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Search is on for school's next administrator


June 26, 2012 | 02:57 PM
FONTANA — Three people have been interviewed for the administrator/principal position at Fontana Elementary School, and three more will be vetted this Saturday.

The school board is seeking a new district leader after Mark Wenzel, who held an administrative role since 2007, announced his resignation. Wenzel is returning to teaching music.

More than 30 people applied for the position, school board clerk Lisa Laing said Monday night.

"So far the candidates have been strong," she added.

The district developed a search committee to interview candidates, which consists of two parents, two teachers, School Board President Jennifer Keefe and Laing. Brookwood Administrator Bill Lehner is sitting in on the interviews and giving guidance to the committee.

Laing said she is optimistic the board will find someone to hire after the first set of interviews, but the committee is willing to continue its search if needed. She declined to say whether internal candidates, or anyone from within the Big Foot Area School Association, are candidates. She added that applicants have come from Wisconsin and Illinois.

Laing said the committee is seeking a candidate with previous classroom experience.

"I think it is hard to work on professional development with teachers if you have never been in the classroom yourself," Laing said.

Having had previous experience in a small school district is a benefit, but not a requirement for the position.

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"A small school district has a little more of a small-business feel," Laing said. "In a small district you are going to need to wear many hats."

Wenzel resigned from the position on May 23.

"After several months of reflection and soul searching, I have made the decisions to step down from the position of Administrator/Principal of Fontana Elementary School as of June 20, 2012," Wenzel wrote in a letter to parents. "While I enjoyed the challenge of this position and the opportunity to work with students, parents and the faculty in a very different role, I discovered I truly miss teaching and the relationships formed within the classroom."

During Monday night's meeting, fourth-grade teacher Kim Epping thanked Wenzel for his work as the school's administrator.

"The staff wants to thank Mark for his hard work and it has impacted the school," she said.

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Health benefits

At the beginning of next year, teachers at Fontana Elementary School will make a 6-percent contribution to their health insurance plan.

On Monday night, the school board debated on what it should do for its support staff. Currently, the support staff doesn't make a contribution to its health insurance, but has a higher deductible than the teachers.

The board discussed increasing the support staff's contribution to 3 percent. It also discussed putting the support staff on the same plan as its teachers. With that plan the employee makes a greater contribution, but has a lower deductible.

Although support staff members have a smaller wage deduction for health insurance, the high deductible may also be a burden.

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"I have been told that it is so high that they don't even go to the doctor anymore," Epping said.

Board members tabled the issue and asked that information be presented to the support staff.

School board treasurer Chadd Hartwig said the board shouldn't make a decision without receiving input from its support staff.

School board member Rebecca Decker suggested having staff members complete an anonymous survey where they can indicate their preference. .

Business Manager Mary Coss said the district, at this time, can't place support staff members into a plan based on individual preference. She said, with the way the insurance company works, the employees are placed into categories and the board selects the plan for each category.

Long-term repair planning

During Monday night's meeting, the board also looked into hiring a firm to help it plan for its long-term repair needs. A company, if hired, would investigate what repairs and maintenance the school should budget for in the next few years. It would develop maintenance and replacement plans for the next two to three years, three to five years and five to 10 years.

Coss said the district was renovated during the 1996-97 school year. Kehoe-Henry & Associates quoted the school a price of about $13,000 to develop the plan.

"They will look at everything from lighting to structural issues that may or may not exist here," Coss said.

On Monday night, the board didn't make a decision on the issue.


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