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Cloquet inks deal with new superintendent, takes steps to bond for roof repair

It's official. Michael Cary will be the new Cloquet schools superintendent starting July 1, following the retirement of current superintendent Ken Scarbrough.

Cloquet School Board members voted unanimously to approve a contract with Cary, who is currently director of curriculum and instruction for Duluth Public Schools.

Board Chair Ted Lammi said there was a lot of "back and forth negotiations" with Cary, and the final contract was a compromise.

"He'd done a lot of research," Lammi said. "We did too. By the end, everyone's numbers [worked out]."

Board member Dave Battaglia noted that the contract included a stipend for Cary to move into the Cloquet School District over the next three years, something Lamie said came from Cary.

"I think that's an encouraging sign," Battaglia said.

In other matters, Cloquet School Board members also voted unanimously Monday to authorize bonding for up to $5 million for roof replacement at the district's two elementary schools, debt that would be paid out of the school district's long-term facilities maintenance fund. Board member Jim Crowley was absent.

Cloquet Superintendent Ken Scarbrough stressed that the bond will not cause a tax increase for residents, as the money for long-term facilities is already coming in.

Board members also considered Scarbrough's recommendation to bond for $4 million and use $1 million from the construction fund to make up the difference, but ultimately decided that the construction money could be used for projects that wouldn't qualify for maintenance funds, such as improvements to the Cloquet High School auditorium, tennis court repairs or construction of additional storage facilities, among others.

"What it comes down to is what do you want to use the leftover construction money for," District Finance Director Candice Nelis told the board. "Long-term facilities maintenance money can only be spent on maintenance. Construction funds can go toward new projects.

The bond money could also be used for additional long-term facility maintenance projects if the two roofing projects cost less than the expected $4.8 million.

Scarbrough explained that bonding for $4 million would leave $240,000 available in long-term maintenance funds to handle contingencies. Bonding for $5 million leaves $187,000 for unplanned repairs. He noted that the district is expecting to have a fund balance of as much as $750,000 this year, which would also be set aside for long-term facilities maintenance.

Although the board authorized the bond sale at a maximum of $5 million, they could choose to decrease the amount before the actual sale date of March 12.