Bertrang hired; Hulke resigns

NEW ULM – The District 88 School Board approved the hire of Jeff Bertrang as superintendent as of July 1, during its meeting Wednesday.

It also accepted the resignation of board member Jill Hulke and agreed on a process for her replacement.

Bertrang hire

Bertrang, who was released from his contract as Superintendent of GFW Schools just an hour before the District 88 School Board meeting, was chosen to replace retiring Superintendent Harold Remme. He was chosen from a field of 15 candidates, including six semi-finalists and two finalists.

The previously published parameters of his contract include the following:

* A salary of $125,000 the first year; $126,250 the second year; and $127,500 the third year. The second and third-year salary numbers each represent an approximate 1 percent increase, mirroring deals recently signed with other employee groups in the school district.

* Full payment by the district of the premium for family health insurance.

If this provision is found to be discriminatory under the federal Affordable Care Act, the district may elect to contribute the same dollar amount toward the premium as it pays for other full-time employees. If that occurs, the money difference would be shifted into salary.

(The district has historically paid for individual, not family, coverage for teachers.)

* The proposed contract is for 261 days, with 20 days of annual paid vacation, 11 holidays and 18 days of sick leave.

* The contract includes $200,000 in life insurance coverage, long-term disability insurance, and a match to the superintendent’s contribution to a tax-sheltered annuity of up to $2,000 a year.

Hulke resignation

The board also approved the resignation of Jill Hulke, who was erroneously elected last November.

Her home was recently found to be just outside the boundaries of the school district.

Hulke lives in rural Courtland, and her children attend New Ulm public schools.

Hulke submitted her resignation in writing and was not present at the meeting.

The resignation letter read:

“Please accept this letter of resignation as a member of the school board. This is not something I wanted to do, but to allow you to move forward, I am.

“I apologize for the frustration and confusion over my elected position on the board. I had a goal to help improve our schools and community involvement, but unfortunately, I am not able to do so.

“I have the utmost respect for all of you and your commitment to our district. Please let me know if there is anything I can ever do to help you, not as a board member, but as a parent.

“Best of luck to all of you!”

“There are some pretty jagged boundaries out there,” Remme said, commenting on the property location mix-up. He also acknowledged that the district “could have tracked the application process better” and “we should improve that.”

During the election filing process, Hulke mistakenly signed an affidavit stating that she lives in the district.

School officials did not (and routinely do not) further check into the affidavit.

The mistake was found when Hulke brought in one of her children for early childhood screening in late March, and it turned out the child needed to attend screening in Nicollet.

A check with the District 88 office showed that Hulke turned in a non-resident (open-enrollment) form for an older child to start attending school in New Ulm in 2007, from the same address (her last name was Schneider at that time). In 2011, Hulke did not return a similar form for a child attending kindergarten round-up.

Hulke is passionate about serving, and the Hulkes have begun the legal process of transferring their property into District 88, a process that may take months, said Remme.

Hulke replacement process

Remme outlined the process for replacing a board member in circumstances such as Hulke’s.

Under state law, the School Board should appoint someone to serve until the next general election, in this case in November 2014, he said.

The School Board is inviting people to apply for the seat starting today and continuing until April 19.

Individuals must complete an application form that can be obtained from the district office. The form asks applicants to provide background information about themselves and to explain why they wish to become a board member, what their goals would be, what they think about various aspects of the school system, etc.

The board agreed that the board and, more specifically, its personnel committee, should review the applications April 19-25, narrowing down the field of candidates, with the potential goal of approving a replacement at the April 25 board meeting.

Even though the process had not formally started, about six-seven people have expressed some interest in the seat, Remme said.

Contracts with administrators

The board also approved new contracts with Washington Elementary School extended interim principal Les Koppendrayer and Technology Director Eric Simmons.

Koppendrayer’s salary was set at $82,805. The contract is for 213.5 days and is pro-rated. Koppendrayer, a principal who recently retired from a school in Mankato, agreed to serve another (his second) year as an interim at Washington.

Simmons’ contract lists a salary of $64,500 for next year and $67,000 the year after next. He will also receive full single, or partial family, health insurance premium payments, and other standard employee benefits.

Early retirement incentive

The board approved an early retirement incentive agreement with the teachers union intended to save the district money by replacing older teachers with younger counterparts.

The incentive gives long-serving teachers a chance to retire early, by providing the incentive of the district paying single health-insurance premiums for them for 24 months.

The deadline for qualifying teachers to apply is April 19, and retirements would be approved at the April 25 board meeting.

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