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  Sunday October 19th, 2014    

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To residents of the R-P school district (07/28/2013)
From: Angela Colbenson

I am responding to a letter to the editor, recently authored by a [Rushford-Peterson school] board member. Our superintendent’s contract did expire on June 30. As a board, in the spring, we discussed settling the contract; however one board member thought it would be a good idea to settle the teacher’s contract first. I also concurred that would be a wise decision. If you query area schools you will find that not all districts have settled their employee’s contracts by the expiration date. In my own history of working in a school district, my contracts have been negotiated after my official contract start date. Most schools do not have their teachers’ contracts settled by July 1; however, teachers diligently return to school and help students learn, all the while earning the exact same amount as the previous year until contract settlement. I also know of another state employee that just settled his 2011 contract in January of 2013. It happens more frequently than it should happen.

I did respond to Director Peterson that I granted authority for Mr. Ehler to continue working until the BOARD decided Mr. Ehler’s contract outcome at the very next board meeting. I find it interesting that Director Peterson neglected to mention my decision was very short-term. I also made the short-term decision based on comments I heard from the board when the contract was discussed during a board meeting. During that discussion, Director Peterson had an opportunity to mention his feelings on the subject, but he choose not to. I also heard support from board members to continue with Mr. Ehler’s contract. However, we did not vote on the contract. According to the school attorney, the board can vote for a six-month contract, a year contract or even up to a three-year contract.

If Peterson knew of Minnesota statutes, why didn’t he bring it up in the spring? Searching for a quality superintendent is certainly not going to happen overnight. It takes several months to find a qualified person. Not to mention, this is the worst time of the year to seek a replacement. Candidates have already accepted jobs at alternate schools, and there is not a large pool of people to choose from. To get a replacement, the school needs to start approximately around January at the latest. Instead, I received an email on June 30 with a statement of his concerns. I wish Director Peterson would put his time and effort into solving problems, serving our students, and retaining quality staff of the schools instead of writing letters after the fact. Director Peterson’s duty to our district should be to focus on the benefit of students. The district has incurred legal bills to confirm our correct legal path because of Peterson’s constant questioning. I take pride in the work of the board, and feel that 86% of the board is serving to do what is best for the school. I also commend the hard work of our current administration. My fear is the comments discourage new families and students from attending our district.

I also would like to comment on Peterson’s previous letter on the money that was spent for professionals. Please realize not all of the money was spent to get a new school. Some of the professionals were hired to analyze our existing building to see what we could do to improve the existing facilities. In addition, some money was spent to make sure our building continues to be safe for students. If you were on the board, would you spend money to ensure student safety when the floor dropped several inches? I am proud to say that we consider our students’ safety high priority.

At no time have we violated open meeting laws. We hold transparent meetings in front of the public. In addition, the public is welcome to speak at the beginning of our regular school board meetings. We have an auditor study our district accounts every year and have obtained an “unqualified opinion” which is the cleanest audit achievable! In addition, the auditors verify the separation of duties, and verify the school has checks and balances.

As a community, we have a long road ahead of us. When it comes to an opinion on our facilities, we are much divided. In order to accomplish anything, we will all need to compromise. Quite frankly, there is not a golden, easy solution. I ask that you get involved, take tours and get the facts. I also ask that you try to keep it positive. The kids need us to pull it together.

 

 

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