Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Concerns raised over MI-B collaboration proposal

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 3/21/18

REGIONAL— Members of the St. Louis County School Board got a closer look at some of the details of the proposed service-sharing agreement with the Mt. Iron-Buhl School District at a study session …

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Concerns raised over MI-B collaboration proposal


REGIONAL— Members of the St. Louis County School Board got a closer look at some of the details of the proposed service-sharing agreement with the Mt. Iron-Buhl School District at a study session held last week at the district office. And at least a couple board members have concerns about what they saw.

Under the proposal outlined by ISD 2142 Business Manager Kim Johnson, Superintendent Reggie Engebritson would see a 25-percent increase in her compensation for providing superintendent services to MI-B, which would add $40,302 to her annual salary. Engebritson’s recently-approved contract with ISD 2142 totals just under $180,000 including all benefits, so the increase would boost her total compensation to $220,137, according to Johnson.

Under the agreement, MI-B would pay for the additional salary along with a contribution of $35,967 to cover a portion of Engebritson’s base salary with ISD 2142. That would put MI-B’s total contribution towards the superintendent services at $76,269.

The arrangement for Kristi Berlin’s position as Director of Teaching and Learning would be similar. Berlin would see a pay increase of 15 percent, or $17,668, for a total of $153,931. MI-B would pay $44,920 in total compensation for Berlin’s services.

Transportation Director Kay Cornelius would also see a 15-percent salary increase, or $10,782, for managing the two districts, bringing her total compensation to $111,469. Johnson told the board, MIB would be required to pay all of the increase in salaries for handling the two districts and an additional 20 percent of the base salaries for the contracted services. The additional 20 percent is added, as MIB is roughly one fifth or 20 percent of the size of 2142, she noted.

While the deal would potentially save ISD 2142 about $83,356 in salary costs, board member Chris Koivisto worries that the savings pale in comparison to some of the things the district could be losing through the agreement. “We may save money, but I worry we’ll be losing touch,” he said.

Board member Dan Manick has similar worries. “I’m still concerned that putting that much on someone’s plate could be too much work,” he said. While MI-B is a significantly smaller school district than 2142, both Manick and Koivisto suggest it may be bigger than it appears, considering that the superintendent, in particular, would be taking on a separate school board and an entirely different set of employee contracts for each district. “I believe our superintendent already has a full-time job,” said Koivisto. “I worry that by doing this, we won’t get the work done that we need to oversee our schools. I’m just not convinced it will work.”

They also question how Engebritson could effectively represent both districts in any competitive bid for future funding or grants. “Would she advocate for one district just a little bit less?” asked Manick.

Koivisto has similar concerns about the sharing agreement for Kristi Berlin, who oversees testing results for the district. “We’re seeing that test scores are not going forward in the way we’d like to see right now,” he said. “Maybe we need that work done here in our schools.”

Both Manick and Koivisto worry that if things fall through the cracks as top administrators focus on MI-B, there will soon be calls to hire assistants, which could minimize or even add to ISD 2142’s overall administrative costs.

The proposal to hire a new assistant for the transportation director is an example. While MI-B would pay 20 percent of Cornelius’s current base salary, the district now plans to hire an assistant director as well. That means that while MI-B would pay just over $40,000 in compensation for a portion of the time of both Cornelius and her assistant, ISD 2142 would add $39,255 in additional salary and benefits for the assistant.

New transportation software

Board members also learned more about a bus tracking software system that administrators would like to purchase for use by both districts. The new EDULOG program would come with $36,000 annual price tag, according to Cornelius, although she argued that it could save the districts money by allowing her to develop more efficient routing of the district’s buses and vans. It would also allow parents to track the bus miles through the district parent portal.

As the largest school district in the state, geographically, Cornelius told the board that she is presently planning the routes using paper maps, which she contends is putting the district behind the power curve. She explained she has already saved the district some expense with routing changes, and could possibly save more using the EDULOG program with more precise routing software, which also allows Cornelius to track hours, limiting the need for overtime.

MIB would pay 17 percent of the cost for the EDULOG software in proportion to the number of MIB buses, translating into $6,120. Cornelius would also receive a one-time payment of $5,757 for the implementation of EDULOG software, which Johnson said would be covered by MIB. The MIB school board will need to approve the agreement before 2142 moves forward.

Cornelius also lobbied the board for creating an assistant to the director of transportation position, citing the changing district transportation needs as 2142 and MIB share services. She also said that she would want the transportation assistant director to be required to have or obtain a school bus driver license, to be able to assist with the driver shortage.


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Lee Peterson

This plan should never see the light of day. It is a fantasy. There is nothing good in it for education. Just the opposite.

Saturday, March 24, 2018