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By Sandy Schroth

Hoke recommended for Summerland school board

Superintendent’s contract discussed


December 12, 2019

Candice Hoke of Orchard will join Nate Schwager to represent Orchard on the board of education for the new Summerland school district.

The boards of education from Orchard, Clearwater and Ewing each voted for two members for the new board of education that will convene in June. Orchard board members selected Schwager, but three votes for the second member each resulted in a tie between Terri Hergert of Royal and Kristi Schutt of Orchard, and selection of the second member was delayed until Monday night’s board meeting at the Orchard school. Schwager will serve a four-year term, with Hoke’s term of office being two years. The new board is taking care of business as the Summerland Committee until the consolidation takes effect June 6.

Prior to Monday night’s vote, Hergert commented on the process and questioned if a violation of Open Meeting Act provisions may have been violated.

“In hindsight, I wished we would have had a discussion before it ever went to vote in Ewing that night, it would have saved a lot of hurt feelings, a lot of words that have been said that maybe can’t be taken back,” she said. “A consensus has been made with phone calls and stuff outside of the meeting about who that person is going to be, I have no problem with the person…We should have spoke up and said we aren’t ready to do this tonight…it didn’t have to be done that night.”

Principal Cathy Cooper said she had asked Superintendent Dale Martin if a violation may have occurred and he told her if discussions are had one-on-one, its not a decision, people can have one-on-one discussions.

“We should have had a discussion first, there has not been any sit-down conversations like this,” Hergert said. “To me, this was not done properly, I’ve had to make some apologies, and they have been accepted, so we’re alright, but that could have been avoided. The outcome probably would have been the same.”

Hoke said hindsight is always clearer, “There were never any hidden meetings.”

“I know it wasn’t,” Hergert replied. “Don’t think that.”

Schwager said that, while he understood Hergert’s point of view, the Summerland Committee had dealt with a lot of business during the two weeks since the joint meeting. The other board members agreed that Orchard would have not had a voice if Schwager was not elected.

Ballots were handed out, with the resulting votes counted by Cooper. She announced four votes for Hoke and one for Hergert.

Martin verbally accepted a two-year contract offer from the committee to serve as superintendent, with a $142,000 annual salary, a 5% decrease from his current salary as superintendent of the Unified District #1.

The committee also reviewed quotes from three bonding entities, with a proposal from Ameritas offering “the most bang for the buck,” Schwager said. Sale of $4.8 million in bonds was to begin Tuesday.

Negotiations have begun on teacher contracts and principal contracts expected to be offered in January, according to Schwager. Work is also beginning on reduction in force and other policies for the new district.

He also reported a situation that had arisen regarding an easement at the site of the new school. Bob Baker requested a 200-foot underground easement on a corner along the road, that may require moving the school’s leach field “a little bit.”

The Orchard board approved an interlocal agreement for the Summerland Committee to conduct business, with an initial contribution of $10,000 from the Orchard Building Fund. Cooper said Clearwater and Ewing had unofficially agreed to follow suit with similar contributions to the interlocal fund.

The board also approved a resolution to participate in the Nebraska Liquidated Asset Fund, a program for “overflow” funds, according to Schwager, for monies in excess of the bank’s federal insured limitations.

Board members voted to deem a list of sporting gear and uniforms obsolete. The Cyclone and some Clearwater Cardinal uniforms, and other athletic items, will be displayed during the annual holiday basketball tournament, according to Jim Schutt, activities director, for a freewill donation, with proceeds to be deposited in the Bobcat athletic account. Band uniforms, which may be used another year, will not be included.

A motion to excuse the absence of board member Kristi Schutt also carried.

Cooper, in the treasurer’s report, told the board the balance of the Bobcat athletic account was $26,051.80, with committed expenses of $18,419.50, leaving a balance of $7,632.30. Bills for golf and junior high track and incentive money from Adidas are expected yet and the balance in the Clearwater-Orchard athletic account and a refund from CWC athletic account will “roll over” in to Bobcat account after football expenses are finalized at the end of the year.

The CAB Fund includes certificates of deposit of $525,000, some that had matured and were renewed for six months, and a bank balance of $3,409.50; the Hot Lunch Fund has a $25,000 CD and a bank balance of $15,000; the Building Fund includes a $100,000 CD, along with $326,000.

Discussion was undertaken on using district funds for land acquisition to reduce the bond and costs to be incurred for the Orchard facility. A vote to earmark funds for maintenance and potential demolition of the old building, that were previously discussed, was tabled until more figures are obtained.

Hergert asked the total cost of the land purchase for the new school. Cooper estimated about $220,000, with closing costs. Orchard will be responsible for one-third of that cost.

A demolition company was expected to view the site this week and give a bid to raze the older building. A preliminary estimate, prior to visiting the site, was approximately $200,000.

Tammy Cheatum, John Fergusen on behalf of the Orchard village and Tate Heiss and Schwager, on behalf of the Orchard Young Men’s Club, spoke about possible uses and how to preserve the Orchard facility, including a possibility of sale to the village, with a suggestion for moving the village office and library as well as use of the shop and possible use by the Young Men’s Club as a community center, as well as suggestions for lease-membership agreements with individuals, a potential fitness center, businesses and athletic groups. No decisions were reached, but consensus was that demolition of the old building needed to be completed prior to any sale.

Cooper said costs to maintain the facility, heating, electricity, etc., averaged $4,961 monthly during the 2018-2019 school term and $9,328 total for last summer.

“I think the biggest thing is we don’t want that burden to fall on the city,” board member DeAnna Clifton said.

Board consensus was for no repayment of a $425,000 internal loan balance, to the CAB account for HVAC purchase. Clarification was requested by the auditor.

Laura Fergusen addressed the board, suggesting a parent-teacher organization be formed for the Summerland school, with a designated member allowed to speak at board meetings, outside the public participation allowance, as a resource for the board of education. She also offered other suggestions to ease the transition to the consolidation.

“I feel like, in the past, when things kind of went with Clearwater-Orchard, a lot of it was because a lot of thought wasn’t put into how was homecoming going to be done, how was graduation going to be done, some of these things that are very sentimental, emotional, weren’t dealt with ahead of time,” she said. “Even though it will all be one school, that there should already be talks before that school is built.”

Cooper told the board three and one-quarter days of school have been missed this far, which she considered high for this early in the year. The annual allotment is five days. Days missed included one and one-half day for state volleyball.

She said a Summerland administrator meeting was planned Tuesday at Orchard, with a “very long” agenda, including state reporting, staffing, policy, handbooks, curriculum, transportation, technology and extra curriculars. No action is planned.

The board entered executive session at the end of the meeting to discuss negotiations, with no action taken when it returned to open session before adjournment.

The next Original Board of Education meeting is slated at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 6.


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