Bear Lake board approves new teacher contract

BEAR LAKE — Members of the Bear Lake Schools Board of Education voted 7-0 to approve a new contract with the Bear Lake Education Association (BLEA) at Wednesday’s Bear Lake schoolmeeting.

Superintendent Marlen Cordes announced the specifics of the new two-year deal.

“The teachers received a 1 percent raise this year and zero percent next year,” said Cordes. “We added some Schedule B positions including a football coach, assistant football coach and cheerleading coach.”

Cordes said there are also some merit pay incentives in the contract.

“Teachers can earn $300 in merit pay if they attend an additional 12 hours of district-provided professional development,” said Cordes. “The other merit pay is if at least 51 percent of our M-STEP eligible students score at the state average or higher than every teacher on staff gets a $200 bonus. We hope we are paying that money out every year as we want our teachers to get the professional development we are providing and obviously we want our scores to be at the state average or better.”

The teachers were at the 2015 insurance hard cap and the contract takes them to the state average in each year of the contract giving them a bump in the insurance.

“The board also got another two years of no planning period (a savings to the district) which we know is not the best thing, but it really helps the district’s bottom line,” said Cordes. “We also got some language for the life of the two-year contract that we can have a split class in the upper elementary.”

Board members were also given a report from Manistee County School Business Cooperative finance director Kris Mauntler on the audit that was conducted by the auditing firm of Dennis, Gartland & Niegarth.

Mauntler said it was a clean audit without any concerns and praised the district for the amount of funds they are placing into instruction in the district.

Cordes also reported to the board the official student count numbers credited to the district. The elementary has 130.5 (part-time kindergarten) students, while the middle school has 51 students and high school has 91 students for a total student count of 272.5 students. This is up from the fall county last year of 267 students.

“We are reversing a four-year trend of declining enrollment so we are happy with that increase,” said Cordes.

He also touched on the roof project that he said will be getting its final inspection next week. The project will be finished at that time.

The board also voted 7-0 to award the snow plow bid to Anthony’s Outdoor Services.

“They have been doing it for the past several years, and we are happy with the job they are doing,” said Cordes.

Board members were also given a legislative update from Cordes on issues pertaining to education.

One of the areas he mentioned was the At Risk Funding that comes to school districts.

“When the governor’s budget came out with increases in those At Risk dollars we were happy because a lot of the use of those funds is discretionary,” said Cordes. “When the legislative budget came out they really restricted the use of those funds. However, what we heard from our lobbyists is the legislature never intended to do that so it is going to go back to the 2016-17 definitions for the use of those funds and we will take it.”

Cordes also said the talk about starting school before Labor Day has been circulating for some time.

“There has been some talk about eliminating the post Labor Day start, and we would all have to start in August,” said Cordes. “It appears that legislation isn’t going anywhere.”

Cordes said the unseasonably warm temperatures this year in late September proved how difficult it is to hold classes in those types of temperatures. He said a pre-Labor Day start would make that problem even worse and the ideal situation would be to give schools discretion on when they would like to stat the school year.

“We hope they will make it so there is local control over the start date and not mandate that we start prior to Labor Day,” said Cordes.

The board also agreed to move its next meeting to 7 p.m. on Nov. 8 at the school media center.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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