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A-R discusses sharing with NK/Sentral

By Staff | Jun 24, 2009

ARMSTRONG – The Armstrong-Ringsted Consolidated School District Tuesday night revisited the topic of whole-grade sharing or consolidation with neighboring school districts.

Several years ago, A-R discussed the whole-grade sharing or consolidation issue with North Kossuth and Sentral school districts. Those discussions went so far as to bring in the Area Education Agency to coordinate the discussions, both at A-R and at North Kossuth.

Since then, however, A-R has stepped aside after N-K and Sentral asked that they be allowed to pursue whole-grade sharing to see how it worked before bringing A-R back into the picture.

In bringing the issue to the fore again Tuesday, Superintendent Randy Collins highlighted building costs in both Armstrong and Ringsted, costs complicated by a history of declining enrollment.

“We need to get really serious about what it costs us,” Collins said.

“If we enter into a whole-grade sharing agreement with three districts, I don’t see an opportunity for four buildings, ” said Rod Foster, board president. “We need to see if one of them (N-K or Sentral) is interested in a whole-grade sharing agreement. They have to be facing some of the same issues – declining enrollment, increased costs.”

Foster frankly laid down the reason A-R has pursued some sort of sharing with neighboring districts for several years now.

“I don’t like state mandates,” said Foster. “I’d just as soon as us be the force behind it instead of the Legislature.”

The board agreed to ask neighboring districts if they would be interested in meeting the week of Aug. 17-21 to revisit the whole-grade sharing or consolidation issue.

In another sharing-related discussion, the board discussed a proposed 28E agreement to share Collins with Graettinger-Terril. Foster said the agreement would provide for sharing Collins with Graettinger which would in turn share with Terril, maximizing the possible supplemental weighting benefits as provided under Senate File 447. The law compensates districts for sharing key personnel, such as the superintendent or transportation director. A-R already shares Nate Hanson, transportation director, with Sentral.

Under the agreement, Collins would share 40 percent of his time with Graettinger-Terril

The board decided to table approving the agreement until after it had concluded Collins’ evaluation after a closed session later in the meeting.

The board approved Matt Berninghaus as assistant high-school football coach. With Sandy Tigges taking the position as activities director, the board spent considerable time discussing approval of Nate Hanson, previously activities director, as the second assistant football coach. An initial vote died for lack of majority approval, with board members Paul Stevens and Don Looft disapproving.

Head football coach Robert Zotz insisted that Hanson was the most qualified applicant for the job “out of all the applicants.”

“We’ve always gone with the head coach’s recommendation,” Collins said. “We’ve got a head coach making a recommendation. I’d like us to honor that.”

After Betsey Ulrich made another motion to hire Hanson for the position, the board approved.

In other business, the board approved hiring Pam Hansen as special education teacher. Hansen’s position would be funded by federal stimulus money, Collins said.

The board also approved several policy revisions which addressed graduation requirements and employee travel. Under the new policy, the district will no longer pay in-district employee travel between buildings, something which Collins said would affect him more than any other employee. Employees who use their own vehicle for out-of-district travel when a district vehicle is not available will be reimbursed 36 cents a mile. The new policy will save the district $6,000 yearly, Collins said.

The board approved resurfacing the high-school track at a cost of $34,837. The contract went to Midwest Tennis and Track. Collins said the project will be paid with Physical Plant and Equipment Levy funds.

Tom Mart, maintenance director, discussed summer work projects at both Armstrong and Ringsted campuses. Collins noted that the district is getting two workers this summer at no cost, one through a youth work program and another worker through the Experience Counts program.

Collins noted five responses received from former employees after the district’s requests for exit surveys. He said he will follow up on their concerns.

Collins also discussed additional funding opportunities through the QZAB and QSCB programs. The funding would be repaid with the district’s share of the state penny sales tax for schools.

The board also went into closed session for the superintendent’s evaluation.