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Seneca board listens to concerns over band leader leaving
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As is sometimes the case, one of the more important moments at the Seneca School Board meeting Monday night wasn’t actually an item on the agenda. However, it was certainly a matter of concern.

During a public comment period, four district residents, including three teachers, addressed the board about losing the services of the school’s music teacher and the implications for the district if that happens.

“We’re here because we understand Mr. Bauman is thinking of leaving,” parent Cindy Payne told the board. “I have three kids that adore Mr. Baumann.

“There’s a lot more to it than figuring out the budget,” she continued. “What we want to look at is any options so he could continue working here.”

District administrator Dave Boland explained the situation with the popular music teacher to the teachers and the board.

“I’ve talked to him a number of times and he’s considering other options,” Boland said. “He’s done great things in the year-and-a-half that he’s been here, but he’s also a long way from home.”

“If something could be done about his crazy schedule, I think he’d stay here in a minute,” teacher Miriam Oldenburg said.

Boland acknowledged Baumann’s schedule was tough, but pointed out that’s “part of being a teacher” in school districts like Seneca. He noted that many other teachers also have very heavy loads in terms of schedules.

However, the veteran administrator was also quick to acknowledge the music teacher was doing a great job “especially with elementary students.”

There seemed to be universal agreement among those speaking in support of Baumann, board members and Boland that Baumann had indeed done superlative work with the bands and vocal music during his short tenure.

Participation was increasing and classes coming up had lots more people playing in the band.

“It’s definitely going in the right direction,” Boland said.

School board member Brian Reynolds expressed surprise that the matter had come back to be before the board.

“I thought it was over,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t know there was still a possibility he would stay.”

School board member Larry Kelley pointed out that bringing in a half-time teacher to relieve some of the burden as had been discussed previously “would not create a catastrophic cost for the district.”

Oldenburg noted that it was unusual for a music teacher to be trained in both vocal and instrumental instruction.

“It’s almost like we’re asking him to do double duty,” Oldenburg said. She also added that she was sad not to see a high school choir at the school because there is interest on all levels for choir.

At some point, a board member reminded those making the public comments that the board could not take any action on this matter at the Monday night meeting because it had not been placed on the agenda.

Boland also noted at some point in the discussion that the matter actually should be discussed in closed session as a personnel issue.

While the Joe Baumann’s future teaching music at Seneca wasn’t clear when the discussion ended, it was abundantly clear that everyone present thought he had done a very good job with program.

“Joe has taken it to another level,” one of the teachers said.

As if to add credence to all this praise for the band director, it was pointed out that both the middle school band and the high school band earned first place honors at the state band contest recently.

Later after meeting in a scheduled closed session, the board reconvened in open session and accepted band director Joe Baumann’s resignation.

During the district administrator’s report, Dave Boland noted the district is really close to being right on what was budgeted for the year, which will end on June 30, 2017.

In discussing the 2017-18 budget, Boland told the board that the Consumer Price Index which sets the legal limit for raises to base salaries for teachers was 1.26 percent this year. He explained the contracts currently being signed by the staff include a statement that the salaries will be adjusted when the 2017-18 salary adjustments are finalized.

In addition to the 1.26 percent raise, the district has in the past also offered teachers in good standing an additional merit raise to the supplemental portion of their salaries. 

The matter of the raises for the 2017-18 school year will be discussed and probably finalized at the June board meeting.

The board began the meeting with a reorganizational meeting necessitated by the recent election. Board members Shawn Lenzendorf, Gary Allan and Mark Johnson were all re-elected without opposition on the ballot in the April election.

At the meeting Monday night, the board re-elected its officers to the same positions. That means Mark Johnson was elected president, Shawn Lenzendorf was elected vice president, Rachael George was elected clerk and Larry Kelley was elected treasurer.

The board designated the same two financial institutions as its depositories—Peoples State Bank and the Local Government Investment Pool. The board designated the Crawford County Independent as the district’s official news media.

The board also approved Mark Johnson as the district’s CESA #3 board of control representative and Chad Sime as the district’s Wisconsin Association of School Boards representative.

It was agreed the committee assignment of the board members would remain the same.

In other business, the Seneca School Board:

• approved the 2017-18 membership in the WIAA (Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association)

• approved the requests for summer use of facilities or equipment

• approved a report on open enrollment for the district  indicating there was a net gain of seven incoming applications

• learned about a highly successful effort by the forensics team at the state tournament that resulted in many first place awards

Following a closed session, the board reconvened in open session and accepted the resignations of music teacher and band director Joe Baumann and school bus driver Owen DuCharme.

The board also approved Karen Snyder as the assistant high school track coach and Jessica Olson as the middle school track coach.