The Boscobel School Board faced an overflowing room on Monday night as they discussed how to proceed with both the interview process to hire a district superintendent and the process of choosing an architect and contractor for the school building project that goes to referendum on April 5.
The board met in a committee of the whole meeting prior to the board meeting to discuss architects and contractors. The committee had heard presentations from four contractors and three architects the previous Monday night, Feb. 8.
During the continuation of the committee discussion into the board meeting, they decided to ask architectural firms Bray and HSR and contractors Miron and Kramer Brothers to a second interview on Feb. 23.
Board members Derek Zimpel and Kelly Trumm expressed a desire to have both contractor and architect chosen soon.
“I asked for some guidance on this,” Zimpel explained. “What was recommended was to have the architect work with the contractor from the start to avoid change orders.”
Changes later in the process quickly add up to expenses not planned, Zimpel pointed out.
“My feeling is we ought to get the architect and contractor right away, so they are working together,” Trumm said. She pointed out that the two parties bring different skills that make for better planning when coordinated.
Board vice president Chuck Owens noted that he still had questions he would like answered by the contractors, such as how they would involve local contractors, workers, and businesses in the process.
Owens asked for a vote to choose Bray Architects and was seconded by Zimpel. That vote was defeated, with board members Barb Puckett, Kelly Trumm, and Roger Knoble voting against and president Todd Miller abstaining.
Garnering far more public interest appeared to be a discussion about the superintendent application process.
Miller asked his fellow board members what they saw the next step being in the process. He noted that Wisconsin Association of School Boards (WASB) offered a hiring service for $10,000, though that service began with seeking applicants, a step the district had already done. The appeal of WASB was the background checking that they did, but Miller expressed uncertainty that hiring them at this time was worth the fee.
“I would like to bring members of the community into the process,” Miller said.
Owens suggested narrowing the field to three applicants before beginning the interview process. Puckett and board member Jason Pickett both indicated that they had narrowed their own applicants of interest to three, with Owens saying he had narrowed his selection to two.
It was pointed out by former district business manager Cheryl Knowles that the board had done this before and that it was too small a pool and had caused problems.
Inquiries were made from the audience asking when the board had received applications and when the names would be released. It was explained that the application deadline had ended three weeks prior. The board had to narrow the list of applicants to be interviewed to a maximum of five before the list could be released. Of the applications received, several could be discounted as the applicants did not have the necessary credentials.
“It would be good to hire someone from this area, someone with ties to the community,” said Gary Farrell, a member or the public in attendance.
Sitting nearby, Sally Schweiger added, “It is important that you involve staff and the community in the hiring process.”
Zimpel queried the board about the timeline for hiring, noting that he would like to see the new superintendent hired by the end of March.
Ryan Reynolds spoke from the audience, querying what process was planned for conducting the interviews. He suggested the candidates be rotated through committees comprised of the board, staff, committee members, and students, then collating results of the ratings the committees gave each interview.
“We have six weeks until the election,” Trumm said. “This needs to be done by the week of March 21 at the latest if we are going to have time to introduce them to the community before the referendum.”
“I would like to have the contract offered by March 22,” replied Miller.
The board continued to discuss the timeline before that in order to set a timeline, they needed to narrow the field of applicants. They agreed to set a meeting date to begin interviews when they came out of closed session at the end of the meeting if they narrowed the field to five. In the meantime, Miller said he would begin to solicit community members, both private citizens and business professionals.
City rec program
The board acted to approve taking over the city recreation program with a single dissenting vote from Knoble.
Knobel expressed frustration at a lack of communication and missing information for the proposal, which operations advisor Steve Wacker said needed to be decided that night.
“It would be unfair to the city at this point to back out,” Wacker said.
Wacker noted that he had been working on the proposal for several months, though details that would allow him to project a financial loss or gain could not be provided yet. He noted that Dr. Sharon Ennis, who served for several months as in interim administrator, had strongly encouraged the district to take over the summer recreation program.
“I don’t think she would have encouraged this if it wouldn’t work,” Wacker said.
Business consultant Carol Dyer did warn the board that the decision could impact the district’s revenue limit, noting that students participating in the proposed combined summer school and recreation program would not count as full-time equivalency students.
“The hope is to help the city and hopefully the school, and to get more kids involved in the programs,” Wacker said.
The plan will get rid of fees for participating in summer rec, with the school being reimbursed for costs. It involves changing leagues so that both boys and girls compete within the same league. And there will be an effort to coordinate summer school, practices, and games so that students can participate in multiple activities.
“The part I am not happy with, apart from the update from Carol, is the list of items we have in progress (relating to the referendum and other school projects), I don’t know it is right to throw on more payroll, background checks, and the like,” Knoble said. “I am frustrated by the lack of communication.”
Wacker suggested that perhaps the school needed to hire a new business manager, noting he was short staffed, as well.
Miller intervened, noting that while the board should have had an update on the program proposal a month or two earlier, the agenda item “needs to move through now.”
The board received positive news on MAP testing results from middle and high school principal Rod Lewis.
Lewis informed the board that the middle school results had been received, with the high school results to be reported the following month. Currently the middle school math results (221.5) were only half a point below the national average (222), but growth at the half-year mark had exceeded the national average. Student growth was at 8.5 points for Boscobel, several points above the national average.
The picture was even better when looking at reading, with the district’s middle school students averaging 234 points, above the national average of 226. And as with math growth, the students were also exceeding the national growth average in reading.
Lewis also noted that he and staff had held two meeting, one with the 7th and 8th grade boys and one with the girls in the same grades, to discuss conduct expectations and character development.
A parent had recently notified him of a concern over harassment. Lewis noted it was an appreciated call since it alerted them to not only investigate the issue, but to act proactively with students and acceptable behaviors.
An assembly is planned on March 13 to address character issues, Lewis added.
In other business, the Boscobel School Board:
• heard an update from Joe Ruske on school technology, which is currently $10,000 below budget for the first four months of service with Dependable Solutions;
• approved Kathy Swenson as a long-term substitute guidance counselor;
• approved Angie Harrel as a 4K paraprofessional;
• approved Hannah Baumeister as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional;
• approved Lacy Hammell, Colleen Schwebach, and Margie Keene as substitutes pending completion of a physical and TB test;
• approved five open enrollment requests to leave the school district;
• approved the contract with TruGreen for late spring fertilizing and broadleaf weed and crabgrass control;
• tabled a request to contract with Royal Publishing for track and field regional championship programs;
• accepted donations from Boscobel Athletic Boosters for $2,000, Boscobel Youth Wrestling for $6,775, the Gridiron Club for $6,000, America’s Farmers Grow Communities for $2,500, and Great Lakes Higher Education for $3,688;
• approved overnight requests for the Wausau Smiley Invitational Cross Country meet on Sept. 16-17, 2016 and the Wisconsin Rapids/Wisconsin Dells State Cross Country meet Sept. 29-30, 2016;
• accepted the resignation of Jane Hegberg as a bus driver and paraprofessional effective Feb. 26;
• accepted a resignation agreement with Elementary Principal Rick Walters; and
• went into closed session to discuss superintendent candidates.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is March 21 at 6:30 p.m.
A special meeting is planned Feb. 23 at 6:30 p.m. to set interview committees and to conduct second interviews with the selected contractors and architects.