BKW board will keep Superintendent Mundell until he retires

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff

Superintendent Timothy Mundell plans to retire from Berne-Knox-Westerlo. The BKW school board approved a one-year extension to his contract with the incentive of repeating it each year with their approval so that he may remain at the district.

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board agreed at its Monday meeting to retain Timothy Mundell as superintendent until he retires as long as annual reviews of his work are satisfactory or better.

Mundell was 53 when he became BKW superintendent in 2015 and had been appointed to a five-year term starting on July 1 last year. The board voted in favor of a one-year extension on his contract, 4 to 1, with board member Helen Lounsbury voting against it.

“I think we can agree that Dr. Mundell has done a great job,” said school board President Matthew Tedeschi, who said that various community forums have brought up that stability and less turnover is desired at the district.

Lounsbury said that, while she was pleased to hear that Mundell intends to stay with the district until retirement, she did not understand why he could not continue with the remaining four years of his term.

“In my view, it is improper to bind future boards,” she said.

“It doesn’t handcuff them,” said Tedeschi, adding that by April 1 the board would have the opportunity to decide to remove the superintendent, who would also be receiving annual performance reviews that would determine if he stayed.

Lounsbury also said that she does not believe extending his contract would provide stability, as during his time at the district she said several administrators left, although she and the superintendent initially disagreed over how many positions changed over during his term.

When Mundell was appointed superintendent in June of 2015, BKW had four administrators: superintendent, business manager, and principals for the secondary and elementary schools. In January 2016, special-education director Susan Sloma was given a new title as director of pupil personnel services and had her role expanded to coordinate services for students with and without special-needs classification.

Weeks before Mundell’s appointment, the board had hired a new high school principal and had also seen its elementary school principal resign; a new principal was later chosen during Mundell’s tenure. A year later, the board appointed its current administrators, with Annette Landry as Elementary School Principal and Mark Pitterson as Secondary School Principal, after both their predecessors resigned in September and June, respectively.

Business administrator Sarah Blood stepped down last year after serving the district for two years, and was replaced by Stacy King-McElhiney. A new administrative position for technology, was also added this year, and Lisa Ruud was appointed to the post.

Board member Kimberly Lovell said on Monday that having other administrators come and go wouldn’t cause as much instability if the superintendent remained during that time.

Elble said that financially the district would benefit because Mundell’s wage increases would be “locked in” at 1-percent. Lounsbury also said she was concerned Mundell would not receive a decent raise this way.

“His contract is what is important to him, not the dollar amount,” said Tedeschi.

In 2016, Mundell had an annual salary of $125,000. He was also awarded a $5,000 performance bonus in June by the school board under then-President Joan Adriance. The board also extended Mundell’s contract for another four years, two years beyond the original end-date set when he was hired.

Bob Lowry, of the New York State Council of Superintendents, told The Enterprise this week that an extension may be effective in improving stability in a district.

“These sorts of things are not unusual in superintendents contracts,” said Lowry.

No half-day Pre-K

In anticipation of not receiving state funding due to a lack of students, the district will be doing away with it’s half-day prekindergarten program for the 2018-19 school year. The district had only recently announced, when presenting next year’s budget, that it would be offering full-day prekindergarten.

Mundell said that there are currently 26 children enrolled in the district’s program for this fall. Of these, 15 are enrolled in the newly created full-day program — which is funded by the school — while 11 others are split between morning and afternoon half-day programs funded by state’s Universal Prekindergarten grant. In order to qualify for the grant, 10 children in the half-day programs must qualify for free or reduced-priced lunch, said Mundell, which he believes wouldn’t be the case with BKW’s enrollment.

The superintendent hopes to have some flexibility in the full-day program to provide half-day slots for those signed up for these. He told The Enterprise on Wednesday that the full-day program will follow the same hours of the school day for elementary school students. The half-day program had an 8-to-11 a.m. slot and an 11:30-a.m.-to 2:30 p.m. slot. Only 20 children can be in the classroom at one time, he said.

The funding had covered the cost of $65,000, said Mundell at the meeting. He said that keeping the half-day program without funding would cost the district $185,000; the full-day program is expected to cost $25,000, while the half-day program on its own would cost $120,000.

Academic progress

Landry reported to the board Monday on elementary school students’ academic progress over the past year. She said their education included working with older students, adult community members, and technology, and focusing on improvement over performance. Landry also  spoke about the “Ready, Set, Go” program, which helps prepare preschoolers for kindergarten.

Sloma reported on a new reading program for special-education students, which she said emphasizes phonetic learning for students. Mundell was concerned about the students in kindergarten through third grade who were below acceptable reading levels in 2017, saying that, if they are not at their required level at that age, they never will be.

“We need to correct that,” he said.

Other business

In other business, the board also:

— Discussed parking for juniors who drive to school; the had been parking off campus due to lack of spaces. Mundell said a temporary solution is to use space by the school track for parking;

— Heard from Mundell that asbestos abatement would be conducted in 2019 rather than this summer, due to concern that the unfinished work could be a hazard and instead could be immediately followed by the anticipated construction in 2019. To receive bids for construction in time for this, he said that the school would use a $40,000 third-party reviewer of their plans rather that the state to reduce the review process from 40 to 14 weeks;

— Approved a request for proposals for an administrator of health and flexible-spending accounts, which will cost $4.50 a month for each employee participating;

— Discussed new revisions to board policies. Lovell said that the recently-revised policy on recruiting and hiring contradicted some areas of the hiring package. Mundell said the documents could be merged;

— Discussed hiring a speech therapist through Advanced Therapy, PLLC, in Albany; and

— Heard Ruud on her recent activities, which included changing not only the infrastructure but the culture of the district as well when it comes to technology.

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