NEW ULM - District 88 Superintendent Harold Remme on Thursday announced his intention to resign his position as of July 1, 2013.
"During my tenure in ISD 88, I have had the opportunity to work with dedicated school board members, a great team of administrators and a talented, compassionate group of teachers and support staff that have always placed students first," Remme told the School Board, in a statement he handed out at the very end of Thursday's regular School Board meeting.
"I am thankful for the support from staff and the community during the years I have served in ISD 88. I also appreciate the professional cooperation I have enjoyed with the non-public schools in our community. The nature of cooperation within the total educational community has been a healthy relationship. I have been blessed."
"Announcing the resignation at this time will allow the school board to implement a recruitment and replacement process early in 2013," Remme continued. "I offer to assist in making the administrative transition as smooth as possible. I am willing to assist the new superintendent in making an efficient and effective administrative transition."
"May ISD 88 grow and flourish in the years ahead. The foundation for success is in place for great things to happen for the students and staff of ISD 88."
Remme, who meets requirements for retirement, has served as District 88 superintendent since 1997. He has guided the district through years of declining enrollment and state funding cuts, helping keep it financially stable and repeatedly restating a focus on student success.
"I have been with the district since 1960," former teacher and outgoing board member Carol Ackerson said, right after Remme's announcement. "I have probably seen more superintendents than anyone else in this room, and this one is absolutely the best!"
Remme said the board has two options in seeking a replacement: an internal or an external search. He said an external search would "short-circuit and speed up the process." Remme added that a number of individuals and companies could be recruited to help conduct the search for a replacement.
Middle school sale delayed
An anticipated sale of the former middle school property scheduled to take place during (and listed on the agenda for) Thursday's meeting was delayed, as a result of four outstanding issues.
The district is negotiating to sell the property, at North State Street, to Eagle Development, LLC. Eagle Development has bid $100,000 for the property and plans to turn it into senior apartments.
Besides the sale agreement itself, the sides are negotiating on an agreement to allow the district to lease the auditorium in the former school for a $1 a year for 10 years.
The main outstanding issue concerns provisions in the lease agreement. The sides are still negotiating on responsibility for capital improvements to, and upkeep and maintenance of, the auditorium.
Eagle Development is proposing that the district shares substantially in the cost of any capital improvements. The group has also proposed to take care of upkeep and to bill it back to the district.
In turn, the district has countered with an offer of sharing in capital improvement costs, to the tune of up to $10,000 a year, amortized over the remaining term of the lease. It is also offering to directly take up upkeep and maintenance responsibilities, which would allow it to utilize its own staff.
Another issue, described as less weighty, is what happens in case of (an unlikely) catastrophic loss of the building before the sale closing date. While the property is being sold for $100,000, its replacement value is $19 million. If a catastrophic loss occurs before the closing, the district is seeking to ensure that it would only reimburse Eagle Development for its verified, documented out-of-pocket expenses, and that a sale would not occur.
The rest of the outstanding issues concern the availability of parking stalls for district use in the vicinity of the auditorium, and what should be required in terms of insurance of any district property kept in school-controlled space.
Representatives of both the school district and the prospective buyer expressed an opinion that the remaining issues can be resolved in a face-to-face meeting, rather than the back-and-forth electronic communication that has taken place so far; and that a sale can, indeed, happen shortly.
The board certified the local tax levy payable in 2013.
The amount is $6,154,218, up $1,171,255 from 2012.
Tax information, including legal background and reasons for the levy changes was presented at a tax hearing Dec. 6.
The main reason for the proposed tax increase is the new levy of $575 per pupil unit per year approved by voters last November.
The board approved two two-year contracts with a group of non-unionized employees, mostly members of management and key secretarial and business-office staff.
The contracts cover the period from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2015.
The contracts largely mirror settlements with unionized employees, said board negotiator and outgoing long-term board member Susan Nierengarten.
The employees in question will receive no raise for the first year of the contract and a 1 percent raise for each of the three years after that.
They will receive longevity increases comparable to those in union settlements.
The district share of health insurance costs will not change in the first two years of the settlement, but the increase in its contribution will be capped at 50 percent of any premium increases for the last two.
The amount available to match employees' contribution to deferred compensation will increase, in line with union contracts.
(To compare, the district contribution to teacher retirement accounts has been increasing by 0.5 percent a year. The legally-required employer contribution was 6 percent of salary as of July 1, 2011, and is slated to reach 7.5 percent by July 1, 2014.)