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Benton approves staff reduction plan

BC looks to save money with fewer coaches and early retirement


NORWAY – A staff reduction plan was approved by the Benton Community Board of Directors Monday night, to make up for a projected $500,000 budget shortfall for next fiscal year.

The plan was presented Monday night by Benton Community Superintendent Gary Zittergruen for approval by the board. It called for the reduction of one administrator, one special education elementary staffer, and 18 full-time equivalent (FTE) supplemental contracts.

Special education for elementary is now at two sites. Benton plans to have it at one site next fall.

Other cost savings are charging field trips to the activity fund and other organizations at $2 per mile. Activity-related field trips will also be charged to the activity fund at the same rate. These used to come out of the general fund.

The board also plans to buy just one school bus next year, using money from the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy. A second bus will not be purchased from the general fund.

The activity program staff reductions include the following coaching positions:

Football: One assistant varsity, one assistant seventh grade.

Volleyball: One assistant varsity, one assistant eighth grade, one assistant seventh grade, with intention of hiring back one assistant.

Wrestling: One assistant varsity, one assistant junior high, with intention to hiring back one junior high assistant.

Boys’ basketball: One assistant varsity, one assistant eighth grade, one assistant seventh grade, with one junior high coach likely to be rehired.

Girls’ basketball: One assistant varsity, one assistant eighth grade, one assistant seventh grade, with one junior high likely to be rehired.

Boys’ track: One assistant varsity, one assistant seventh-eighth, with one junior high likely to be rehired.

Girls’ track: One assistant varsity, one assistant seventh-eighth, with one junior high likely to be rehired.

Softball: One varsity assistant.

Baseball: One varsity assistant.

Dramatics: One choreographer.

Rehires will depend on the number of students participating. Zittergruen estimated $40,000 to $50,000 in savings through the activity reductions.

The school will also reduce four building technology support teachers. Zittergruen said staff members are now more technology savvy than when these positions were created.

Additional recommendations will come in March after the deadline for early retirement, to see the number of employees who retire. The deadline is March 10.

Opposed to the reduction plan was board member Brenda Schanbacher.

Staff action

The board approved the resignations of two long-time employees. Jim Van Etten will take early retirement. He has been a physical education/health teacher for 43 years.

Macy Ann Bridgewater has been district transportation secretary for 35 years. She is also taking early retirement. The board also approved their applications for early retirement.

Also resigning was Carmen Gibney as four-year-old preschool teacher at the Norway Center.

In other staff action, the board approved Paul Hermsen as volunteer boys’ soccer coach.

Other business

Board policies were reviewed on equal employment opportunity, personnel involvement in decision making, shared staff time, school vehicle use, personnel relations to the public, personnel outside employment, and licensed employee probationary status.

The board looked at what WaMaC schools charge for middle school activities. Benton, Western Dubuque, Marion, Mount Vernon and Williamsburg currently don’t charge for middle school activities. Benton also doesn’t charge for sub-varsity activities. Zittergruen said Benton is one of the few in the conference who doesn’t charge. Benton could set up a parent pass. He said it would help with the continued costs of operation. Board president Dan Voss felt Benton needed to move ahead on this, as the activity program picks up more costs. Voss wanted to see something in effect for next school year, after they find what other schools charge for activities and passes.

The board looked at several options to make up for more potential snow days. These include having school on April 2 and June 1, as well as extending the school day by 30 minutes for 11 days to equal one school day. Very few districts are extending their days. Benton did it a few years ago when it had 13 snow days. Benton now has nine snow days, according to Zittergruen. No action was taken. The board preferred to go with using the available days instead of extending the school days.

Business manager Doug Embray reviewed the 2008-2009 audit. Board member Pat Stepanek asked about segregation of duties cited by the audit. Embray said this is common for schools the size of Benton’s. The audit was approved.

Embray also said expenses have been reduced and revenues are up, which is a good trend to have.

An update was given on the Atkins Elementary Center project. Zittergruen said the administration had met with the builders. They need to get into the current office area for mechanical work, moving the school office to one of the new classrooms by March 8. The west addition is to be done by May 3. The north wing rooms will be transitioned into other areas to allow for remodeling work. They want to start this by May 5, with completion by July 12. The south wing work will be done July 30. The transition back to the existing school will happen in August. The east front entrance will have a start date of April 26, subject to winter conditions, with work done by Sept. 10. Wayne Reinhardt asked how the construction is affecting the learning environment. Principal Jason West said music and art have been switched around a lot, but there has not been a lot of transition yet. He felt the kids have not noticed. Board member Jack Barnes urged the builders to have a good “get well plan.”

A presentation was given on guided reading by West and Norway Principal Liz Strempke, which puts students with similar skills into small groups. They added this fits in with Iowa Core Curriculum. Middle School Principal Jo Prusha gave a presentation on student achievement, Iowa Core Curriculum and media convergence. Iowa Core Curriculum is to be implemented by 2014.

In administrative reports, Activities Director Kal Goodchild gave an update on rescheduling events due to the weather. He said Benton has hosted the Bobcat Invite, WaMaC wrestling, state show choir and Touch of Class, which showcases the school’s facility and people. He praised to the wrestling and speech programs.

Board member Wayne Reinhardt asked why Benton doesn’t host sectional or district wrestling. Goodchild said Touch of Class is during the day of district wrestling, which takes away that date. Benton applies each year for sectional, and he said he hasn’t heard a reason why Benton can’t get it back, as Benton used to routinely host it because of their facility and workers. He said it depends a lot on location. He will continue to work to get sectional wrestling at Benton.

Elementary lawn mowing bids were approved from L & J Mowing and Tiling Service and Furler Utilities Services. The school does the mowing at the Van Horne facilities.

UPDATED February 17, 2010 11:14 AM

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