Friday, August 16, 2013

District retains communications post

Schwerdtle sworn in as new trustee


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

    The Blaine County School District board of trustees has decided to retain the position of communications director, a post that has been held for the past two years by Heather Crocker.
    The decision, announced at a school board meeting on Tuesday by board Chairman Paul Bates, follows an evaluation of the position conducted by the board at an executive session held on July 16.
    In an interview Wednesday, Bates said that the position itself, rather than Crocker’s performance, was considered in the evaluation. He said no vote was taken on the issue but that there was agreement among the board members present that the position be retained. Attending the meeting in addition to Bates were Trustees Kathy Baker, Shawn Bennion and Kathryn Graves.
    Bates read from a prepared statement at Tuesday’s meeting in announcing retention of the position.
    “When the communications director position was approved two years ago, the board promised to re-look at the position and that was done last month,” Bates said.
    “After reviewing the goals of the communications audit and what the communications director position has accomplished, the trustees agreed that it is a valuable position for the district,” Bates said. “A few examples of recent accomplishments include outreach during the dual-immersion magnet school decision, expansion of information on the district website, surveys to the community and employees to assist in decision making, and the electronic newsletter to the community and staff.
    “The trustees will continue to work with the administration to define the role of this position to ensure continued benefit to our students and our community.”
Schwerdtle sworn in
    In other business, new Trustee Elizabeth Schwerdtle took the “oath of office” to become the fifth member of the school board. Schwerdtle was selected for the position by the board of trustees on July 17 to replace former Trustee Don Nurge who resigned from his district Zone 5 position in June.
    Also, the board approved a request by district Business Manager Mike Chatterton to transfer $300,000 from an “unappropriated balances account” for legal expenses for the lawsuit under way between the district and its energy contractor McKinstry Essention.
“We will transfer funds as we need them over the months until this is settled,” Chatterton wrote in a memo to the board. “This amount should last for a little while.”
The additional $300,000 will bring to about $2 million the amount spent by the district in litigation with McKinstry that started in May of 2012. The lawsuit involves disagreement about how much the district should pay McKinstry for energy savings work and other improvements at eight district schools and facilities. McKinstry is claiming that it performed work, at the district’s direction, worth about $26 million and that the district still owes the company about $7 million. The district claims that it authorized work only worth $18.6 million.
The lawsuit is scheduled for a jury trial to begin in Blaine County 5th District Court on April 8, 2014.
Chatterton further reported at the meeting that construction work is on schedule and within budget on projects under way at Wood River Middle School, Hailey Elementary School and Hemingway Elementary School.
    Bates announced that the trustees will hold a “board retreat” on Aug. 20. The time and place has not yet been decided, he said, but will be properly noticed to the public when determined.


Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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