April 3, 2014



COON RAPIDS

The Coon Rapids-Bayard School Board will move forward with three options to replace its superintendent - sharing with Ogden Community Schools, sharing with IKM-Manning Schools or jointly searching with CAM schools in Anita.

Current superintendent Rich Stoffers announced two weeks ago that he would retire early to give the district the opportunity to save money on administration costs and potentially qualify for about $50,000 in state sharing incentives. The CRB district has to cut about $400,000 from next year's budget.

There are about 60 school districts within 50 miles of the Coon Rapids-Bayard district, said school board president Joel Davis. Eliminating districts already sharing superintendents and districts with enrollment greater than 1,250 students, he began contacting superintendents - resulting in four districts willing to share the position and three alternative options to fill the position, he reported to the school board during a work session Wednesday night.

Knowing that needs could be incompatible with other districts once the actual negotiation process begins, or candidates might not be a good fit for the Coon Rapids and Bayard communities, the school board plans to immediately pursue three options.

A board and administrative contingent including Davis, board members Mike Oswald and Chad Leighty, and high school principal Brent Jorth or curriculum director Margie Schwenk will travel to a CAM school board meeting in Anita to discuss the possibility of conducting a joint search for a shared superintendent.

Being involved in the search could give the district more voice in what type of individual is hired, said Leighty.

Schwenk voiced concerns about the CAM district's online academy program - currently in its second year - and how that element could impact the quality of candidates available to CRB from association with the online-heavy platform.

Jorth and Schwenk will also organize a day-long interview process for Ogden superintendent Brad Jermeland and IKM-Manning superintendent Tom Ward including meetings with administrators, teachers, community members and school board members, as well as a review of school finance experience and a tour of the towns.

School board member Pat McAlister said that he was intrigued by reports that Jermeland cut $800,000 from his district's budget during his first year.

However, Jermeland has been described by other educational leaders in the state as someone rising in his field, reported Davis, leading board members to question if he would stay with the district long-term.

An advantage of sharing a superintendent with IKM-Manning is the short commute between the districts, said Schwenk.

Ward originally wasn't sure sharing a superintendent next year would be feasible, given the IKM-Manning district's impending closure of its middle school building in Manilla - a move that will already eliminate one administrative position and shift existing duties.

Having experienced a similar situation with CRB's closure of its Bayard building in 2003, some board members were unsure if Ward would be able to devote the full two or 21/2 days to the Coon Rapids-Bayard district that the board wants.

Also open to sharing a superintendent position with CRB were Kurt Brosamle of Ar-We-Va schools and Jeff Kruse of South Central Calhoun schools. Tim Christensen of the Greene County School District said he would be open to sharing the position, but he would be in Coon Rapids only one day a week.

IKM-Manning principal Brian Wall recently acquired his superintendent certification and said he would be open to discussing splitting time between the IKM-Manning high school principal position and the Coon Rapids-Bayard superintendent position, reported Davis. If all else fails, Heartland Area Education Agency chief administrator Paula Vincent said the agency would make sure the district had a superintendent next year, he added.

Davis also noted that none of the districts open to sharing are immediate neighbors of the CRB district, meaning the agreement will not be overshadowed by the possibility of a consolidation - under current law, whole-grade sharing cannot occur between districts that are not adjacent.