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Rib Lake schools look back on positive year

Rib Lake schools look back on positive year Rib Lake schools look back on positive year

While the June 9 Rib Lake School Board meeting may have been Rick Cardey’s last as district administrator, the district is in good shape going into the future.

The meeting agenda was heavy with a series of annual reports and reviews about different programs within the district. The general message of all of them is summed up in Cardey’s final administrator’s report where he said, “I think we have a great thing going.”

Cardey especially highlighted the return of family engagement and community involvement as being a positive this year as the district worked to return to normal following COVID-19 which restricted public access in the schools.

Elementary principal Jon Dallmann continued with the positive news. “There is a reason we can state we are one of the best schools in the northwoods, if not the best,” he said, citing the district’s achievement in English language arts and math subject areas. He said in math, the elementary school is at 95.2% with the next within their service area being Riverside Elementary in the D.C. Everest district at 89.3%.

He noted this is particularly important considering the difference in funding and resources Rib Lake has compared to other schools in the region. “I have to give credit to my students and staff,” he said.

The positive news continued with year-end reports from middle/high school principal Kirsten Budimlija who reported that attendance at those levels was high this year with 68% of the students having less than 10 days absent this year, a huge improvement over the prior year when COVID drove much higher absentee rates. She noted that at the high school level, 80.8% of students are in at least one extracurricular activity. “That is crazy awesome,” she said.

“The school culture is just awesome right now,” Budimlija said.

Elementary school Title I teacher Aimee Blomberg continued the positive news showing that Rib Lake students performed well when compared to national averages when it came to test scores. She noted that while there were some areas where they did not meet their local goals, they still beat the national averages.

Westboro School forest sale

With just days remaining in an online auction to sell about 9.2 acres of former school forest in Westboro, Dallmann said he was pleased with where they are at as far as bids received to date.

The district is using the Wisconsin Surplus Auction website to sell the 9.2 acre parcel located along Fischer Creek Road in Westboro. The auction is set to end at 10 a.m. on June 22 with the buyer responsible for the auction fees.

When setting up the sale the board set a reserve of the minimum final bid that would be accepted. Cardey noted the remaining time for the bidding would not get them to the next board meeting and asked the board to consider what to do if someone makes a fair offer but is short of the limit.

He asked if the board wanted to hold a special meeting if that happened. “You may want to consider that if it doesn’t quite get there,” he said.

Alternatively, the board could grant the administration the authority to accept the high bid amount. Board president Stacy Tlusty said she was fine with giving them that authority, noting the difficulty with scheduling special meetings.

Employee Handbook changes

Noting that the money could be used to benefit all employees rather than a few, board members decided to keep the current language in the employee handbook about payments to those not taking the district’s health insurance plan.

According to Cardey, the school district has a provision for a cash payout in lieu of taking health insurance. The question was raised by staff about spouses, where both spouses work for the district, getting the benefit. For example if one of the married spouses is the primary insurance holder and the other is covered as a family member. Both spouses already benefit from the district’s insurance.

The board had previously asked Cardey to look into options if there was a way to offer a reduced amount in situations where both spouses work for the district. According to Cardey while there can be differences in amounts by job classifications such as between teachers and support staff, within any classification it has to be an all or nothing. Cardey said it would cost the district an additional $19,500 per year if the board chose to implement the change for all employees.

“I feel that is a big chunk of change every year,” board president Stacy Tlusty said, noting that if the district chose to spend that money, they would do better spreading it out among the entire staff.

“It is really all or nothing,” Cardey said, of the board’s options in providing the payment.

“Sustainability would be pretty tough,” said board member Jackie Mohr, noting it would create an ongoing expense for the district.

Board member Jason Dananay said he saw them having three options, the first is to pay out the additional money, the second would be to leave it unchanged and pay nothing, and a third would be to distribute that money throughout the staff.

Tlusty replied that the amount of money could be used for pay increases and is not a handbook issue. “I feel more comfortable with no change,” Tlusty said.

Other board members agreed and left that portion of the employee handbook unchanged.

In other handbook action, board members approved giving support staff a $1 per hour bump in pay after 15 years of employment with the district. Cardey noted that a lot of districts have longer salary schedules than Rib Lake does.

He said the $1 increase after 15 years would cost the district an additional $7,000 per year based on current staff.

Mohr said she felt the staff earned that increase by staying with the district that long. Board members were less receptive to creating an additional bump at 20 years of service. Cardey noted that if the district did increases at both 15 and 20 years about three employees would get “double bumps.”

Board members voted to create a $1 per hour pay increase at 15 years.

The third handbook revision was to add National Honor Society advisor to the positions that receive a stipend from the district for work performed, for example with the advisor for prom.

In other business, school board members: _ Received an alert from Cardey that unless something changes as of July 1 the district will no longer have a vendor to provide milk cartons for student lunches. The current vendor will cease providing that service. Cardey said he has reached out to other vendors to try and get something lined up. “We could be seeing gallons of milk with cups in summer school,” Cardey said.

_ Approved hiring Gym Boys of Oostberg to refurbish the bleachers in the middle school gym. The floor in the gym is being redone this year and Cardey noted this would be the time to do the bleachers so that they did not damage the new floor.

_ Approved donations of $500 from Exxon Mobil and C& G Mini Mart, $970 from the Ann Marie Foundation for a microbit processor, a MIG welder donation, and funds for a Cheetah Translator which hooks to an iPad and allows for translation for English Language Learner students. Dallmann noted the translator is used during direct instruction to improve communication but is kept off during other times.

_ Approved renewing the membership with the Wisconsin Association of School Boards and the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance. Both organizations provide support for the district at the state level.

_ Authorized administration to move forward in hiring the athletic director and head cook positions rather than having a special meeting to approve them. The district is looking to hire an athletic director from outside the school and staff, along with the incoming administrator Travis Grubbs, have been interviewing candidates. Grubbs formally takes over as administrator on July 1, but has been working with Cardey and staff for a smooth transition.

(Left) Last week’s board meeting was the last one for adminstrator Rick Cardey who has spent the majority of his career in Rib Lake schools. (Above) Incoming administrator Travis Grubbs (crouching) talks with principals Jon Dallmann and Kirsten Budimlija prior to the start of the June 9 board meeting.BRIAN WILSON/THE STAR NEWS