The first meetings of the New Richmond School Board since the April 3 election were a work session Tuesday, April 10, at the District office and the regular Board meeting held Monday.

Since the referendum was approved by voters, the Board held a work session to discuss the "next step" in planning for the facilities improvement projects, among other things.

District Administrator Morrie Veilleux said, that in his opinion, hiring an experienced and reputable construction manager is the only way to guarantee the District gets the most value for the money spent and that the projects will be built to the District's specifications.

The Board agreed and Veilleux offered to request a representative from Armstrong, Torseth, Skold and Rydeen, Inc. (ATS&R) attend the regular Board meeting on Monday to provide recommendations on reputable construction management firms from which to solicit bids.

Other items discussed at the work session included motions to accept the retirement requests of fourth grade teacher Ruth Refsnider; John Jaskot, art teacher at West Elementary and third grade teacher Carleen Tjader.

The Board also approved the monthly financial report and notice of lay-offs for the positions of part-time equity coordinators John Pundsack, fourth grade teacher and Jodi Markowski, third grade teacher.

The positions were described as "extra positions" by Veilleux who said the cut will save the District approximately $5,000 per year.

The Board agreed to move forward with preparing a proposal for the Senior Tax Exchange Program (STEP) to be implemented in the District.

The STEP program pays people who are retired or on fixed incomes for volunteering at schools to help offset increases in their property taxes.

In closed session, the Board discussed the district administrator's evaluation, specific personnel issues, architectural fees and contract and collective bargaining negotiations.

Board member-elect Marilyn Duerst attended the work session as an onlooker April 10 and was present at the regular Board meeting Monday, April 16, when she and re-elected Board members took the oath of office.

Statutes dictate that Duerst begin her official duties as Board member the fourth Monday in April with Lester Jones remaining active until that date.

Bringing in the experts

At Monday night's Board meeting, the president of ATS&R, Paul Erickson, and Dean Beeninga, partner and project architect, spent about an hour providing information to the Board regarding several different ways to manage the huge construction project facing them.

Erickson described the three most effective methods to manage projects similar in nature to New Richmond's.

The first option Erickson outlined involves hiring a project representative as an employee of the District. This person could be an individual from a large construction management firm or an independent consultant who would become a District employee for the duration of the projects.

The second possibility was hiring an owner's representative as a separate entity. This would be a one-person operation who reports directly to the District and manages all facets of the building process.

Third, Erickson suggested hiring a construction management firm with one designated employee (interviewed and chosen by the District Board) to work solely on the New Richmond School District projects.

Erickson stressed the importance of finding the right individual, no matter which route the Board chose to take for project management.

"The person you choose should be a melding of services together to make a cohesive team," Erickson said.

The ATS&R representatives provided Board members with templates for a job description for this position, a template for a request for proposals for soliciting bids for the position and a list of 10 individuals and companies they have worked with in the past.

Erickson stressed that the list was just a "starting point," not a final list or comprehensive list of recommendations.

Beeninga recommended that the Board try and find someone suitable to have them involved early in the planning stages because "a team approach gives a quality project."

Erickson said the big decision the Board made is that they are going with competitive bids for this position.

"I've had 25-30 years of experience and the project depends on the individual (running it). Focus on the individual," Erickson said. "The person makes the difference."

The Board plans to put together the request for proposals as soon as possible to keep the process on schedule.

NR4Kids presentation

Deb Heyerdahl, director of curriculum and staff development, presented a Power Point updating the Board on the progress of the NR4Kids charter pre-school program.

Heyerdahl said 153 children are currently enrolled in NR4Kids for fall 2007.

"The on-line registration went up at 6 a.m. yesterday," Heyerdahl said, "and by noon 153 kids were registered."

The Board is still finalizing the details on the charter school contract and hopes to have final approval on it at next month's meeting.

The Board thanked Heyerdahl for her persistence and diligence in getting the program up and running.

Heyerdahl said it has been a very positive experience and all involved have worked well together to make this program a reality.

The next Board meeting is scheduled for May 1 at 6 p.m. The Board will reorganize at the meeting to adapt to the change in members.

In other business:

  • Approved hiring a gifted and talented teacher.
  • Approved Spanish teacher Bev Beuning's request for retirement.
  • Discussed school calendar negotiations in closed session.