July 23, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 171

Bessemer receives Johnson's resignation

BESSEMER — Bessemer School Board received district administrator Mark Johnson's resignation letter late Sunday night, effective June 30. Board President Robert Berg read the letter to the crowd at Monday evening's school board meeting.

In the letter, Johnson gave his appreciation for the board, staff, families, and the community. Johnson said that as a team, the school surpassed the goal of making Bessemer the best school district in the western Upper Peninsula. He said it had been an honor to work with such dedicated professionals. The board accepted his resignation with regret.

Johnson was “the captain of a ship that at times was going down,” said Kim Saari, president of Bessemer Education Association.

Johnson signed a contract with Chetek-Weyerhauser, Wis., school district with a salary of $117,000. He began duties there on July 1. Johnson's salary in Bessemer was $85,000, or 519th out of 606 school districts in Michigan, according to the Mackinac Center for Public Policy website.

With 42 days left until school starts, the board called a special meeting for Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the A.D. Johnston Media Center. Fixing the roof of the high school and hiring a new superintendent are the most pressing issues facing the board, said Berg.

Ironwood area school board had sent a letter on June 24 to the Bessemer school board members broaching consolidation, but as Berg said, “there are bigger fish to fry right now.”

Board member Al Gaiss said consolidation was voted on in 1992 and failed, and again in 2009 when Bessemer and Wakefield did not agree to consolidate. Gaiss said that if Bessemer were to consolidate, he would support consolidating "to the east, not to the west."

The board approved hiring a Marquette firm for $5,320, to begin the process of developing the specifications for roof repair to the high school, a process that should take two to three weeks, said business manager Chris Bergquist.

“We still don't know how we are going to pay for the roof repairs,” said board member Dave Osier.

The roof was installed in 1993, and was not done right in the first place, said Berg. The estimate for repair could run near $100,000, which could be borrowed from a local bank. If the board gets a bond approved next spring, funds from that will not be able to be used to pay off repairs incurred prior, said Berg.

The district is operating with fewer dollars today than five years ago, but is not in a deficit, said Gaiss. Operating under a deficit is an ugly situation to be in, and Gaiss said that Bessemer will have a balanced budget.

Allen Archie asked if the board could get an alumni committee to raise donations, and Bergquist said there is an active alumni committee that has donated to district efforts in the past.