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School Board recalls most of non-tenured staff laid off a month ago

WILLMAR — A month after laying off 87 non-tenured teachers and administrators, the Willmar School has recalled 68 people to their jobs.

The board approved the recalls at its regular meeting Monday.

The board also accepted the resignation of Principal James Hill, which will be effective on June 30, the end of his current contract.

Hill was formerly the Roosevelt Elementary principal and was transferred to the district office as a principal on special assignment earlier this month. The board did not discuss the resignation, which was accepted with other personnel matters in one motion.

Board Chairman Mike Carlson said he liked seeing the list of recalled employees on the agenda.

The district has a standing practice of laying off all non-tenured staff members each year and recalling them based on the district’s needs.

It is possible that others could be recalled before school starts next fall, depending on enrollment and staffing needs.

Last month, board member Linda Mathiasen objected to the practice, which she said harms morale and affects continuity of staffing in school buildings.

Other board members said the mass layoff is better than singling out just the non-tenured staff members who will not be rehired for the next year.

Among the people recalled are 24 elementary classroom teachers and 16 elementary specialists.

Bruce Peterson, director of planning and development for the city of Willmar, spoke with the board about a proposed tax increment financing district to help pay for infrastructure improvements for an expansion of the corporate headquarters of Jennie-O Turkey Store.

In such a district, the developer of the land pays full property taxes on the improved property, but the difference between the original tax rate and the new tax rate will be used to pay for improvements like soil correction, utilities and roadwork. Once the improvements have been paid for, the full new property tax level will come to the city, county and school district.

Peterson said the district would forego about $9,900 a year in property taxes until the improvements are paid off. No vote by the board is required.

Board members praised the project, which they and Peterson said would benefit the community.

Board Chairman Mike Carlson said the district and its students receive more benefit from Jennie-O’s substantial donations to the district that the project will cost the district in taxes.

The board approved a new employee handbook and a new two-year contract with the district’s Administrators Association. The contract makes some changes in benefits and the addition of the dean of students position in the unit. Pay increases of 4.5 percent in the first year and 1.3 percent in the second year. The cost of the entire contract is an increase of 5.95 percent over the life of the contract.

The board also approved a group of agreements with non-certified groups of employees. While each group’s agreement is different from the others, most of them will receive a two-year package of 8 percent increases in pay and benefits.

The board also approved the district’s new achievement and integration plan and heard reports on reorganization of the English Language Learner and special education departments.

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

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