April 17, 2014



MANILLA

IKM-Manning superintendent Tom Ward will recommend that the school board reduce or eliminate the elementary principal position currently held by Wendy Hammrich.

His recommendation will be based on seniority, he said - "last in, first out."

Hammrich, hired in 2008, was present at a special meeting of the IKM-Manning school board Wednesday night in Manilla, as was high school principal Brian Wall, hired in 2001. Middle school principal Sharon Whitson was hired in 2007.

But the school board will hold its decision to completely eliminate Hammrich's position or to reduce it to part-time until it determines if IKM-Manning will share its superintendent with the Coon Rapids-Bayard School District next year.

The IKM-Manning School Board planned to eliminate one of its principals as part of the staff reductions that will save the district roughly $400,000 next year with the closure of its school building in Manilla.

Hammrich's and Whitson's current salary packages are each about $92,000. Wall's current package is roughly $106,000.

The school board voted on March 6 to close the building, a decision that has been appealed to the state board of education.

Less than two weeks later, Ward was contacted by Coon Rapids-Bayard School Board president Joel Davis about the possibility of sharing a superintendent between the districts. The Coon Rapids-Bayard district must cut nearly $400,000 from its general fund next year, and superintendent Rich Stoffers decided to retire early in an effort to save the district money.

Districts that share a superintendent not only split the cost of that superintendent, but each qualifies to receive $50,000 per year in sharing-incentive money from the state - money that can be collected for up to five years.

Ward interviewed with the Coon Rapids-Bayard School Board, administrators, staff and community Wednesday and said he felt "good about the process."

But if he splits his time between the two districts next year, he recommends that the board not entirely eliminate an administrative position, but keep the principal on staff part-time to help handle the transition and the first year of the district's reconfiguration, he said.

School board members' responses to Ward's recommendations were split.

Eric Ramsey, Sam Hansen and Amy Ferneding said that the district is facing enough changes with its own reconfiguration and should not compound those responsibilities by further shifting administrative duties to share a superintendent.

Eliminating an administrator was always part of the conversation about closing a building, Hansen and Ferneding added - it is important to follow through.

"The opportunity to get this configuration off on the right foot happens one time," Ramsey said.

Agreeing that the timing is not "ideal," Jim Thraen, Lynn Barry, Scott Hodne and board president Dave Heller said the sharing opportunity must be considered for the financial impact it could have on the district.

Barry described the $50,000 in sharing incentives coupled with the $50,000 savings for the superintendent salary as "unbelievable," while Thraen stated his belief that the opportunity would not present itself a second time.

"I won't argue - I feel we have to reduce an administrator one way or another, but if we share (the superintendent), we can't reduce (a principal) 100 percent," said Hodne.

Ward said Coon Rapids-Bayard officials have not given him a timeline for the district's decision.

They also interviewed Brad Jermeland, superintendent of the Ogden Community School District Wednesday, and several board members plan to meet with the CAM School Board tonight to discuss the possibility of a joint search for a shared superintendent.