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Willmar, Minn., School Board member resigns

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School Board will likely do its business for the rest of the year with just six members.

The board Monday accepted the resignation of board member Eric Roberts Monday afternoon. Roberts is leaving the board be-cause he sold his house and has moved outside school district boundaries, according to his letter of resignation. He had been on the board since 2004, and his term would have expired at the end of this year.

The board could appoint someone to serve the remainder of Roberts' term but could also choose to leave the seat blank, since only about five months remain in the term.

Chairman Nathan Streed said he was sorry to see Roberts leave the board, because he had been a good source of information and advice when Streed first joined the board.

Board member Dan Croonquist asked if a former board member could be appointed, since they would already understand district issues.

But would they be interested, asked board member Wayne Lenzmeier, adding that they had their reasons for leaving the board and may not be able to or want to return.

"What happens if we have a 3-3 vote," asked Sandi Unger. Motions will fail to pass on a tie vote, Lenzmeier said.

Filing for the next election opens on July 31. The terms of Unger, Reynolds and Lenzmeier will also expire this year.

The board voted 4-to-2 to deny a leave of absence for vocal music teacher Tim Cayler. He had asked for a one-year leave so he could sign a one-year contract as a music director for Jesus Our Living Water Faith Community, affiliated with the Church of St. Mary in Willmar.

Cayler, who has been with the district for 15 years, said he felt "called" to the new position.

The school district doesn't ordinarily approve a leave of absence for a person who wants to try out another job. Cayler's reason for the leave is not listed in state statute or in the district's teacher contract, said Liz Fischer, human resources director.

Board members Mike Reynolds and Dan Croonquist favored the leave. Streed, Linda Mathiasen, Sandi Unger and Wayne Lenzmeier did not.

"I have historically not been in favor of leaves that are not in statute or in contract," Lenzmeier said.

Reynolds and Croonquist said they thought Cayler could gain experience that would be valuable to the district if he returns.

After the vote, Cayler thanked them for the opportunity to teach in Willmar and said he understood the decision. He announced that he would be resigning to take the music director position.

The board approved four labor agreements with district office staff, administrators, community education and recreation director and miscellaneous employees. Each contract had an overall increase of about 3 percent. The district has now settled all its labor contracts.

The contract with Steve Brisendine, the community education director, includes no raise but a $3,000 payment if he achieves a set of goals. Reynolds praised Brisendine for entering into the merit pay contract and called it a groundbreaking move.

The board also approved a transportation contract for the next two years, with an option to renew it for two more years. Palmer Bus Service and Willmar Bus Service will each receive a 1.54 percent increase in the first year and no increase in the second year of the contract. The district will pay for all fuel beyond $2.80 a gallon. In the previous contract, the district paid for fuel beyond $2.60 a gallon.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340