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PR-B School Board approves proposed levy

The Pine River-Backus School Board approved a maximum proposed levy of $1,109,579.97 for 2014.

This amount is a 17.27 percent increase over the 2013 certified levy of $946,147.97, a total increase of $163,432. It was explained that this levy accounts for $82,893.28 from a $300 per pupil levy, but does not account for more than $125,000 in state aid that the school would receive with that levy.

The board approved a maximum proposed levy; however, this amount will not be certified until December. Before that time, the amount of the actual levy can be reduced.

Board member Katy Botz voted against the proposed levy, but the rest of the board voted in support.

The board also agreed to offer superintendent Cathy Bettino a two-year contract with a 3 percent salary increase in 2014-2015 and 1 percent increase in 2015-2016. This option was supported by Chris Cunningham, Botz, Garny Gaffey, Leslie Bouchonville and Sandra Poferl.

An option in which the salary would be increased by 3 percent the first year and 2 percent the second year was supported by Jason Marcum.

Board member Jim Coffland supported a contract with a 2 percent increase the first year and a 2 percent increase the second year, though this option asked that the contract be rewritten to encourage Bettino to use her vacation time.

The contract offer will be an action item at the October school board meeting.

In other news, the Pine River-Backus Elementary physical education class shortage may come to an end Oct. 7. The school was awarded a Rural Low-Income School grant of $15,530.22. This amount will be used to fund a .45 elementary physical education teaching position. With this grant and the position, all K-6 classes will be able to have physical education every day of the week.

The board approved opening advertising for the position. Some grades, including kindergarten, have been limited to one hour of physical education class per week due to budget constraints. So long as the position is filled, those classes would resume Oct. 7.

The board also heard mixed news regarding 2012-13 test results. MCA scores overall were lower than desired; however, Bettino explained that scores for students benefitting from free or reduced lunch are higher than state averages. Graduate testing also showed promising numbers.

“When you look at our grad results for all our students and most particularly for our students in poverty, you’ll see they far exceed state averages at this point. In my mind that tells me we’re doing a lot of good work to inspire kids to think about what’s next,” Bettino said.

The district also made AYP (adequate yearly progress) at elementary and secondary school levels, though the ALC did not make AYP due to grade 11 math proficiency tests.

Coffland asked if the test scores are troubling to the administration and other board members.

“Wouldn’t that be a concern for board members, or administration or anybody?” Coffland asked.

“If you ask if I’m happy and content that the Pine River-Backus proficiencies are where they’re at, no. But that’s why I come to work every day. That’s why the teachers come to school and work, and we’re trying to get better every day,” said Trent Langemo, high school principal.