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New Waubun superintendent gets 3-year contract

WAUBUN -- The Waubun-Ogema-White Earth Community School Board approved a three-year superintendent contract with Ogema Elementary School principal Mitch Anderson at its Tuesday board meeting.

The board welcomed Anderson with a three-year contract that included a first-year salary of $93,500, with subsequent salaries negotiated in April for the next year. Anderson will still perform his elementary principal duties and will be mentored by interim superintendent Joe Merseth for at least his first year in the leadership role for the district.

The combined superintendent-elementary principal position is a cost saving measure by the district. Merseth and former superintendent Boyd Bradbury had previously told the board that the superintendent position did not include enough work to justify a full-time superintendent position. Following candidate interviews, the board decided to combine the position of district superintendent and elementary principal.

"Welcome aboard," Board Chair Jim Helliksen told Anderson, after the board approved his contract. Anderson will begin his superintendent duties on July 1.

The board granted Merseth permission to go ahead with some needed building projects. The district received bids in 2007 for the complete removal and replacement of the exterior insulation finish system (or EIFS), which Merseth said is like a stucco finish on brick, for the "B" building in Waubun.

The B Building is the older portion of the high school that houses classrooms. The 2007 bids also included the removal and replacement of all windows, repair of the brick, and re-doing the roof of the multi-purpose gym for a total of $350,000.

The district had turned the bids down in 2007, but Merseth said the work needs to be done. The architect estimated an increase cost for the project of five to 10 percent, a potential increase of up to $35,000, as well as contingency costs of $35,000, for a total of $420,000.

Merseth said he explored alternative financing for the district in the form of capital facilities bonds. The bonding can be done without voter approval to fund facilities repairs, but it does require the approval of the Commissioner of Education.

It would allow the district to complete the needed repairs for the building, Merseth said, and stretch the payment over 10 years instead of taking one big bite out of the general fund.

"It's a do-able project, I think in this respect, without burdening your total fund balance," Merseth told the board.

He proposed working with Ehlers Financial to create a capital facilities bond for $400,000, which would be paid up over a 10-year period with payments twice a year. Excess contingency costs could come out of the general fund, Merseth said.

Excess bonding funds from the building project could go toward other contingency costs or other projects, such as repairing the athletic field buildings or replacing the dust filtration system in the vocational building.

"My recommendation is to get this project going," Merseth said. "I'm willing to spearhead this and keep it going through the summer."

The board granted Merseth approval to work with Ehlers Financial for the capital facilities bonding and to work with Foss Architectural to advertise for bids. Merseth hopes to have the repairs done over the summer in 2008.

The board also voted to replace an engine in their 2003 school bus. Merseth said the bus had gotten gasoline in its diesel tank, causing the engine to explode.

The bus is in good condition except for its engine. Merseth said he is looking into the fuel logs to try to find out how the gas got into the diesel-fueled bus so the district can avoid this in the future.

The district had located a possible used 2000 engine with 110,000 miles on the engine. The engine is from a bus that was totaled when it was hit in the body, but Merseth said the engine is fine.

The cost of the used engine is $3,000, not including labor, which would bring the cost up to approximately $5,000. A new engine would cost the district approximately $15,000.

Board member Barb Fabre asked Merseth to call around and check pricing. Board member Allen Haugo said he'd like to keep the engine work local, if at all possible.

The board granted Merseth permission to get the engine replaced with a used motor. Merseth said he would try to find a replacement under that $5,000 mark, and will shop around to find a good deal for the district.

In other business, business manager Michelle Heisler said the district is still waiting to hear a decision regarding its Impact Aid issue. Merseth said Diana Carl, the district secretary, has been working closely with the project, making sure all the needs for a decision are being met.

Charles Jensvold received permission to apply for a $150,000 technology grant. The Enhancing Education Through Technology (or E2T2) grant is a K-12 grant the district could use for various items to enhance math teaching. The grant would allow the district to acquire more Smart Boards and projectors for its classrooms, a mobile computer lab, and purchase interactive software to enhance math skills in students.

"It's equipment-based," Merseth said. "We could certainly use that."

Jensvold said 25 percent of the grant money would need to be used for staff development. Some of that could be done internally, while other development could be facilitated by outside instructors. Merseth said receiving the grant would allow the district to continue to develop its technology.

The board also accepted the resignation of three teachers with a collective 103 years of teaching experience. The retiring teachers are Carol Moore, Jean Horack and Barb Syverson.

"We thank them for their years of service and I think we really appreciated having them as employees," Helliksen said.

"That's a lot of experience going out of the district. We wish them well in their endeavors."