At its June 28 meeting, the Rice Lake Board of Education approved pay raises for its teachers, support and contract staff, heard preliminary budget projections and discussed whether or not closed sessions could be attended remotely.

At the recommendation of the Compensation Committee, teachers will receive a pay increase of $500 per step, support staff will receive an increase of 65 cents an hour, and contracted staff will get a 3.5% increase on their salary schedule. Discussion at another board meeting will have to do with switching from per meeting to salary compensation for school board members.

Prior to accepting a preliminary budget report, director of finance and operations Pat Blackaller said the district enrollment has dropped a bit, and it looks like there will be no increase in revenue. Combining the lower enrollment and the flat funding, he projects a $400,000 loss in revenue.

The finance director projects total revenues are slightly less than total expenditures, each around $39 million, which might require some deficit spending until actual funds are determined in October.

Several updated policies, rules and exhibits had a first reading as recommended by the Policy and Legislative Committee. The only one prompting discussion was a new policy on Member Participation in Meetings via Technology.

Board member Abbey Fischer asked for the opportunity to continue allowing remote access to closed sessions.

Board member Steve Bowman was adamantly opposed. He said he was open to dialing in for open sessions, but he had concerns about discussing private matters in someone’s house. He acknowledged that they as a governing body bent the rules during the pandemic but said the integrity of the closed session is lost. He said if something gets leaked, the board has a mess.

Board President Keven Jensen said his concern was setting a precedent that others sitting in their chairs 10 years from now may not take as seriously.

Board member Doug Kucko asked if the Wisconsin Association of School Board had a recommendation. District Administrator Randy Drost said the district’s legal council has advised to retain the part in the policy that states that members must be present for closed sessions.

When asked for consensus of the board, all others seemed OK with being present for closed sessions.

In other actions, the Board of Education:

• Heard an update from the elementary principals on Elementary Achievement Gap Reduction.

• Approved two pilot courses — marketing principals and applied technical math — as recommended by the Curriculum Committee.

• Adopted a new fourth-grade social studies textbook titled “Wisconsin: Our State, Our Home.”

• Commended all the spring student athletes for their postseason accomplishments.

• Accepted the resignations of Gregg Kurzynski, physical education teacher with 25 years of service; and Ken Lewis, boys junior varsity soccer coach.

• Approved the employment of Rachel Gochanour and Heidi Perkins, kindergarten teachers; Nicole Coel, fourth-grade teacher; Lisa O’Flanagan, occupational therapist; Sarah Tubbs, Beth Marincel, Casey Mathews, Mindy Anderson and Jessi Klejesk, all paraprofessionals; Brandi Blomquist, library/noon aide; and Taylor Burkhead, health services aide.

(Copyright © 2021 APG Media)

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