By Rosemary K. Otzman
School Board President Brent Mikulski said he asked for upgrades to the employment contract of School Supt. Michael Van Tassel because he wanted the superintendent to be around long enough to lead the district to achieve the long-term goals Van Tassel has set.
He referred to the One, Three, and Five-Year Strategic Goals prepared by School Supt. Van Tassel and praised by the board at its Aug. 12 meeting.
The rest of the board agreed with Mikulski and at Monday’s regular meeting voted unanimously to add a third year to Van Tassel’s rolling contract and another five days of vacation. He now will get 25 days.
When he was promoted in February, he was given two years rolling contract which meant his contract was good through June 2014 unless the board fired him. This spring, the board decided not to vote on Van Tassel’s contract and it was automatically approved until June 2014.
Now his contract runs from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2016.
His pay for the one year starting July 1, 2013 continues at $139,000, plus benefits, with any subsequent years to be negotiated.
He will work 260 days annually, exclusive of 25 paid vacation days (instead of the previous 20 allotted), plus 12 paid holidays, 12 days sick leave, and three personal business days.
President Mikulski said the previous contract was started in the middle of the school year and so needed work.
Board Vice President Martha Toth said the rolling three-year contract is standard in Michigan.
A rolling contract means it automatically rolls on each year to keep the three-year term unless the board intervenes.
“I did question the timing,” said Treasurer Sherry Frazier, saying she could see no rush to do it, but after discussions, “I’m behind it now.”
She said Van Tassel didn’t ask for any salary increase, but did ask for five additional days of vacation.
Trustee Scott Russell said if the board was going to hold its superintendent accountable for the goals he had set it had to make sure that it kept him around for three years to work on those goals.
Trustee Cathy Kovach said she believed the late School Supt. Pete Lazaroff also had a three-year contract. Kovach said when she worked in the superintendent’s office, she had 25 days of vacation, five more days than her boss, Supt. Van Tassel.
In other business at Monday’s 40-minute meeting, the board:
• Approved paying $46,230 from high school construction bond funds to AEROLAB for an Education Wind Tunnel for the new physics lab at BHS. The wind tunnel has velocity up to 145 mph, is six feet tall and weighs 600-700 pounds. BHS Principal Abdul Madyun made the presentation to the board on the equipment, saying he has yet to find a high school anywhere that has what BHS will have. “We could become a beacon to others … to come to school here,” he said, adding the new Einstein Room is to spark educational fire in students. Madyun was asked about the life of the tunnel and he didn’t know, but said, “It’s not going to go out anytime soon.” He noted all the teachers are excited. He said the University of Michigan has a wind tunnel, but the Ford Center where Van Buren sends its vocational students doesn’t have one;
• Approved milk bids from Sun Valley/Berkshire Dairy of Detroit and bread bids from Aunt Millie’s Bakeries of Fort Wayne, IN, through the Downriver Co-op for the 2013-14 school year;
• Approved a resolution urging continued implementation and funding of the Common Core State Standards in an effort to influence the Michigan Legislature which may prohibit participation through upcoming budget action. MASA and RESA have asked local school boards to pass resolutions. Van Tassel said 81% of the districts in the state want Common Core to take effect and the battle now “is political in nature”; and
• Agreed to cancel the Sept. 9 meeting because there is nothing for the agenda. The next regular meeting will be Sept. 23 at the BHS Commons. The Sept. 16 workshop session may or may not be held.
By Rosemary K. Otzman