Districts look at sharing athletic director
Colby and Abbotsford school administrators are exploring the idea of sharing a full-time athletic director, starting as soon as next school year.
Superintendents of both school districts informed their respective school boards Monday about initial discussions they’ve had with the current athletic directors, who are open to the idea.
Middle school principal Jim Hagen currently serves as Colby’s AD, and physical education teacher Matt Cihlar does the job in Abbotsford, but he’s stepping down from the position at the end of this school year.
Abbotsford superintendent Sherry Baker said the district was struggling to find a replacement for Cihlar in 2020-21, so she reached out to the neighboring school district.
A shared AD would oversee more than 20 teams between the two districts. The position would be full-time, with the person splitting their time evenly between the two districts.
Baker said if Cihlar were to be hired as the shared AD, the district would have to hire a full-time phy ed instructor to replace him. Right now, she said Cihlar gets one period off every day to handle his AD duties, which ends up costing the district between $9,500 and $10,000 every year to fill that class period with a substitute.
The two districts currently pay their ADs differently, with Cihlar getting a stipend and Hagen covering the AD and activity director duties as part of his overall salary. If Hagen were no longer the AD, he would still remain in charge of scheduling non-athletic activities, like show choir and FFA.
Colby superintendent Steve Kolden said he and Baker still have to hash out how the shared AD’s wages would be split between the two districts. Before they put together a specific proposal, Kolden said he wanted feedback from board members.
“I’d be interested in learning more about it,” said Colby board member Todd Schmidt.
Other board members in both Abbotsford and Colby also seemed open to the idea.
Colby board president Bill Tesmer said the next step should be to find out what the superintendents propose for the position itself.
“Without throwing names out there, let’s just see what Steve and Sherry come up with,” he said.
Kolden said one advantage of having a shared AD would be bringing the two districts’ athletic programs more in line with each other. The districts already have five co-op teams, but different eligibility rules.
“It would bring some consistency because I would see us working to bring our athletic codes closer together,” he said.
_ The board accepted the retirement of middle school teacher Greg Skubal, effective June 5 of this year.
_ The board accepted the resignations of C-team volleyball coach Jenny Halopka, varsity volleyball coach Brooke Bruesewitz, and special education teacher aide Patrick Nelson.
_ The board approved the hiring of Nathan Larsen as the show band advisor and the transfer of Patti Rau to high school secretary.
_ In recognition of his 40 years as a WIAA referee/official, board member Todd Schmidt presented the district with a bag full of green towels donated by his wife’s business, Embroidery Express, which will be used by visiting refs to wipe off sweat during athletic events.
_ The board approved the first reading of a change to the district’s policy for filling vacancies on the school board so that it complies with state law. The revised policy says anyone appointed to fill a vacancy between the first Tuesday of April and the last Tuesday in November of any calendar year will serve until the next spring election. This also applies to individuals who are appointed to serve out the final year of an elected member’s term.
Previously, the policy had said that an appointed member would serve out the entire term of the board member they replaced. Kolden said state law is written so that voters have the opportunity to elect someone as soon as possible.
_ The board approved a contract with Dashir Management Services to provide a certified pool operator at a cost of $2,100 per year. Kolden said the district found out that it needed a CPO during a recent inspection of the pool.
_ The board reviewed an administrative procedure stating that newly hired employees will be formally evaluated on an annual basis for the first three years of employment. After that, they will be evaluated at least every three years. Administrators may require more frequent evaluations if there are concerns about the employee’s job performance.
_ Jamie MacDonald, an account executive with M3 Insurance, gave the board an update on the health insurance co-op the district joined two years ago in order to negotiate better rates. The Central WI Area Co-op, which includes Colby and 11 other school districts, saw its renewal rates drop by 4 percent overall in 2019.
MacDonald said other insurance co-ops in Wisconsin saw rate increases of 4 to 6, while the overall trend in premiums hikes is 9 to 10 percent. Even though Colby had a high loss ratio in the second half of 2019 — the insurance company paid out $1.68 for every $1 the district paid in premiums — she said other districts in the co-op balanced out those losses. In the past, Colby’s loss ratio was much lower based on the number and cost of claims.
“One of the reasons we’re in a coop is to balance out our good years with our bad years,” Kolden said.
_ Kolden pointed out the efforts by the Colby Coalition show choir and others to support a bill in the state legislature to declare Colby as Wisconsin’s official state cheese. The choir performed their song, “Colby Cheese,” at a Senate committee hearing on Jan. 29 in Madison.
The legislature is not likely to take up the bill before it adjourns its current session, but Kolden said it’s been a good learning experience.
“Even if it doesn’t pass this time, it’s been a fun adventure for our kids,” he said.