Changes OK’d despite opposition from two board members
By Jennifer Eisenbart
Exactly where trust stops and management begins is a blurred line right now in the Burlington Area School District – at least according to members of the School Board.
At Monday night’s meeting, the School Board approved changes to the 2013-2015 administrators contact – a template that is used for each of the district’s administrative positions.
BASD Superintendent Peter Smet said changes to the documents involved wording suggested by the district lawyer, and would go into effect in spite of the fact that it was approved after the Jan. 31 deadline.
That deadline states in the contract that if the board hasn’t given written notice to the administrator in question by Jan. 31, the old contract is extended by one year.
On Tuesday, Smet clarified that the new contract supersedes the old one if administrators come to a mutual agreement with the district – which Smet said has happened.
However, two opponents – the vote was 5-2 in favor of approving the contract – maintained Monday night that the new contract would create issues for the district.
Starting at the Personnel Committee meeting earlier in the evening, School Board member Roger Koldeway said the contract never came before the full board for approval before the Jan. 31 deadline. Instead, direction was given out of the Personnel Committee in January.
That left Koldeway feeling that the board had its rights taken away and was forced into accepting the new contracts signed by admin staff.
Koldeway and Phil Ketterhagen – both elected last spring – also raised concerns about wording regarding health insurance payments.
The administrative contract reads that it will not require a premium payment from administrators for dental and health insurance. All other benefits, including details regarding health and retirement benefits, are referenced to the employee handbook.
Both Koldeway and Ketterhagen feel that will be creating two tiers of coverage if teachers are to pay a portion of their premiums in any changes made later this year – something that both say the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) will not allow.
Koldeway and Ketterhagen have been proponents of teachers paying toward their health insurance premiums, and the issue is coming up again as the primary election for two open school board seats approaches. By approving this contract, Ketterhagen said, “We lock our hands.”
However, Smet and School Board President David Thompson both argued that the language in Obamacare refers specifically to federal carriers and that how the district will be affected is yet to be determined.
“Do you have information I don’t have?” Thompson asked. Ketterhagen replied, “The information I have is what I just said.” Ketterhagen went on to say that any waivers by the government would be “iffy.”
However, once the item left open session in the Personnel Committee and came up for approval at the board meeting, Thompson said that the district would find out whether or not it would be affected – and would be given a timeline to make changes if needed.
“We do not know whether that is going to happen to us, or what that period of time is going to be,” explained Thompson, as legal challenges remain ahead for the law.
Thompson also said that while the full board never voted on the new contract before the expiration date, the full board was present at the Personnel Committee meeting and agreed to go in this direction.
“We’re rehashing the same issues,” Thompson said. Koldeway responded with, “It’s not the Personnel Committee’s decision.”
Smet said Tuesday that all parties have agreed to the new contract, so there should be no issues about the contract being null and void.
The rest of the differences, he said, were matters of opinion.
“There’s some differences of opinion over the nuances of language,” Smet said.