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By LuAnn Schindler

Discussion about new Summerland district underway


November 28, 2019

Clearwater, Ewing and Orchard school boards covered a long list of agenda items, Nov. 20, during a three and one-half hour meeting, in Ewing.

Discussion focused on the new Summerland school district, which will take effect June 6, 2020. While a chunk of the meeting was spent discussing staffing and administration timeline, other topics included the new district's reorganization petition, selection of Summerland school board members, policies, curriculum and sales of assets.

Steve Williams, legal counsel with KSB School Law, in Lincoln, said reorganization petition paperwork has been filed.

"We're on track to have a meeting Dec. 12, at 9:30 a.m.," Williams said. "We've filed everything we need to file, with the exception of two things."

Williams will file certification of election results and names of recommended board members.

"By statute, the state reorganization committee appoints the board members, but in reality, they look to you guys and want to know who you want," he said.

Each board voted by paper ballot to select a member for a two-year term and another who will fill a four-year stint.

Steven Thiele and Marty Kerkman of Clearwater, Ed Nordby and Jeremy Wagner of Ewing and Nate Schwager of Orchard were selected by a peer vote.

Terri Hergert and Kristi Schutt of Orchard tied for the second Orchard seat. After several votes continued to end in a tie, Orchard board members agreed to finalize the vote at their regular December board meeting.

Names of individuals recommended for the Summerland board will be given to the state reorganization committee prior to the Dec. 12 meeting.


"It'll be a jigsaw puzzle," said Williams.

Clearwater and Orchard Superintendent Dale Martin said questions about how the new district will fill teaching positions have arisen since the bond project passed Nov. 12.

Current staff will continue for the 2020-21 school year.

"There wouldn't be any reductions in force or any other changes until 2021-22," Williams said. "Maybe there's enough retirements to take care of it. If not, you use reduction in force."

At that time, the RIF policy of the Summerland school district would be in effect, if necessary.

Williams suggested the new Summerland school board, which will be in effect June 6, look at early retirement and buyout policies, which can be accomplished in several ways.

"You set the terms of who it applies to," Williams said, in regard to early retirement policy.

A targeted buyout offers "a lot of flexibility," according to Williams. "You can say we're only giving buyouts to elementary teachers or only high school teachers. You can set those up in any category."

Decisions on staffing won't be made until a year from now, "when we see who we have, who we need, who is leaving, to see what our staffing needs are at the time," Williams said.

If positions are not reduced through attrition, then a RIF policy could be implemented.

RIF policies have one rule: A probationary teacher cannot fill a position that a tenured educator can fill.

"(RIF) really is an analysis of what is the best fit for the district," he said.

Administration will compile a staffing plan, based on curriculum, to see which programs are heavy on full-time equivalency.

Orchard board member DeAnna Clifton asked when the policy would be in effect.

"My fear is losing really good staff because they don't know if they're going to have a job or not," she said. "Like staff we may have been able to keep, but out of fear, they leave."

While April 15, 2021, is when the district would be required to notify educators if their positions are part of a reduction in force, Williams said the new district "should have a good handle on" staffing needs in mind by December 2020 or January 2021.

Policy updates

Martin suggested a committee to review policies of the districts.

Orchard Principal Cathy Cooper asked when Summerland policies will go into effect.

Appleby suggested working toward 2021-2022, when there's a common handbook.

Land acquisition

A land survey will need to take place soon. Then, geotechnical studies may need to be completed, according to Jacob Sertich, architect with Wilkins Architecture Design Planning.

A purchase agreement, contingent on successful passage of the bond, was signed Aug. 21.

Clearwater board member Brian King asked who will pay closing costs. Martin said the three schools will.

Interlocal agreement

Williams said an interlocal agreement between Clearwater, Ewing and Orchard districts could be established until the new district takes effect in June.

"Each district could contribute X dollars and then that committee that is set up to control the interlocal agreement would be authorized to pay bills that are in the agreement," Williams said.

Clearwater Advisory Board President Amy Thiele asked which funds could be used for establishment of a fund.

"We just pick a dollar amount ... take a lump sum out," she said.

Williams said the interlocal agreement would specify what the funds could be used for.

Thiele asked Martin if monies used as original start-up funds for the Unified district could be used for the new Summerland fund since the Unified board agreed to pay back each district.

"As CDs come due, that might be something we could do," he said.

