The Carlton School Board plans to use three part-time employees to fill in for former Carlton Middle and High School Principal Barry Wolff after his resignation Feb. 3.
Wolff resigned following a DWI conviction in Sherburne County Jan. 31. The board held a special meeting Monday, Feb. 10 to discuss how the middle and high school principal duties would be handled over the final 16 weeks of the school year.
Superintendent Gwen Carman recommended not hiring a full-time replacement for Wolff, but instead to offer part-time contracts to three retired administrators for the remainder of the year.
Carman said the school district could hire former Cloquet High School Principal Warren Peterson on days he is available. Peterson retired from Cloquet in 2018 and served as interim principal last fall after Barry Fischer resigned until Wolff was hired.
Carman said Peterson is available Tuesdays, Thursdays and potentially Fridays during the spring.
Peterson would be the onsite principal during those days and would cover the day-to-day duties during that time, but Carman said she, Peterson and South Terrace Elementary School Principal Ben Midge would need some additional help over the final months of the school year — particularly with teacher observations and evaluations.
Because Carlton has a high percentage of probationary teachers — teachers in the first three years of their career — and Wolff’s late start there are still 32 teacher observations to be completed. Probationary teachers require three evaluations per year and tenured teachers require one every three years. Each evaluation requires approximately three hours of administrator time to complete.
To help complete evaluations as efficiently and possible, as well as to handle other administrator duties, Carman suggested hiring two more part-time employees. Former Northern Lights Special Education Coordinator Marilyn Nelson would work up to 160 hours until the end of the school year. Nelson would help out with special education teacher evaluations and serve as the administrative designee in individualized education plan meetings with parents and other staff.
Another yet-to-be-determined person would fill in for up to 100 hours to help out with evaluations, as well.
Under the plan, all three would be paid $45 per hour, the same rate Peterson was paid in his interim capacity last fall. If all three work the maximum number of hours included in Carman’s plan, they would be paid a combined $26,100 — or about $11,000 less than what Wolff would have been paid for the remainder of the school year.
The $11,000 savings does not factor in any benefits the district would have paid Wolff if he had continued his employment. Carman also said it was “doubtful” Nelson or the undetermined administrator would work the maximum number of hours included in her plan, further increasing the district’s savings.
School board member Jennifer Chmielewski said she remained concerned about the cost to the district of bringing on more administrators when the district has less than 500 students. In addition, there is uncertainty about the district’s future as it ponders consolidating with neighboring Wrenshall and a projected $600,000 deficit this year.
“There are schools that have up to 500-something students and only have two administrators,” Chmielewski said. “I’m just wondering is this work — is it too difficult, is it too much work? We’ve got 400-something students and there are schools who are bigger. I’m trying to understand why we need more administrators when our school is this size.”
Board chair LaRae Lehto said having two buildings in the district complicates the problem and Carman’s and Midge’s current contracts don’t include performing administrator duties at the middle and high school.
“One of the points I would have is that it is in neither Mr. Midge’s or Superintendent Carman’s contracts right now to do this,” Lehto said. “So they are not required to cover these duties of the middle and high school principal. In my mind, I’m very appreciative of their willingness to do so and not having to fill the position and finding some stop gap measures for the next 16 weeks. I hear what you’re saying and we do need to make a long-term plan for administrators, but I think this is a reasonable plan to proceed with for the remainder of the school year.”
The board did not vote on the recommendation Monday, but will take it up at its Tuesday, Feb. 18 meeting.