Archive for Monday, December 8, 2008

Board intends not to offer Erickson extension

By 4-3 vote, members won’t grant 12-year school district superintendent another contract

December 8, 2008, 10:38 p.m.

Updated: December 9, 2008, 8:03 p.m.

The Tonganoxie School District superintendent likely won’t be returning to his post after his contract ends in late June.

The Tonganoxie School Board voted, 4-3, for a resolution stating its intent not to renew the contract of Superintendent Richard Erickson.

In a written statement, Erickson had this to say about the resolution:

“I am disappointed with the board’s decision. I want to thank the board members who supported me and my employment in USD 464 over the past 12 years. I want to thank USD 464 employees, board members and students for the opportunity to serve as superintendent in USD 464. I am very pleased with the accomplishments that have been realized in the school district over the past 12 years.”

Board members Kathy Bargaray, Leana Leslie, Kay Smith and Doug Tate voted in favor of the resolution; members Darlyn Hansen, Mildred McMillon and Diane Truesdell voted against. Truesdell, board president, and Leslie, vice president, declined comment, citing personnel matters.

On Tuesday, Erickson discussed the vote.

“Four-to-three; that’s about as close as you get,” Erickson said. “And I think that’s the best. I think things should be done out front and in public. I’m happy the board voted on it in public.”

Along with his written statement Monday, Erickson attached a list of accomplishments, including new programs, cost-saving measures and, with the help of patrons, passage of a $25.3 million bond issue in 2004.

With his list of achievements, Erickson also had this to say: “The following achievements could not have been accomplished without incredible students, the wonderful people of Tonganoxie, a talented and dedicated group of employees, a supportive and caring Board of Education, a loving wife and family and a gracious God, who has blessed me beyond what I ever imagined could be possible.”

Some specific accomplishments he listed included the establishment of the USD 464 student transportation program, which Erickson estimated saved the district $550,000 through 11 years; the addition of college dual credit and advance placement classes at THS; establishment of the ninth-grade student career counseling and class scheduling program; and implementation of many cost-saving and revenue-stretching measures.

But during the last two years, Erickson also was the subject of an assistant’s contract buyout and a mill levy filing error he submitted to Leavenworth County that cost taxpayers nearly $370,000. Erickson proposed this year that the mill levy be reduced to compensate for the error, with interest.

The district bought out the contract of Jamie Brun, director of operations, after a short time on the job in 2007. On one occasion, Brun and Erickson had an argument that led to Brun calling 911.

Erickson, who is 54, grew up in Clear Lake, Iowa, and graduated from the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls.

He started teaching in 1978 at Pembroke Country Days School, now known as Pembroke Hill in Kansas City, Mo. In 1981, he became assistant principal and athletics director at what was then Basehor High School.

He became superintendent at Walker, Mo., in 1984 before moving to Inman in 1986.

Erickson was superintendent at Inman for 10 years before becoming Tonganoxie School District superintendent in July 1996.

Erickson said he went from enrollment of 200 at Walker to 400 at Inman and now 1,750 at Tonganoxie.

As far as the future, he said he’s looking currently at finishing his job in Tonganoxie.

“I don’t know,” Erickson said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time. My main focus is to work out my contract here and to do the very best I can.

“I don’t have a definite plan beyond finishing out this contract.”

Erickson said he’s most proud of teachers and administrators “raising the bar as far as expectations” and the improved ACT, PSAT and assessment scores. He also said he was proud of excellent gains in facilities in the district.

In other business at the meeting, the board:

• Discussed increasing student food service fees for the second semester. The increases would be for additional choices on the school menus: for an additional entrée, the price would increase $.25 to $1.25; for a double meal, the price would jump $.55 to $3.65; and a la carte item prices would increase by $.10 to $.25. The board will discuss the issue further at its January meeting.

• Discussed purchasing bulk diesel fuel from Hampel Oil Company, Kansas City, Kan., for the next two years. The agreement would be for 42,000 gallons of diesel. Current bulk prices are $2.10 per gallon.

Board member Mildred McMillon said she wanted more information about the company, as scams are becoming more prevalent as the economy worsens. Information about the company given to members did not list where the company was from, which raised questions from McMillon. During discussion of the company, it was mentioned the district has purchased from Hampel previously. The topic will be discussed further at the January meeting.

• Discussed a transportation employee handbook, which assistant superintendent Kyle Hayden drafted.

Board members will review it this month and discuss it further in January.

The next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 12 at the Tonganoxie Middle School library.

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