McCOOK, Nebraska -- McCook Public Schools' board of education signed two contracts at its July board meeting Monday evening, one extending the superintendent's contract and increasing his salary, the other continuing the district's food service.
Superintendent Grant Norgaard has completed his first year at MPS, having been hired in February 2009 and paid $131,000 for the first year of a two-year contract from July 1, 2009, until June 30, 2011.
Board President Tom Bredvick said a 2 percent increase -- $2,620 -- in Norgaard's compensation package is split about 50-50 between a cost-of-living salary increase and an increase in Norgaard's family package health insurance.
The vote to increase the superintendent's salary was not unanimous. Board member Larry Shields said this morning that although he's satisfied with Norgaard's performance, he's not happy with a salary increase at a time when the economy demands that boards spend tax payers' money very prudently. Shields' motion to increase Norgaard's salary by only the amount of the insurance increase failed for lack of a second.
Shields said that in an effort "to save money," MPS offered early retirement incentives to long-time teachers, reduced the number of paraprofessionals and reduced/eliminated insurance compensation to some paras.
And the district didn't fill all the vacancies created by the teacher retirements with new hires, Shields said, shuffling some teachers around to cover all assignments.
"And then we turn around and offer a pay increase," Shields said. "It doesn't make sense to me."
Shields said MPS is not in the dire straits of some school districts that have had to resort to salary freezes, but, he said, "We need to save money in the shortfall years, and continue to build our cash reserves. We don't want to have to spend our cash reserves."
Shields said MPS is financially sound. "We want to keep our budget in a sound, stable condition," he said, explaining that MPS can think about and offer pay increases when the economy and state and federal aid to schools are stable. "That's when we can offer pay increases," he said.
Shields reiterated that his vote against the pay increase and his motion to offer only the insurance increase are not indications that he is upset with Norgaard. "I'm supportive of Grant," Shields said. "I hope he makes a career at McCook."
The board extended Norgaard's contract for another year.
Board members approved the extension of the contract with Sodexho -- which has provided food service to MPS for 15 years -- with no increases in meal prices.
Norgaard told board members that Sodexho has been very proactive, increasing and enhancing the food service it offers to students and staff. He said he appreciates Sodexho's focus on nutrition, "making their food service part of our educational service."
Students who are fed well and eat breakfast and lunch do better in school, Norgaard said.
MPS finance director Rick Haney said the food service pays for itself. The school provides and maintains the facilities and equipment, he said, and Sodexho prepares and presents the food and pays its employees. Norgaard said that during 2009-2010, Sodexho generated $30,000 for the school district, money that the district puts back into the food service facilities and equipment that, by contract, it is required to provide.
The contract extension with Sodexho passed unanimously.
Beverly Anderson, who manages the Sodexho program at MPS, said that Sodexho focuses on the value of breakfast for all students, Anderson said, and is adjusting the lunch schedule at the senior high to better accommodate students' busy class and lunch schedules.
Anderson said that Sodexho is partnering with Michelle Obama and her national campaign -- called "Let's Move" -- to teach nutrition and help eliminate childhood obesity in a generation.
In other action:
* Norgaard told board members that progress continues at the addition to McCook Elementary, and that a new change order to move some electrical lines will cost about $5,500, approximately one-third less than anticipated, thanks in part to help from Nebraska Public Power.
Norgaard also said that a drain proposed to be moved in June won't need to be moved after all.
* Norgaard updated board members on the hardscaping and sidewalk project that will improve handicap accessibility at Weiland Field. He said he's been very impressed with school staff who have wheelbarrowed many, many loads of cement onto the new landing -- without complaint despite the heat and humidity. Norgaard called the longer, wider landing a better space to enjoy football games and a better outdoor space for McCook Community College students whose student union forms the east wall of the landing and provides access to the landing.
The landing still needs the handrail installed, Norgaard said.
Bredvick said there will be no access from the football field below because it would not have met Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
The project was funded by "a gracious donor," Norgaard said. Haney said that several contractors have also donated their time and equipment.
* In a yearly housekeeping activity, board members reviewed and re-adopted the district's "Student Fees Account," which contains funds to help students/parents pay for students' participation in school activities.
While the fund exists, Haney said, they've never used it. Whenever a student needs something, board member Diane Lyons said, somehow it's provided ... needs are met, quietly, discreetly, she said. Lyons said she does want parents to know that the fund is here to help if they need it, and Haney agreed. "We'll use it if we need it, but we haven't needed it," Haney said.
The only activity that the fund can't be used for is the purchase of an activity ticket, Haney said.
* Norgaard reported that the safety committee is looking into handicap accessible doorknobs at all buildings, additional surveillance cameras at the junior and senior high campuses, vehicle identification stickers, picture identification for staff and a "panic button" communication system in classrooms at Central Elementary.
* Haney reported that the 2010-2011 budget is coming along, in stages, as the state releases information on state aid.
During "Positive Comments":
* Maury Green said he's pleased to see progress on the addition at McCook Elementary, a benefit for students, he said, but also a statement about the school district looking toward the future.
* Shane Messersmith, Diane Lyons and Scott Johnson each commented on the "Bison Fever" all-class reunion July 2, 3, 4 and 5. Lyons said alumni members on tours of school buildings were impressed with the upkeep of existing buildings. She also said several mentioned starting or adding to scholarships. "It's nice to see school pride," she said.
* Shields thanked Sodexho for its many years of service to McCook.
* Bredvick said he's impressed with the number of school staff members who are also involved in community activities. "I like the benevolent mindset of our staff members," he said. "Things like the reunion don't happen without someone stepping up."
* Haney said administrators have done a great job filling voids created by teacher retirements last spring. He said he will particularly miss the enthusiasm of Duane Tappe, who stepped in for a year to help the school district as director of special education.