West Branch BOE approves salaries

BELOIT — The West Branch school board Thursday night approved two administrative salaries, another reduction in force and supplemental coaching contracts for the fall season, but none came without some disagreement.

The board approved salaries of $93,176 for middle school principal Stephen Fowler and technology supervisor James Graham, as well as $71,144 for Lindsey Szymanski and $69,441 for Stephanie White, both school psychologists. Board member Karen Rice voted against the action.

Schools Superintendent Timothy Saxton said the four employees are currently under multi-year contracts set by the board after the first year. Board President Courtney Stryffeler said during the meeting the salaries do not include an increase.

In the spring, the board agreed to close Knox Elementary at the recommendation of Saxton, who said the board requested a plan to save money. The board approved a consolidation plan that places grades kindergarten through second at an early learning center at Damascus Elementary, grades three through seven plus the pre-school at an intermediate school at the middle school campus and grades eight through 12 at the high school. Damascus Principal Fritz Schlueter was hired as the intermediate school principal and Knox Principal Robert Graham was hired as elementary principal. Brian Coffee is currently under contract as the high school principal.

With the closure of Knox Elementary, the board anticipated a cost savings in administrative contracts of $153,667.80 annually, with a reduction in force (RIF) of three positions. The board approved the RIF of maintenance supervisor Gerald Brain and transportation supervisor Sherri Malloy, but not athletic director Ellie Geiger, and the two RIFed positions were expected to be absorbed by current administrators. However, Geiger had already taken a position with another district and resigned, so the board hired Warrior Academy coordinator and former standout wrestling coach Mike Helm to the combined position of athletic director and transportation supervisor.

In the end, school Treasurer Julia Rozsnyai said the district saved $48,273 from combining the athletic and transportation director positions.

In other business Thursday, the board approved a reduction in force of food service employees Lisa Thorn, Janette Bowen and Gwynne Thomas based on specific savings in the food service program. Stryffeler voted no.

The meeting was livestreamed on the district Facebook page and the boardmembers who voted against proposed actions did not explain their votes.

Stryffeler attempted to table due to uncertainty of fall sports season and wanted to discuss a possible memorandum of understanding to create levels of completion of contracts to ensure coaches are paid for work completed if there is an eventual cancellation. Saxton said the contracts are based on current status of the fall season and an MOU can be created if needed.

The board ultimately decided that since the fall sports have already started, to move forward with the contracts and create an MOU if needed.

Rice said if competition between districts is canceled, the board should consider ways to have students play each other to require coaches to fulfill the time in their contracts.

Also at the meeting, the board accepted the resignation of Daniel Dota as physical education teacher effective Aug. 18, Katelyn Dunn as special services secretary effective July 31 and Brian Hollabaugh, after 27 years with the district, as a custodian effective Aug. 7; and approved Aaron Oblisk as a part-time mechanic (not to exceed 30 hours per week) and Kate Dunn at consultant/trainer for the specials services department for the 2020-2021 school year on an as needed basis for up to 30 hours

The board also hired Tabitha Tayala as a guidance counselor, Holly Zion-Morrow as the special services secretary, Vicki Cosma as an inclusion aide and Jennifer Foor as a bus driver.



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