Board approves new staff positions, adds extra meeting in July
Summer may be play time for students, but there's no rest for the Cloquet School Board. July is usually when the board takes a break and holds only one meeting during the month. But staffing issues for the upcoming school year call for a second J...
Summer may be play time for students, but there's no rest for the Cloquet School Board. July is usually when the board takes a break and holds only one meeting during the month. But staffing issues for the upcoming school year call for a second July board meeting which will be held at 6 p.m. July 27 at the Cloquet Chamber of Commerce board room.
During Monday's meeting this week, the board approved some new staff positions with a 4-2 vote, but board members Jim and Sandy Crowley opposed the move because postings for Indian Education positions have "Native American preference" on them. School districts are allowed to put that disclaimer on job postings, but not mandated.
"I would like us to hire great people and not specify the Native American preference," said Jim Crowley during the board's working session.
Board member Ron Gittings made the motion for staffing hires specifically to include the "Native American preference" wording on the Indian Education positions.
"The spirit and letter of the law is so issues that directly affect American Indians should benefit American Indians," Gittings said. "My dilemma is that some people make the assumption that if an Indian person is brought in as a teacher they'll be way too focused on culture rather than academics. That is an unfair assessment."
With an eye to the district's strained budget, Sandy Crowley asked why the positions of high school counselor, special education coordinator, and activities director get extra services contracts each year for time spent before the school year starts. The amount adds up to nearly $20,000.
Scarbrough explained that these contracts have been in place for a long time, before he became superintendent.
"It's been a continuing practice from year to year," he said. "The purpose is to take care of duties that need to be done during the summer."
High School Principal Warren Peterson further explained that for the activities director position, it's a legal requirement to have a manager at evening sporting events during the school year.
"And there's a tremendous amount of scheduling that goes on before the school year starts," said Peterson.
"My problem is that people see this and it looks like an AIG bonus," said Gittings, asking to table the issue until the board can be presented with information about the work paid for by these contracts. They will consider whether the positions should simply be expanded to include the work involved without approving extra services contracts each year.
Also Monday, the board discussed a letter received concerning a middle school student's iPod that was confiscated by a teacher and then stolen from the teacher. The grandparents of the student asked to be reimbursed for the lost item.
"Legally, we can't reimburse stolen items," said Scarbrough. He further explained that while music electronics are not allowed in school, according to policy, students can use them during study hall or activity periods.
"I think the teacher dropped the ball," said board member Duane Buytaert. He added later that if iPods are not allowed in school, "we shouldn't let them be used during school hours."
The board agreed to address the issue when the student's parents come before the board and that a clear policy should be drafted for where confiscated items go after they are taken from a student.
"The whole operation stunk," said Sandy Crowley. "The student didn't know where it went, when it would be returned... It was very poorly handled."
Construction at the schools this summer is delayed a bit, but close to being on schedule, according to Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Rob Carr. Unplanned work for asbestos abatement at the high school caused some delay, but a last minute change in ventilation units will delay that portion of the project by as much as three weeks. The change in ventilation units will save the district more than $100,000, Carr explained, but the manufacturer is backlogged.
"The contractors are working on projects we scheduled for later so we should make up any delays," said Carr.