Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

March 28, 2014

Board approves personnel changes

By Steve Woodhouse Editor
The Journal Express

---- — The Knoxville School Board is making progress toward filling vacancies created by several retirements at the end of the school year.

Monday night, the board approved the hiring of Jim Bassett, Director of Facilities and Operations and Troy Pearson, Grounds and Facilities Manager. These two have been hired to replace retiring Jeff Sinnard and Gary Bacus.

Superintendent Randy Flack told the board that Bassett has knowledge in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, as well as other areas. Pearson’s background in buildings and construction is expected to aid the district as well. Flack believes the two will work closely together in the coming years, to care for Knoxville School District facilities.

The combined pay for Bacus and Sinnard, including FICA and IPERS, totals $143,413.03. Their replacements will cost a total of $134,067, leaving a savings of $9,346.03. (All of the pay figures in this article include FICA and IPERS.)

One of the goals of the early retirement incentive was to reduce personnel costs for the district. Board President Leslie Miller had asked Flack to prepare information regarding savings for those positions already filled.

Northstar Counselor Denise Bontrager is among the retirees. Her replacement, also approved Monday night, will provide a savings of $12,525.47. (Bontrager’s total pay was $76,644.47. Replacement Sondra Dyer’s total pay will be $64,119.)

Savings will also been seen with High School Spanish Teacher Tracy Coon’s retirement, Amy Ripperger. Coon’s total pay was $74,313.20; Ripperger’s, $47,797.80. Ripperger’s contract was among those approved Monday night.

The board has previously approved Linda Abbott to transfer to West Elementary to replace Mike Montgomery as principal. Abbott’s pay will total $99,093, versus Montgomery’s $111,596.

Abbott’s replacement as Assistant Middle School Principal, Ryan Klein, was approved Monday night. Klein, currently a dean at Knoxville High School, will make $87,435 versus Abbott’s $96,120.21.

Klein’s transfer was approved 4-1 with board member Mike Moats dissenting. Moats told the Journal-Express on Tuesday that his vote was not a reflection on Klein, but on the board’s decision to maintain an assistant principal. As a member of the district’s personnel committee – joined on the committee by Flack, Business Manager Craig Mobley and board member Tim McDonald – he recommended that the position be that of a dean, which would have lowered the cost of this role.

“We had researched that pretty thoroughly,” Moats said. “There was an opportunity for us to reallocate part of that salary to other personnel.” Moats added that he thinks Klein is an outstanding employee, but the issue is too much administration. He believes the district is too “top heavy” and would like to see more money allocated for those who work directly with students in the classroom.

Cassandra Murra has been hired to take over as superintendent for Flack at the end of the year. Her total pay is actually $5,829 higher than Flack’s. Flack’s pay totals $164,377.80. Murra’s will be $170,206.80. Flack believes that the district will see a reduction in personnel costs of $400,000 when all available positions have been filled.

Murra has been in contact with board members in the search for a new high school principal and to fill the assistant middle school principal position. She has not been paid by the district yet, according to Mobley. Her contract begins July 1, but the board has allowed her to be involved in the interview process for these administrative positions.

“So far she has not made any employment recommendations,” Mobley said. The district is focused on finding a new high school principal. When one is in place, the search will shift to activities director.

In other personnel actions Monday night, the board approved the transfers of Angie Dingeman from third grade at Northstar to the special education classroom at West and Sue Kauzlarich from superintendent’s secretary to West secretary.

Troy Rider’s resignation was also approved. Flack said the district has already been advertising for his replacement as PE teacher and head varsity football coach.