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School Board approves superintendent contract, reviews preliminary budget

The Morris Area School Board approved a new, three-year contract with Superintendent Scott Monson that includes salary increases for all three years and changes the language about attending national conferences.

Under the new contract, Monson will be paid a base salary of $112,500 for the 2013 - 2014 school year, $118,000 for the 2014 - 2015 school year, and $120,500 for the 2015 - 2016 school year.

School Board member Stan Wulf said the salary was determined after gathering superintendent contracts from schools of a similar size, and brings Monson to an average of the salaries of his peers.

"We felt that this was very much in line," said Wulf. "Looking at it another way, over the three years of this contract combined with the three previous years, Scott's annual increase is right at three percent. We appreciate the work that Scott has done."

New for this contract period is a section that will allow the superintendent to attend one national convention, limited to $2,500 per conference and up to $5,000 total during the three-year contract period.

The contract includes 25 working days of annual paid vacation and 10 paid holidays, as well as the ability to earn paid sick leave at a rate of 1.25 days per month, up to 15 days per year.

"Very preliminary" '13 - '14 budget shows deficit

The first look at the proposed budget for the 2013 - 2014 school year shows a budget deficit of around $116,000 in the district's general fund.

Monson cautioned the board that these numbers were "very preliminary" and would likely continue to change as the district gets more budget information.

"We anticipate additional revenue and we anticipate less expenditures, but still a deficit," said Monson.

One of the big question marks that remains is the consolidation with the Cyrus School District. Another is the national debt and sequestration, which may cause a cut in Title I funding, Monson said.

If the consolidation is approved, the new district will receive about $179,000 in one-time transition aid and about $77,000 more in general education aid. However, those increases are offset by a loss of about $54,000 in special education funding and $75,000 from the Cyrus School District for transportation and other expenses.

On the expenses side, the budget includes an increase of about $268,000 for changes at the elementary school and the high school. Monson said part of the deficit was a result of one-time projects and improvements.

In conjunction with the preliminary budget, the board approved a resolution authorizing Monson and district administration to begin looking at reducing programs and positions.

The resolution is one that is approved every year, Monson said, and is part of the formal process to begin developing the budget.

"There's a lot more work left to do, really drilling down into the specifics of a variety of different things," said Monson.

2013 - 2014 school year will go into June

The last day of the 2013 - 2014 school year will push into June after the Morris Area School Board approved an extra vacation day in March for next year at the request of parents and staff surveyed.

The school calendar is developed with input collected in an online survey that includes questions on the fall workshop, open house, parents night, spring break, snow days, long weekends, conferences, and winter break, Monson said.

This year, 111 parents (up from 67 last year) and 69 staff members (down from 101 last year), completed the survey.

While parents and staff agree on a number of issues, there are two major areas of difference, Monson reported. Nearly 70 percent of parents would like the Open House and Parent Night to be two separate events, while 90 percent of staff would like them on one event.

Most parents, 85 percent, would like conferences on more than one day or night, while 76 percent of staff would prefer to have conferences on a single day or evening.

The calendar also includes an extra vacation day on Friday, March 14, since there is a stretch of about eight weeks without a break. Monson said both staff and parents indicated this would be beneficial. However, the change means having a school day on Monday, June 2 and moving a Teacher Workday to June 3.

Principals Ken Gagner and Craig Peterson also supported the extra vacation day.

"I have no issues with it. I think with the pressures teachers are under and students are under, they need a break," said Gagner. "To me, I have no troubles going into June. ... I think it's a good thing for kids to have a break now and then. I think it's a good thing for our teachers to have a break."

A copy of the calendar can be found on our website, www.