Williams will write a draft of an interlocal agreement and present it to each board before their regularly scheduled December meetings.


"This is something we will need to work out," Martin said.

He expects input from the community and foresees working relationships with Northeast Community College and Wayne State College. Educational Service Unit 8 will also work with the new district to formulate curriculum.

"This is the time to reinvent curriculum and come up with things that make more sense moving forward," he said.

Appleby said he envisions forming committees to get a common curriculum ready for the 2021-2022 year.

"We'll rely on teachers and committees to help," Clearwater Principal Mike Sanne said.

Sale of assets

Williams said one requirement is that two-thirds of a board must approve a sale at a regular board meeting. The second part is receiving fair market value for the property.

"This can be problematic," Williams said. "If it's worth a dollar, fine. If it's not worth a dollar, you can't do it ... It is very important we not be making gifts of public property in that way."

Ownership of buildings in the Unified district isn't clear at this time.

"I'm not clear who owns your buildings. I don't know if the Unified system is the owner or if Orchard owns Orchard or Clearwater owns Clearwater. It'll be very clear June 6," Williams said.

Several ideas were discussed for obsolete property, including public auction or private sale. A third-party appraisal would be required.

"There could be some creative ways to transfer property between political subdivisions. I would not discuss that outside of a closed session with a board," Williams said.

All three boards agreed to enter executive session after discussion of regular agenda items Wednesday night. Boards entered executive session at 10:27 p.m. and left executive session at 10:57 p.m. No action was taken following the closed session.

Communication plan

School websites, as well as the Bobcats Unite web Page, will be used to show progression of the new district.

"I do think we need to keep getting information out to people the best we can so there isn't people in the dark and people do know what's happening because there is a lot of people involved in this," Martin said.

Progress schedule

Sertich said Wilkins has been working with Hausmann Construction to create a draft schedule, working back from the first day of school in 2021.

Meetings with stakeholders, including elementary, media center, food service, science, family consumer science, performing arts, industrial tech and physical education and athletic staff, will begin in January

"If we're going to hit occupancy in 2021, one date we have to hit is be able to issue pricing package for precast panels for outside walls by the end of 2019," he said. "We have big decisions between now and the end of the year."

Bond issuance

Tobin Buchanan, financial analyst with First National Capital Markets, shared information about issuance of bonds.

Since Orchard approved $14.75 million in bonds for the new district, and only $10 million can be bank qualified in a calendar year, a portion of Orchard's bonds will be issued prior to the end of 2019.

Waiting to purchase the bonds would add interest charges.

Buchanan said, "That could have a .1 to .5 swing on the rate you would get and could cost $185,000 to $270,000 interest in Orchard bonds."

Orchard board member Nate Schwager asked if it will affect the bond payment schedule.

An interest payment would be due six months later and the first principal and interest payment will be due one year from issuance.

"When the rest of the bonds get sold, it can be structured as such, to overlap the sale of these bonds to level everything out," he said.

Buchanan said in the past, he has worked with Moody's in Chicago to get bonds rated.

"It makes it a better credit for potential purchasers, so you get a lower interest rate on them," he said. "It would cost $60,000 to get the rating (for the three bonds), and you would end up saving, what I'm seeing, $375,000 to $400,000 overall."

Each board approved the issuance of bond resolution.

Construction contract

Martin reported the contract with Hausmann Construction went through legal channels and was approved.

"It's fair to both parties and protects the school district in every way that makes me happy," Williams said.

Each board approved the contract.

Summer moratorium

Amy Thiele said the summer moratorium, which Clearwater and Orchard schools have implemented for a number of years, gives kids a break.

Ewing joined in partially last summer, due to the formation of the new Summerland athletic co-op, according to Sanne.

"They have one week of summer break with no weightlifting, no camps, to enjoy a summer break and do things they might not otherwise do," Thiele said. "It's a chance to take a step back and let kids be kids and families be families."

Jason Schindler, a member of the Ewing board, said while he understands a break from camps, he does not like that students cannot attend weightlifting.

Koenig said she disagrees with the moratorium.

"I've never run into a coach that said 'Well, you're not going to be here three days this summer, you're out.' They can't do that," she said.

Appleby said he felt the time was too long.

Clearwater and Orchard boards unanimously approved the moratorium, effective July 1 to 5. Ewing voted 5-1 to approve the break. Koenig cast the dissenting vote.


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