By Rosemary K. Otzman
At its March 25 regular meeting, the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education decided to take no action on a part of School Supt. Van Tassel’s rolling contract that automatically gives him another year on the job if the board doesn’t take action.
As of April 1, Supt. Van Tassel will automatically have his position confirmed for the 2014-15 school year, in addition to the 2013-14 year. The superintendent position is renewed two years in advance.
Board Treasurer Sherry Frazier pointed out that Van Tassel is not taking a salary cut like the teachers are being asked to take and, actually, he is getting an increase.
His contract calls for $137,000 for this school year, plus a $2,000 raise to $139,000 as of July 1.
Board President Brent Mikulski said Van Tassel said he would take a cut.
Van Tassel confirmed that he would be willing to make a voluntary cut in his salary after the teachers’ salary is determined.
Trustee Scott Russell said if the board does nothing that evening, the contract would roll over. If someone on the board changes his or her mind and wants to discuss the contract, that person could get a second person to ask for a special meeting before April 1 and they could meet and discuss.
Russell praised Van Tassel for “leadership by example”.
An item on the agenda for approval of the Van Buren Education Association teachers’ union contract was removed by President Mikulski at the beginning of the meeting.
Mikulski and Van Tassel explained that the contract was not ready for a board vote because it needed to be ratified by the teachers and it failed in the teachers’ vote earlier Monday.
The board planned to discuss the contract negotiations in closed session at the end of the meeting, as allowed under the Open Meetings Act.
The board also approved spending some
of the bond funds left over from the building of Belleville High School. They approved:
• $60,468 for seven additional pin-on microphone systems for BHS teachers, so that every classroom (except gym) will have enhanced sound. The cost was locked in by a 2009 bid, said Paul Wills of Plante Moran CRESA, who made the proposal to the board;
• $99,788.74 for tables, umbrellas, fences and landscaping (including some relocation of new trees) for the Commons area outdoor patio and the outside courtyard next to the auditorium. The patio was included in the original design, but not constructed until the availability of funds for amenities was determined. Wills said Wayne County, state parks, and the Metro Park system also were using the tables selected for BHS; and
• $148,587 to Marshall Music Company (high bidder) for musical instruments, including eight trumpets, six tubas, six flutes, five Bb clarinets, five trombones, four bassoons, four alto saxophones, three oboes, and one each of a rosewood marimba and 2.5 pro bells with rolling stand. Some of the current instruments are more than 40 years old.
Wills also reported that the Sinking Fund is financing extra parking at Rawsonville and Edgemont schools, a new roof at Owen (with bids ready to come in), glass and glazing at various schools, along with security entrances at schools.
In other business at its March 25 meeting, the board:
• Approved the April 8 employment termination of teacher Stephanie Stojanovski of McBride after 13 years of service, for personal reasons;
• Heard presentations from the principals of Owen Intermediate and Belleville High School, outlining their programs;
• Approved the minutes of the March 13 open session following a closed-door disciplinary hearing that showed a vote of 6-1 (Frazier voting no) that expelled a student for an unstated infraction;
• Heard Frazier ask questions about four different checks written to pay for various items and got answers. She was advised by Secretary Kevin English that it would give employees more time to get answers to her questions if she would ask before the meeting, but she insisted it was her right to ask the questions. She questioned the $500 per day paid to Carnegie Math consultant Nicole Crockett and was told that was for 10.5 days per month; and
• Heard parent Shannon Ackron speak of her many concerns about her children’s education. She had sent emails to board members after not being satisfied with her treatment after following the chain of command. Ackron was especially irritated with comments from teachers who said there was “a paper shortage in the district” and one couldn’t run off her ill high school son’s homework because of the paper problem, which caused him to be marked down in class. She also wanted to know how much was lost in the furniture and equipment destroyed when the old BHS was demolished. She tried to get the information with a Freedom of Information Act request, but was told there were no documents on that. She listed other problems and called school leadership “despicable”. She said that Board Vice President Martha Toth sent her an email saying she had “crossed a line” by saying leadership was despicable. President Mikulski asked Ackron to give Van Tassel and the staff time to collect information she wanted, adding her email was lengthy and they are working on it. “It’s unfortunate we have to allow these kinds of issues to fester with parents,” said Frazier, adding that had Van Tassel addressed the problem in the first place, it wouldn’t have escalated. “The buck stops with him…” she said.
By Rosemary K. Otzman