BKW adds fifth administrator to staff

Berne-Knox-Westerlo, school board

The Enterprise — H. Rose Schneider

Berne-Knox-Westerlo Superintendent Timothy Mundell speaks at a school board meeting Monday night where Lisa Ruud was introduced. Ruud will be working for the district as a technology integration specialist.

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board has created a new administrative post to integrate technology into the classroom.

Lisa Ruud was appointed as the new technology integration specialist, with an annual salary of $80,000. She will begin on March 28.

The appointment was made, with a 4-to-1 vote, at a Feb. 27 school board meeting. The special meeting started around 7 p.m.; no public comment or motions were made before the board went into executive session at 7:06 p.m. and returned to a public session at 8:35 p.m., according to the board’s clerk, Denise Robinson.

BKW Superintendent Timothy Mundell said that it was at this hour-and-a-half meeting that the board met with and interviewed Ruud.

Board member Helen Lounsbury, who cast the sole vote against the appointment, said that she did not object to Ruud herself but to the creation of the position, which would add a fifth administrator to the district.

Lounsbury told The Enterprise that she was concerned about funding the new position in a district with fewer than 800 students, as the benefits and the salary total about $120,000 annually, she said. Lounsbury said she would have preferred the district appoint a teacher with a technology background instead.

Mundell said that the idea of creating this position first came about when the district held a goal-setting session last July, after several members of the staff and the community said they wanted the district to focus more on technology.

Mundell spoke with the school board about the project in November, he said. Minutes from the November meeting show the board discussing the superintendent’s proposed district technology plan — a plan which included training staff on technology through a variety of means including instructional technology specialists — and making a decision to reallocate funds to purchase Chromebooks for students and have a man that Mundell described as “Google Suite savvy” work with them. There was no discussion about creating a new position or setting a salary; no motions were made and no votes were taken to do so.

Following the November public referendum vote in favor of going forward with a $20 million capital project that would involve bringing in new technology, Mundell said the administration started working with staff members to find out what they wanted in an administrative post for technology. The board had not discussed in public creating the post or voted on the position until the Feb. 27 meeting. The district advertised to fill the post in January.

A dozen people applied for the job. The applicants were reviewed by a hiring team made up of teachers, the technology department staff, and administrators, although Mundell was not part of this team.

“She was head and shoulders above the other applicants we had,” he said.

Mundell said that the post had not been “consciously budgeted” for in the 2017-18 fiscal year.

“It took some creativity to include the resources for that position,” he said.

Mundell said that the district had had five administrators up until 2016, when Mark Pitterson was brought in as the secondary-school principal and Annette Landry and Tom Galvin were promoted from within. Landry had been  serving as athletic director, assistant principal of both schools, and alternate chief information officer for data before she was appointed the elementary school principal.

Galvin, a teacher, took on Landry’s old roles as long-term substitute dean of students and athletic director. Mundell said that Galvin will be returning to work as a teacher and continue as athletic director.

“That freed up the assistant principal’s salary,” said the superintendent, who had said at Monday night’s school board meeting that the savings from appointing Galvin had already saved the school about $70,000.

“We’re not adding an administrator; we’re filling an empty seat,” he said at the meeting.

Mundell told The Enterprise that Ruud, who initially taught art after earning her education degree, is creative and digitally savvy, and he would like to see her improve the communications services in the district. (See related profile of Ruud.) Mundell would also like Ruud to oversee a pilot program of students using Chromebooks in the classroom.

Corrected on March 16, 2018: The estimated figure for salary ($80,000) and benefits ($40,000) for the new post was corrected to $120,000.

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