Deadlocked is where members of the Emmetsburg Community Schools Board of Education found themselves at the end of the Monday evening, May 16, meeting of the board.
Half of the board voted to proceed with the hiring of Tim Swanson as fourth grade teacher, while the other half voted to refrain hiring Swanson until questions could be answered as to how the position would be funded. With one board member arriving too late to break the tie vote, the matter was discussed again at a special meeting of the board Thursday morning, May 19.
Community members and teachers were on hand for the special meeting. Superintendent John Joynt started the discussion by explaining how the revamped TAG (Talented and Gifted) position will allow for money in the budget to hire a new fourth grade teacher.
According to Joynt, Deb Jurrens was moved from fourth grade teacher to a combination of .7 TAG and .3 elementary teacher (third/fourth grade). The projected TAG budget for the 2011-12 school year is $49,330 split between the .7 TAG position ($43,322) and .3 elementary teacher (third/fourth grade) position ($18,566).
"Keeping in mind that the $49,322 TAG budget can only be used in TAG, it is effectively taken out of other general fund purposes," explained Joynt. "The district has moved 70-percent of Mrs. Jurrens's salary and benefits out of the general fund and has left $18,566 in the general fund. There was a recommendation to hire a teacher at step E7 with a total cost of $52,556 [includes all benefits and Teacher Salary Supplements], which is $15,815 less than Mrs. Jurrens's salary and benefits. This scenario would add a cost of $3,151 towards the .3 elementary teacher help for the large third and fourth grade classes."
Joynt noted that there would be considerable carryover funds to future TAG expenditures because several staff (John Joynt, Erin Siefken, Kari Schany, and Deb Jurrens) had been sharing TAG responsibilities.
Board President Karla Anderson spoke, clarifying what occurred at the Monday evening school board meeting.
"After the weekend and reviewing numbers and not positive how the TAG program was going to affect us, I still had questions," said Anderson. "Monday morning I called the school lawyer to see if I could review the TAG position again before we place a fourth grade teacher. I was instructed that I could not talk about TAG because it wasn't on the agenda."
According to Anderson, the lawyer recommended tabling the fourth grade position until the TAG issue was taken care of, thereby resolving whether a fourth grade position be warranted.
"At Monday's meeting, I made a motion to table the fourth grade position, but it failed because we had a three to three split vote, and that's why we're here today to try and review this again before we make a commitment to another fourth grade teacher. I now have the information in front of me," Anderson said.
"We all wanted this TAG position and voted on it already at the April meeting," said Laure Egland, board member. "Why are we visiting this again?"
"My concern Monday night was when we advertised for a potential fourth grade position, we were also talking about there being zero-percent allowable growth for next year," said Board Member Don Hagen. "I support anything we do for the kids, but I also support the taxpayers and how we're going to come up with the money. This $3,000 is a very cheap investment, now that we see it."
BJ Schany inquired, "Why are we advertising for a position that we don't know is even there?"
"It was stated in the ad as an 'anticipated' position," Anderson answered.
Linda Jones stated, "To me, you get the information up front before you offer a person a job and then take it away from them."
"Every position is not offered before it is board-approved," said Anderson.
"It concerns me that our board did not understand the position they were creating," interjected Sue Strube. "Then after we advertise, interview, and get a great candidate on board, now we ask questions and say we don't understand. How unethical is that to the person that is being told in good faith, 'go ahead and resign; you've got a job'."
"You had a recommendation from an administrator for a teacher and, if the school board is going to operate well, they need to support the administration," added Rick Brennan. "Otherwise, you're micro-managing."
"All of your questions should have been answered before you offered a job," Strube added. "It should have been clear exactly what you were doing."
In action that brought the matter to a close, a motion was made, seconded, and unanimously approved to offer the fourth grade position to Tim Swanson.
"If Mr. Swanson doesn't accept the position, can I offer it to another candidate?" asked West Elementary Principal Matt Pugh.
"Yes, pending board approval," said Joynt.