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District 518 board sets levy; discusses action plan

WORTHINGTON -- The District 518 Board of Education met for the final time in 2016 on Tuesday, where they certified the district's 2017 levy at $4,849,257 -- a 6.9 percent decrease from the current year. The board and staff then spent a considerab...

WORTHINGTON - The District 518 Board of Education met for the final time in 2016 on Tuesday, where they certified the district’s 2017 levy at $4,849,257 - a 6.9 percent decrease from the current year. The board and staff then spent a considerable amount of time discussing the resignation of board member Ann Mills and the action plan moving forward as a result of the failed referendum vote.

According to District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard, the board has two options to fill the seat vacated by Mills; they can conduct a special election, or appoint someone to the seat.

Landgaard said holding a special election will be significantly more expensive than appointing someone, but that person will be able to finish Mills’ two-year term. On the other hand, if the board appointed someone, that person could only be in the position for one year.

The board agreed to appoint someone in January. Candidates interested in serving on the board are asked to submit a letter of interest detailing their background and reasons why they want to join the board. Letters of interest may be submitted by mail, email or be dropped off at the District office prior to Jan. 3.

Then, during the Jan. 3 reorganizational meeting, board members will review the letters and potentially make a decision. If the board can’t reach a conclusion, they will continue the discussion and make a decision at their Jan. 17 meeting.  

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After the rejection of the bond referendum in November, the board has developed an action plan to gather information from residents on ways to address overcrowding in district facilities.

Landgaard said the process of gathering information and potentially developing a master plan will take place from January through March. Meanwhile, the board approved the hiring of Morrison Leatherman consulting firm to conduct telephone surveys to roughly 400 people.

“I have talked to two school districts that have done this and they felt very good with what they have accomplished with the surveys,” Landgaard said.

In addition to the phone surveys, Landgaard explained the board will schedule focus and community listening meetings through January. He hopes residents from diverse sectors will attend those meetings.

Also on Tuesday, the board approved increasing pay rates for substitute teacher. Substitute teachers at the high school, middle school and the Area Learning Center will see an increase from $120 per day to $125. For substitute teachers working at Prairie Elementary, pay will increase to $135 per day.

Landgaard said the school has had a hard time finding substitute teachers, especially at the elementary, so he said the raise will encourage more teachers to apply. He noted that the reason why elementary substitute teachers will be paid more is because students at the elementary level are more demanding of a teacher’s time than middle or high school students.

“This is kind of a trial to see if it works, it may not work, but at this point we struggled to find substitute teachers, primarily in Prairie,” Landgaard said.

He also showed concern about the reaction from teachers regarding the pay differential between the elementary and other buildings.

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“I am concerned that some folks would say, ‘Why are we not as valuable in the high school?’ so that’s where my big concern is,” he said. “But I think when you go out to the elementary, other than the times that you have as prep time, you are tied to those young kids pretty much the whole day.”

In other action, the board:

  • Renewed the transportation contract with Bud’s Bus Service, Inc., Reading, for 2017-2021.  “They have been with us the last four years and we know they are doing a great job; we had very few concerns - and if we have any concerns, they are taken care of very quickly,” said David Skog, District 518 business director. He said the rate will increase 1 percent during the first and fourth year of the contract, with a 2 percent increase during the second and fourth year of the contract. Five of the buses will be required to have surveillance systems.

  • Approved the purchase of two vehicles for Special Education.  

  • Approved leasing the school-owned property purchased for the future high school to Pat Haberman for $301 per acre. School board member Brad Shaffer said there were various individuals interested in leasing the property, but Haberman offered the higher bid.

  • Approved the out-of-state travel requested by two district staff members to attend the Technology conference in Wisconsin in February.

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