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PR-B School Board disagrees on contract negotiation

Pine River-Backus School Board members on Monday, Aug. 19, discussed when to start negotiating the superintendent’s contract.

Superintendent Cathy Bettino’s contract expires June 30, 2014, but her professional organization advised her to request that the board start negotiating her contract. Following early meetings of the negotiating committee, some board members thought this was too early to begin the discussion.

“I am wondering why we’re opening negotiation for her contract. Normally the teachers’ contracts are settled first. Why are we putting the superintendent ahead of the staff?” board member Jim Coffland asked.

“I went into the committee feeling we should not have done so as early as we did,” said board member Katy Botz.

Teacher contract negotiations were put on hold until Aug. 26 because new negotiators for the teachers wanted more training. Board members Chris Cunningham, Jason Marcum, Leslie Bouchonville, Garney Gaffey and chair Sandra Poferl all supported continuing discussion of the superintendent contract.

Coffland asked why the board wanted to discuss Bettino’s contract while she still had a year left in it. Cunningham pointed out that the board negotiates teacher contracts while teachers are still under contract.

Cunningham also asked the board whether it preferred to pursue a two- or three-year contract. Coffland said that offering a three-year contract while Bettino still has a year on the current contract would be like giving her a four-year contract.

“Three years is the norm, is my understanding for superintendents. That doesn’t mean we have to do a three-year contract,” Botz said.

Poferl suggested that the board could consider a two-year contract as a compromise. Marcum asked that the board not eliminate the three-year option, adding he would like the board to continue discussing both options.

No decision was made except to continue discussion.

In other news, the board:

• Denied a grievance by Nancy Aimers and a grievance by the Pine River-Backus Education Association (PRBEA) (Education Minnesota). Bettino said the grievances were over the placement of Julie Soukup on step 9 of the school salary schedule. Soukup had worked for the school, then left to further her training and education.

The PRBEA was challenging Soukup’s placement at level 9 as a new hire.

Aimers suggested that in light of Soukup’s placement, she should have been placed on step 25 when she was rehired in 2005. Cunningham voted against denying Aimers’ grievance; all other council members voted to approve the denial. All board members voted to deny the grievance by the PRBEA.

• Expressed their thanks to resigning faculty and staff members.