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CLOQUET SCHOOL BOARD: Does spring break have to be in spring?

With spring break starting on Monday for Cloquet schools, a number of students will be enjoying warmer temperatures — close to 60 degrees by Tuesday — right here at home.

However, next year they may have to travel further south to enjoy a better climate, as the calendar adopted by the Cloquet School Board Monday sets the start of spring break at March 7, more than three weeks earlier.

Superintendent Ken Scarbrough said the calendar committee tried a number of later dates, but those didn’t work well either because they conflicted with the end of the high school quarter break later in March and the MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) testing in April and May.

“Test scored drop if the kids have a week off just before [they take the MCAs],” Scarbrough said.

Board member Jim Crowley noted there were 167 student contact days and 16.5 professional (with no students) contact days.

“Ten percent seems high to me,” the former school teacher noted, asking if it would alter teacher contracts if the district decides to add more student contact days in the future.

Scarbrough said the teachers are contracted for 183.5 days total, so probably not, but it would add costs because of transportation and paraprofessional wages.

School would begin Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. All staff and teachers, however, would begin Sept. 1, with first year and non-tenured teachers starting the week before that. School would end June 3.

With School Board members Dave Battaglia and Hawk Huard absent, the Board voted three to one in favor of adopting the calendar as recommended.

School Board Clerk Duane Buytaert opposed the motion.

“I like [spring break] later,” he said.

In other matters, the Cloquet School District is scrambling to find a new American Indian Education Director, after previous director Tara Graves gave two weeks notice and took a different job outside of the school district.

Scarbrough told the Board that Graves has indicated some willingness to help with the transition, but wanted time and a half, or $37 an hour. Scarbrough said the district needs help with its Title 7 (Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native Education) grant application in particular.

The application period for that job closes April 13.

Board member Jim Crowley asked if there was any racial requirement for that job and Scarbrough said Native American preference applies but is not required.

“We would prefer someone who is familiar with this community and its Native American background,” Scarbrough said.

After some discussion, the Board voted to hire Graves for up to 40 hours.

The district is also advertising for a new business director, to replace Kim Josephson, who would like to retire.

Josephson technically already retired from the school district once but has been contracting with the district to do the same job for the past three years.

Josephson presented the board with several options earlier this month: retire in June, retire in October after helping a new business manager transition, stay on part-time for a year if the district hires a less-experienced manager who needs more help or stay on even longer to supervise the $49 million building project while a new business manager tackles the day-to-day management of the school district.

The board voted to advertise for a new business manager, and decide from the various options once they have a person for the job.

On Tuesday, the Board approved a contract with Josephson’s business, Regional Resources Inc., to provide transitional services to the school district business manager for up to 125 days at a cost of $520 per day.

Services that would be provided (if needed) also include managing and coordinating the building construction fund budget, among other things.

Also Monday, the Board heard from Superintendent Ken Scarbrough regarding negotiations with Kraus-Anderson and Architects Rego + Youngquist (ARY) proposed to be the construction manager and architect for the new middle school building and other new projects approved in the referendum Feb. 10. The superintendent reported he had visited with their representatives and that ARY had offered to work for a 6 percent flat fee on all new facilities or additions, and Kraus-Anderson had offered a flat rate of 1.4 percent, but not including personnel costs such as the project superintendent, which would be added on top of that flat fee. Scarbrough declared both offers very competitive, and said he had asked them to draw up contracts, which will be reviewed by attorney Jay Squires, before they are brought to the Board for a vote, likely April 13.