9/26/2013 1:32:00 PM School board to adjust retiree sub pay
by Nora Bryson
After extensive discussion about purchasing an Elementary PA System, replacing the bus whose engine blew, and adjusting the Substitute Teacher Pay Scale for Retirees, the Cannon Falls School Board voted to table the first two and approve the last at their Monday night, Sept. 23 meeting. Putting custodial supplies out for bid and student safety (building security and drop-off/pick-up) at the Elementary were also discussed and referred to committee.
Elementary Principal Derek Bell and Head of Operations and Maintenance Dave Davisson explained how they had meticulously gone through the old PA system and replaced eight of the nine speakers that didn't work. "Now the speakers are good, but the system is bad," Bell stated. The system, which also runs the hour bells, was apparently purchased "used" when the elementary was built and there is little that can be done to repair or upgrade it. A new PA with "add-on" capabilities would run about $13,000 through IdeaComm. It would eliminate the single point, "bat-phone" dissemination terminal; allowing alerts to be called out from any elementary phone and triggering flashing lights in high-noise areas. Unfortunately, the expenditure does not fall under the Health and Safety levy.
Board members Rob Siebenaler and Curt Beissel felt the Facilities Committee should have time to review the options and the numbers, making their recommendation to the board before a vote. Siebenaler correctly inquired about the board giving its approval to purchase a system during last Spring's budget talks. Superintendent Beth Giese acknowledged that repairing and upgrading the system had been penciled in, but system details had only recently been discovered.
Davisson said "turn-around" (installation) could probably get done within a month of the board's approval.
Beissel made a motion to table the issue until the next meeting. Siebenaler seconded and the board passed it. The Facilities Committee will take up the matter at their next meeting.
Siebenaler, also on the Transportation Committee, explained that the district needs to determine how to replace the bus that blew its engine last week. He said it was one of the buses they had spent $10,000-12,000 on to get it to pass inspection last year and, therefore, just needed a used ($7,000) or refurbished ($13,000) engine. Unfortunately, Andy Sandstrom of Sandstrom's Bus Repair has not been able to locate either to date. The two new buses the district purchased last Spring are not due to be delivered until November or December. Therefore, the district is renting a bus.
At this point Giese interjected that she had signed papers to purchase the bus using a $5,000 rent-to-own contract that would not require a payout until the 2014 fiscal year. She said Sandstrom had recommended the option on the $92,000 bus.
The brief silence by the somewhat confused Siebenaler ended with his requesting a play-back of who spoke with Sandstrom last and a better understanding of the available options.
Giese said she would have Sandstrom come back to the board with a presentation with all options and costs, but the board needed to understand that she had signed a purchase agreement and the title was being faxed.
Siebenaler requested the matter be tabled and the board concurred.
The board decided to contract with Teachers on Call (TOC) last year to handle all the district's substitute teachers needed. At that time, it was agreed that TOC would round out the year using the district's pay-scale. According to Giese, TOC contacted her this past Summer saying the rate being paid to Cannon Falls retirees ($140 per day; actual costs of over $172 per day after including taxes, etc.) was extremely high. They sent Giese a copy of their pay-scale (based on a combination of years of experience and the number of non-consecutive days of subbing service) and asked what the district wanted to do.
A lively discussion erupted between Board members Jerry Reinardy and Pat Dougherty. Reinardy wanted to "grand-father in" the $140 for all current retirees serving as substitutes for the district. Dougherty felt the district needed to "follow the plan set forth by our subcontractors." Beissel concurred with Dougherty, reminding the board that the whole reason for using TOC was to save administrator's time (which equals money) and money. Asking TOC to use special rates, even for 10 retirees, would increase costs-to pay the subs and for TOC's services.
Siebenaler first asked about a 1-year "phasing-in" (Dougherty responded by asking, "When does it end? There will always be the next group.") but settled by acknowledging that, in all reality, the board had already consented to TOC's pay-scale when they signed the contract. In the end, the board voted 4 to 2 to stay with the pay-scale established by TOC.
Dougherty called out a $13,000 bill for custodial supplies during the Approval of Expenditures portion of the agenda. He said he viewed custodial supplies like milk, bread, or any other commodity and he asked why the district didn't put these out for bid in the same manner as those noted. Giese noted that the district has found some savings by working with the co-op and felt it could be looked into. The discussion began moving into electrician bills but was stopped when Davisson reminded the board that "Ryan Electric and Decklers has worked with us for over 20 years. They know the place and what needs to be done...and that's worth something in itself."
Chairman Bob Brintnall brought the discussion back to custodial supplies and said he will have the Facilities Committee look into the possibility of quantifying the district's needs and coming up with specs for bids.
Giese and Bell detailed their concerns and recommendations for better security and traffic flow at the Elementary. Both stated their surprise in having experts tell them NOT to move the office. Both felt that either a buzzer/call box system similar to Northfield's Bridgewater or a Rapture (driver's license swipe) system like Kasson and Eden Prairie just installed would be the best bang-for-the-buck. Both, along with the entire board, acknowledged that regardless of which security alternative chosen, each is merely a deterrent-nothing will stop someone intent on doing real harm.
District General Manager Josh Davisson suggested utilizing the "Safe Schools Levy" and perhaps hiring someone. Bell will tour several schools and get a better handle on costs and information of how to handle ID renewals and ID options for students too young for DLs.
Bell detailed to the board his daily anxiety over traffic congestion and the hazards of parents dropping off/picking up their children at the Elementary. He said that buses and cars, with children, in the same area is very difficult, especially with Pre-Schoolers. He would like to see them separated. Brintnall and Siebenaler will do a walk-around and watch some afternoon with Bell and Davisson to come up with some recommendations.
In other business, the board certified the levy at the maximum (8.79% increase), approved the hire of Corey Nemcek as RTI Specialist for $33,488.00, the Principal's Evaluation (teacher surveys) process, the Booster Club approval process and form, the 2013-14 Curriculum and Instruction Report (as mandated by the state), and the list of Winter Coaches (Boys Basketball-Josh Davisson; Girls Basketball-Eric Mace; Dance-Madi Salisbury; Wrestling-Dudley Flodeen).
Written reports were submitted by Elementary Principal Derek Bell, High School Principal Tim Hodges, Community Education and Athletic Director Jake Winchell.
The next meeting will be Monday, Oct. 14 at 6 p.m. Agenda items include: Elementary PA System, Bus Replacement, Snow Removal Quotes, and presentation by Senator Schmidt.