January 20, 2011 at 8:53 a.m.

After small mis-step, school board is back up to full strength

After small mis-step, school board is back up to full strength
After small mis-step, school board is back up to full strength

During the North Branch School Board meeting held just before the Christmas Holiday break, the Board members voted unanimously to appoint Jaye Kruckeberg because Board member Vicki McDougall announced she was resigning.

Last week, the School Board rescinded that appointment and then-- with two newly-elected members now sworn-in-- the vote went 3-2 to appoint Kruckeberg.

The new action was based on legal advice regarding the statutes authorizing Board appointments. The statute allows appointment at "the next meeting" following acceptance of a resignation. Board Chair Kim Salo said there could be an interpretation that the initial Kruckeberg appointment came sooner than allowed by law, because the resignation was officially accepted at the regular Board meeting following McDougall's declaration publicly that she'd stepdown, which was also when the first Kruckeberg vote took place.

So the Board re-addressed the action last week.

The 3-2 vote came after new Board members Randy Westby and Jay Falk argued not to appoint the fourth-highest vote-getter, but to take applications instead.

Westby and Falk won election with over 2,000 votes a piece and incumbent Kirby Ekstrom also won with about 4,000; while Kruckeberg received 1,979 votes in what was an election for three seats. It was Westby's contention last week, that the "...outcome of the election would have been different had there been four seats on the ballot."

Chair Salo, Ekstrom and member John White disagreed. They said the public expressed their preference in the November elections and as next in line vote-wise, Kruckeberg deserves to be seated. White added that the district budgeting process gets underway very soon, and a full six members are needed to tackle the issues. He pointed out that an application and interview process could not seat somebody for weeks.

In electing officers for the Board Salo remained the chair, Ekstrom is vice-chair, Falk is clerk and White will serve as treasurer. The compensation stayed the same, $40 per meeting and annual stipends for officers are the same.

There was a split vote on the meeting schedule; with Board member Westby stating he's heard that people can't attend Thursday meetings because it conflicts with North Branch City Council meetings. (North Branch council meetings are the second and fourth Monday.) Board member White voted no because he wanted to try a different night, although he wasn't specific.

The support staff contract has been accepted by the employees and was ratified by the Board.

The contract goes out to July 1, 2012. There are no wage hikes in the first and second years, no "STEP" (performance) increases in year one, and no additional healthcare benefits payments from the district both years.

Chair Salo noted all contracts have finally been completed...there are different agreements negotiated for principals, for instructional staff, for custodians and bus drivers, and for 12-month and 9-month staff and the support staff.

The fee for all-day kindergarten was set for 2011-2012. There's an expanded All-Day K-plus program also available; and this provides a Monday session (the normal day-off in the four-day a week schedule of the district.)

North Branch is entering its fourth year of providing a full day educational schedule for kindergartners. The program is housed at Sunrise River Elementary School.

The registration deadline for next year is April 14. Contact Sunrise River School at 674-1100.

It was announced Kirby Ekstrom has completed 300 or more hours of state school board association training and was recognized for earning "The President's Award."

Official donations accepted by the Board: $530 from Anderson Chiropractic Clinic for athlete fee assistance, $2,000 from the state high school league foundation for athletic and activity fee assistance; the John Pinsonneault Foundation donated $1,000 for a graduate scholarship, Domino Pizza gave $267 from a fundraiser, Kemp's milk bottle caps generated $294 for Sunrise River School.

At the start of the meeting the Chair presented the district geography bee winner with a certificate and pen. We reported a couple weeks ago that Levi Gomes was entering the next round of the National Geographic competition and he will learn in a month or so, after his written test is reviewed, if he advances to a state meet.


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