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Superintendent contract cycle discussed in Frazee

A proposal to change the superintendent contract cycle in the Frazee-Vergas School district received a standing show of support from people attending a recent school board meeting.

School board member Steve Jepson proposed a new contract cycle that would give an incoming board the authority to vote on the superintendent's contract. And since the board members could potentially rotate every couple years with elections, the superintendent contracts would be for two-year terms and not three.

"You are, in affect, tying the hands of the board," he said by not allowing the new board members to have a say in the superintendent's contract.

The issue was brought up because Superintendent Deron Stender's contract doesn't run out for another year, but the three-year contract starting in 2011 was on the agenda for approval at the Monday board meeting.

The question of whether or not the existing board or the new board after this year's election should have the vote on the contract renewal has been fairly controversial in the district.

(Stender's contract renewal passed on a 4-2 vote.)

As discussion on the matter continued, nearly all of the roughly 30 audience members stood in support of Jepson's proposal.

Board member Dwight Cook said he didn't agree with Jepson's logic that the board would change every couple years because if incumbents were reelected, the board wouldn't be new.

He added that when he joined the board a couple terms ago, he came in the middle of a superintendent's contract and "didn't feel cheated" in any way.

"I'm trying to find a middle ground that is (favorable) to everyone," Jepson said.

He suggested that the current board would do negotiations, but that the new board would have the final vote.

"I just disagree with this whole premise," Cook said. "An extended contract gives a superintendent stability."

Then he called out Jepson, telling him to be honest and that the proposal had nothing to do with a superintendent cycle change but rather that Jepson and board member Rich Ziegler didn't want Stender's contract renewed at all.

"You're not telling the truth," he said.

Jepson said it's not about Stender, just the contract issue.

Cook said that there is no way of knowing how the public actually feels about the contract cycle because it's just been the board candidates expressing their opinions in the Frazee Forum. He said that is the opinion of six to eight people, not all the taxpayers.

Ziegler said he's heard from more then six or eight people with opinions on the subject, and Cook asked if he had heard from anyone other than teachers.

Ziegler said he could give names if that's what Cook wanted.

"I know there are more than six to eight people upset with the way the district is run," Ziegler said.

Cook said that regardless of what board approves the contract, it's the sitting board that controls the superintendent. He gave the example of the roofing project, saying that Stender had taken the project too far without the board's approval, but that the board put a stop to it and changed the course of the project.

Board member Keith Janu agreed that it doesn't matter, since board members are the ones telling the superintendent what to do.

"Once again, you don't want a contract at all and that's all I hear (when you talk)," Cook said to Jepson.

The matter was simply up for discussion and not a vote. It could be revisited in the future.