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Ironwood discusses contract renewals, pink slips


Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

THE IRONWOOD Area Schools Board of Education honored students as Citizens of the Month during a board meeting Monday. Students were honored for the character trait of courage. Pictured are, from left, elementary principal Nick Steinmetz, kindergartener Brendan McCullough, eighth grader Travis Collins, middle/high school principal Michelle Kanipes and senior Jocelyn Wonsey.

IRONWOOD - The Ironwood Area School Board of Education held a busy meeting Monday at Luther L. Wright School.

The board discussed a variety of topics including the possibility of moving students in grades pre-kindergarten to 12 into one building, Safe Routes to School, consideration of contract renewals with elementary and middle/high school principals and giving out pink slips to faculty.

One building

Superintendent Tim Kolesar presented the idea of having all students in one building for board discussion. Kolesar's "concept" was to have kindergarten through second grade on the first floor at LLW, third through sixth grade on the second floor and seven through 12 on the third floor, also using the study hall and lecture center on the second floor.

Currently in LLW, the district rents office space to the Gogebic Ontonagon Intermediate School District. The district also pays rent at St. Sebastian in Bessemer to have the alternative school.

Kolesar's plan would be to move the GOISD and alternative school into Sleight Elementary School, with office space on the first floor and the alternative school on the second floor.

The district collects $34,000 a year from the GOISD for office space, and would also use the savings of not paying rent for St. Sebastian to pay the bills at Sleight Elementary.

"This is a doable thing," Kolesar said. "I would like to have the building and grounds committee look into this to discuss it further."

Contract renewals

Board member Leroy Johnson made a motion to renew contracts with elementary principal Nick Steinmetz and middle/high school principal Michelle Kanipes. Johnson proposed one year for Steinmetz and two years for Kanipes.

Brenda Agee seconded the motion, but it failed by a 4-3 vote. Board members Marilyn Nezworski, John Lorenson, Pamela Niemi and Steve Thomas voted against the motion.

Nezworski presented another motion to consider Kanipes' contract renewal, citing "unsatisfactory performance."

Under the motion, the board would have until May 1 to evaluate Kanipes and allow her to state her case for contract renewal. However, Johnson said the board cannot evaluate principals under the district's bylaws.

Johnson also questioned what the "unsatisfactory performance" was and asked Kolesar if he, as the superintendent, had evaluated Kanipes yet. Kolesar said he had not, and Johnson said that under the bylaws, it is the superintendent's job to evaluate principals and make a recommendation to the board.

"Because this evaluation has not taken place, the 'unsatisfactory performance' is fictitious," Johnson said. "I'm all in favor of doing evaluations, but we have to do them right or we are going to end up in court."

Thomas told Johnson the board has the authority as to who works or doesn't work for the district, and said Nezworski has specific examples of "unsatisfactory performance" with Kanipes, which can be discussed in public or in executive session.

Nezworski's motion was seconded by Lorenson, and it passed a 4-3 vote with Johnson, Agee and Ed Rickard voting no.

"I want to clarify, this is not a non-renewal," Nezworski said. "This is to inform the individual that we are considering renewal, allowing her to present."

Action was not taken on Steinmetz's contract.

Safe Routes to School

The board approved $5,000 to the Safe Routes to School committee to use for engineering costs, not covered by grant funding.

The $5,000 goes towards projects on school property, including installing sidewalks, rebuilding or painting the crosswalk and adding a foot/bike trail to add to the community's non-motorized trail.

Ironwood resident Stuart Bentley asked the board to support the committee in its efforts, because it is a "healthy and safe way to get kids to school."

For Kolesar, the support was simple.

"It would be foolish not to give this funding to get the ball rolling," Kolesar said.

Kolesar also thanked committee member Ian Shackelford for "all his hard work."

Pink slips

Eleven teachers in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade and four instructors at the alternative school were listed to get pink slips during the meeting.

The board approved a recommendation from Kolesar to send the pink slips to the teachers before April 1.

Kolesar said the move was to "protect the district," with scheduling and state funding uncertainties in the future.

However, despite the uncertainties, Kolesar said "about 98 percent" of the slips would be rescinded once everything is straightened away.


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