you’re going to have any argument on need, but it’s about cost,” Meyer responded.
The conversation continued to sway between the need and the cost. Because so much of school funding is tied to enrollment, financial projections were unavailable.
Barton said the picture should be clearer in three weeks and suggested revisiting the matter then. Some board members urged for more swift action but conceded that an April 7 special meeting on the topic would suffice. The board will meet at 6 p.m. in the middle school/high school media center.
The cost of an administrator is significant and was fresh on the board’s mind, as Barton’s three-year, $347,400 contract was also approved during the meeting.
The board had one resignation and two hires on the agenda.
First, the board accepted the resignation of Dick Hatlevig as an elementary special education teacher, effective at the end of the 2013-14 school year. Hatlevig has served the district for 24 years. Barton thanked Hatlevig for his commitment to education and said, “He works with some students that have unique gifts, talents and challenges, and he’s done a great job over the years.”
Second, the board agreed to hire Sam Steele as a part-time preschool assistant. The board also agreed to hire Catherine Studenski as a part-time special educational assistant.
In a somewhat related matter, the board adopted a resolution to reduce certain programming at the schools. The action is a direct result of low interest in certain classes. The programs include:
• 0.0858 full-time equivalent high school art.
• 0.3136 FTE high school business.
• 0.1716 high school math.
• 0.1716 high school English as a second language.
McGraw asked where the odd numbers came from, and Barton explained that, for example, the 0.0858 art reduction is the equivalent of one semester of one art class.
The resolution passed as presented.
In an effort to better align Caledonia with neighboring districts, the board agreed to raise licensed substitute teacher pay from $90 for a full-day of teaching to $100. Half-day compensation remains $50, while non-licensed substitutes are getting an increase of $0.50 cents bringing their pay to $8.50 per hour.
Revised 2013-14 budget
Due to varying student enrollment from month to month, a revised 2013-14 budget was presented to the board.
The overall impact equals a $16,000 increase to the general fund. Increased student enrollment means additional dollars for the district from the state. Last month the district enrolled six additional students. The revision was accepted as presented.
Looking ahead to 2014-15, Barton said early indications point to a larger kindergarten class, “which is very, very exciting for us,” he said.
As is tradition at each School Board meeting, groups and individuals are extended a thank you for supporting the Caledonia School District. A thank you was extended to Caledonia Haulers Inc. for recognizing students and school events on their illuminated sign on Highway 44/76.