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School board delays superintendent negotiations for evaluation

Superintendent contract negotiation disussions attracted community members to the Monday, Oct. 21, Pine River-Backus School Board meeting.

Bonnie Bauman, Bonnie Lomen and retired PR-B High School English teacher Nancy Aimers asked the board questions during the public comments portion of the meeting.

Aimers said superintendent contract negotiations should be delayed until the teacher contract negotiations are completed. She said she has spent time speaking to community members and was told by many that they were upset over early negotiations.

“To put it in school terms, to me and to a lot of these other people it feels a little like budging. We teach our kids not to budge. Why do we as adults budge?” Aimers said.

Bauman said, “There shouldn’t be a raise for anybody unless everybody gets a raise square and across the board.”

“I want to applaud a system that can multitask in its negotiations. That’s something that happens across the board in all kinds of businesses,” Lomen said. “I see nothing wrong with going on with negotiations for the superintendent’s contracts. That would be normal in other businesses.”

Lomen also urged the board to avoid behaviors that could divide the board, and used the recent government shutdown as an example. She further urged the board to avoid bullying one another.

When it came time for discussion items, the meeting shifted significantly when Superintendent Cathy Bettino passed out superintendent evaluation forms to the board. Board member Jim Coffland restated that he was opposed to going forward with superintendent negotiations early, and used the evaluation as a reason to wait.

“We’re talking about giving her an increase in salary when we haven’t even evaluated her yet this year,” Coffland said. “We reversed it. We should have talked about evaluations and then the contract.”

Board member Katy Botz, who also wondered why the negotiations were being done early, reminded Coffland that discussions continued because the majority of the board was in favor of continuing. Board member Leslie Bouchonville reminded Coffland that the evaluation was not mentioned when she asked for reasons not to continue negotiations during earlier meetings.

“I think a lot of times you want to evaluate someone, and I’m not opposed to that. I don’t think Cathy would be opposed to that,” Bouchonville said. “Evaluate her and then look at where we are going with the contract. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but that was not brought up when we talked about it last month.”

Board chair Sandra Poferl agreed that the evaluation was not brought up during past school board meetings discussing the contract.

With board member Garney Gaffey opposed, the board voted to remove the two-year contract extension offer with Bettino from the action items for the October meeting. Board member Chris Cunningham was absent from the meeting.

The board did approve a three-year contract agreement with high school Principal Trent Langemo and a two-year contract agreement with the Service Employees International Union Local #284.

In other business Monday, the school board:

• Announced a truth in taxation meeting for 6 p.m. Dec. 17.

• Heard a presentation from the Rotary STRIVE program explaining the purpose of the program, informing the council that there are 17 students enrolled with 10 mentors and that the program has raised $9,350 for scholarships for students in the program.

• Heard the school has begun an after school snack program for students taking part in extracurricular activities.

• Adopted a resolution kicking off the 2013 Community Read with mystery stories as the focus, featuring author Pete Hautman and some of his works.

• Heard Subway is giving the school sponsorship. Substitute teachers at the school will be able to nominate students based on R.O.A.R. standards for a chance to win free sub sanwiches.

• Heard from Poferl that the Working Together Coalition is working with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office to explore the possibilities of forming ordinances keeping “head shops” out of the community. Head shops are a type of tobacco shop, though they typically also carry peraphernalia sometimes used with illegal drugs such as bongs, pipes, and rolling papers. Poferl also mentioned that the shops often carry synthetic marijuana and other sources of a high which are currently not illegal.