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Hills-Beaver Creek hires interim superintendent following resignation of Deragisch

HILLS -- The Hills-Beaver Creek school board has appointed a new interim superintendent for the district following the resignation of Dave Deragisch.

The board accepted Deragisch's resignation at a Feb. 2 public meeting. Steve Knutson, legal counsel for the school district, explained that Deragisch resigned on his own will, adding that no reason was cited for his decision. The board unanimously accepted the resignation, he said.

Calls from the Daily Globe to Gary Esselink, school board chairman and spokesperson for the district, were unanswered.

According to a separation agreement released by the school board, Deragisch's resignation was effective Jan. 27. The document highlights several agreements, including:

* The district will reimburse Deragisch $450 for his January 2012 car allowance.

* The district will pay Deragisch any and all amounts from the 2011 and 2012 Flex Spending Account following an approval from the school district's plan administrator.

* Deragisch acknowledges that by executing the separation agreement and the release of claims, he has had an opportunity to discuss both the documents with an attorney, agent or representative of his preference, and that the parties agree that there were no inducements that led to execution of the separation agreement and the release of claims.

In light of Deragisch's resignation, the school district has hired Herb Bentz as interim superintendent. Bentz' first day was Feb. 6.

Bentz has 34 years of experience as a school superintendent in Montana and Minnesota -- with his most recent employment at Belgrade, Mont. Prior to his 11 years as administrator in Montana, Bentz was a long-term superintendent in Roseau for 23 years.

"I retired in 2010," he added. "We moved back to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area because we have children and four grandchildren there."

Bentz met with the H-BC school board for the first time Monday during a regular board meeting.

Several issues were discussed at the meeting -- primarily the school district's current fiscal problems, Bentz said.

"As of June 30, 2011, the district had a negative unrestricted general fund balance of $143,926," he said. "That's the amount that the Department of Education is most concerned about."

Bentz will serve as interim superintendent until July 1. He explained that his primary task is not only to investigate how the school district's general fund reached a negative amount, but also to derive a plan to "put the district in more positive light in terms of operating funds."

"I would like to see the district have a significant unrestricted operating fund balance," he added.

The Hills-Beaver Creek school district has also been plagued with another budget concern relating to construction costs for the new high school.

In March 2010, voters in the school district passed a bond referendum of $9.9 million that funded the purchase of the land and construction of the new school.

Students and staff moved to the new building late last year.

"The construction project appears to be underfunded," Bentz said.

Daily Globe Reporter Ana Anthony can be reached at 376-7321.