May 15, 2014

IKM-Manning and Coon Rapids-Bayard will share superintendent Tom Ward, effective July 1.

The Coon Rapids-Bayard board approved the agreement - in which Ward will spend 60 percent of his time in the IKM-Manning district and 40 percent of his time in the Coon Rapids-Bayard district - during its regular meeting Monday night, while the IKM-Manning board approved the agreement during its regular meeting Wednesday night.

"The qualities we were looking for he had in abundance," Coon Rapids-Bayard board president Joel Davis said of Ward, who has served as IKM-Manning superintendent since 2011. "He clearly puts kids first, and that is very important to us."

Davis also cited Ward's experience - 40 years in education ranging from classroom teacher to athletic director to superintendent - and understanding of school finance as other points in his favor.

Coon Rapids-Bayard has been searching for a superintendent sharing partner since Rich Stoffers announced in April his decision to resign in an effort to reduce the impact on staff and programs of the $400,000 in cuts the board had to make in its 2014-15 budget.

The districts will divide the cost of Ward's salary, as well as qualify for $50,000 a year in operational sharing incentives from the state, available for up to five years. The IKM-Manning and Coon Rapids-Bayard boards signed an agreement for three years, with an opt-out option available after the first year if the either board is not satisfied with the results of the arrangement.

Ward's current salary is $123,250. His total package, including health insurance and benefits, is about $160,000, he said. His salary will increase as he takes on responsibility for the additional district - likely to the $140,000 range, he said.

While sharing is not new to the IKM-Manning district, it is new to Ward, who started as superintendent in the district when the IKM and Manning districts officially consolidated in 2011. He spent the first 25 years of his career in the classroom before moving into his first administrative position in 1999.

Because Ward will be spending part of his time out of the IKM-Manning district, it will not entirely eliminate a principal position - one of the cost-savings measures considered in the board's decision to close its middle school building in Manilla, effective this fall. Elementary principal Wendy Hammrich - who has the least seniority of the district's three principals - will drop to part-time.

"This is a win-win for us," said Ward. "It allows us to generate a few extra funds, and if it works out, will provide substantial savings."

The Coon Rapids-Bayard and IKM-Manning districts are separated by a sliver of the Carroll Community School District - the superintendent-sharing agreement cannot lead to a future consolidation of districts under current Iowa law.