The Duneland School
Board is considering extension of Superintendent of Schools David Pruis’
contract to June 30, 2018, and will take a vote at its meeting on Aug. 10.
the board held a public hearing for citizens to share their input, in
accordance with state law.
A regular at board
meetings, resident Richard Whitlow said he does not agree that the
superintendent should be given $9,000 per year, or $750 each month as the
contract states, as a vehicle allowance by the school corporation.
“If you work in
Chicago, you pay to get there,” he said.
explicitly asking the board to make changes, Whitlow said an article
appeared in The Times of Northwest Indiana last fall that indicated
Duneland’s superintendent base salary was the highest in Porter County and
one of the top three in Northwest Indiana at $145,000.
President Ralph Ayres said before the hearing that there are no salary or
benefit increases proposed in the next contract.
The board had voted
on Pruis’ current salary in April 2013 for his first contract of $145,000,
which was a $16,000 increase over Pruis’ predecessor. Board members at the
time argued that the superintendent had been paid lower than the state
average salary of $155,186.
saw one more speaker, Liberty Township resident Alice Estill, who asked for
information regarding the contract’s paragraph addressing the
superintendent’s retirement fund. For all unused vacation or sick leave
days, the school corporation shall pay at a rate of .002 of the annual
salary into the superintendent’s 401(a) or VEBA account.
A copy of the
contract had been posted on the Duneland Schools’ home page. A legal
advertisement for the public in the July 2 edition of the Chesterton
Tribune contained the contract which can also be found on the legal
notices page on the Tribune’s website.
Ayres thanked both
Whitlow and Estill for their comments.
Next the board took
up discussion of Duneland’s employee health insurance beginning with patron
Whitlow took the
opportunity to push his recommendation for school administrators to speak
with representatives from Apex Benefits Group whose approach is to lower
insurance costs by negotiating rates downward with health care providers.
Whitlow said he
hopes Apex could negotiate rates with Porter Health Care Systems where many
Duneland employees go for treatments. Porter Health’s parent company,
Community Health Systems, was named in a recent national article as owner of
half the top 50 most expensive hospitals in the nation.
Hospital is not on that list but information Whitlow provided from Apex
states its claims mark-ups are more than five times the rates paid by
Medicare, while the average mark-up for U.S. hospitals is 340 percent.
“I hope we finally
look at fighting the rising costs of health care,” Whitlow told the board.
He said that Apex could help save the school corporation about $1.5 million
on health insurance based on last year’s costs of $9 million.
Duneland’s benefits consultant, RE Sutton and Associates, has said the
school corporation has experienced a lower number of claims than at this
point last year which means it’s likely costs will not rise as much. Like
many organizations in both the private and public industry, every employer
is feeling the pinch to keep their health costs to a minimum, Pruis said,
and Duneland’s benefits committee is researching all available options.
“We’re going to
look at what’s out there,” Pruis said.
Pruis said Duneland
has seen “double digit increases” on its plan every few years since 2002,
most recently in 2012. Part of the influx of claims has been due to
Duneland’s staff shifting to younger employees who are starting families.
Board member John
Marshall said that even as claims are on the decline, it’s likely it won’t
be long until they begin to rise again. “It’s a roller coaster. It’s a
cycle,” he said.
In other business,
the board approved two change orders to the current Duneland facility
projects on which Duneland Support Services Director Greg Lindy and staff
are racing the clock to get done before school starts again.
The change orders
are because of “unforeseen projects” that have come up, Lindy said, and
pertain to asphalt/concrete surfacing at Chesterton High School, the Middle
School, and a few of the elementary schools.
The asphalt project
at Jackson Elementary will have to wait, he said, but all other projects are
expected to be on schedule.
The board gave
unanimous approval for Lindy to purchase a $304,000 building controls system
for Chesterton High School that is within the cost anticipated from the
facilities bond. The system is “vendor specific,” Lindy said, and since all
the equipment is from Johnson Controls, the project meets the state’s
requirements for the project to forgo the need to seek bids.
“It has to mirror
up with what we already have in place,” Lindy said. The building control
system operates the heating and lights inside the building.
In comments to the
board, Pruis said that the bonds for the facility projects will close in the
early part of August and the savings through the Indiana Bond Bank is
currently projected at $274,701, but could increase by the closing. That’s
about $100,000 over what had been projected months ago but it will still
help out the schools tax rate for bonds.
congratulations to the CHS Speech and Debate teams for their performances at
the national tournament this past month in Dallas. The team won a school of
honor award, ranked among the top 21-40 schools, and had three entries make
it to elimination rounds, Pruis said.
In board comments,
Ayres said he was “very impressed” with the presentation by
LiveWorkLearnPlay on the future vision for Burns Harbor last Thursday, which
over 100 people attended. He said he was glad to see the plans carried an
emphasis on education.
Superintendent of Instruction Jim Goetz reminded parents that they can
register their children for school through the online portal starting July
20. New students however will need to be registered at their school building
during the registration times in August.
The board approved
new hires and resignations for the upcoming school year.
CHS will welcome a
new Spanish teacher, Steven Lombardo, who taught previously at Portage High
Carrie Sorrells has
been appointed as the media secretary of Westchester Intermediate, Linda
Strange as head custodian at Yost Elementary, Michelle Hansford as
lunch/recess aide for Jackson Elementary. Duneland custodian Felicia Bachman
will be moved to full time.
Resigning are CHS
English teacher Diana Gill, Yost 4th Grade teacher Amanda Whitman, WIS
instructional aide Jennifer Scott, CMS instructional aide Stacy Boyd, CHS
custodian Antonia Baron, CHS technology coordinator Mary Hill, CMS Football
coach Sam Marshall, Brummitt Elementary secretary Sheila Young and Bailly
Elementary Title 1 aide Emily Alllmon.
Superintendent Monte Moffett announced to the board that the accumulated
years served by teachers retiring in the 2014-15 school year reached a total
of 250.5 years.