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School board seeks hiring firm, approves new budget

2011-08-10T00:00:00Z School board seeks hiring firm, approves new budgetBy ALANA LISTOE Independent Record Helena Independent Record
August 10, 2011 12:00 am  • 

School officials in Helena are planning to hire a firm to aid in their search for a new superintendent.

The administration has received two preliminary proposals, one from the Montana School Board Association and one from a firm based in Illinois, but trustees are seeking more proposals to broaden their options.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, a firm in Rosemont, Ill., is also the company Boulder Valley School District in Colorado used in identifying and hiring former Helena Superintendent Bruce Messinger.

Its most comprehensive search has an estimated cost of $17,500, plus expenses at around $3,500.

Montana School Board Association’s full search option is estimated at $7,500 plus expenses.

The district will seek more proposals from companies such as Ray and Associates, McPherson and Jacobsen, Northwest Leadership Associates and others. The proposals will be preliminary, but will help trustees decide who they want to interview further.

Trustees said they’ll also contact other AA districts in Montana who’ve recently been through the process to aid their efforts.

At the board meeting Tuesday night, trustee Terry Beaver said it would be in the district’s best interest to use a firm that has experience in the Northwest.

Board chair Michael O’Neil agreed.

“They need to know the lay of the land,” he said.

Trustees agreed that there needs to be steady momentum.

Trustee Don Jones said there is much to do before advertisements are publicized about the open position and that they would like to have the agency picked out by the end of next month.

“That investment in time and effort on our part, from what I understand, will make a big difference in the outcome,” Jones said.

The board unanimously approved the more than $50 million general fund budget for the upcoming school year.

The district’s monies include more than just general fund dollars; some are levied monies from taxpayers and other sources, such as the transportation fund, building reserve fund and technology fund.

The elementary general fund budget is $31.7 million, of which 92 percent pays for salaries and benefits. The high school general fund is $20.9 million, of which 88 percent covers salaries and benefits.

More than 60 percent of both budgets was used for direct classroom expenditures, such as supplies and salaries, Kim Harris, business manager for the district said at the board meeting.

The district increased their substitute teacher salaries budget for elementary schools by more than $50,000, since it spent $60,000 more than last year than was budgeted, which was $241,051 last year. It also increased the substitute clerical salaries by more than $1,000 for the same reason. Last year, $13,037 was budgeted and $18,259 was spent. This year, $14,429 is budgeted.

It’s a different situation in the high school district.

In high schools, the district spent less for both substitute teachers and clerical positions than was budgeted. This year $248,160 is budgeted for teacher subs and $8,290 for secretaries.

The line item for coaches’ stipends in the elementary district remained the same in the elementary district at $57,000, but in the high school the amount decreased from $620,346 budgeted last year to $485,000 this year.

The district is budgeting relatively the same amounts as last year for operational costs such as gas, electricity and garbage collection.

Harris told trustees she’s not a weather forecaster, and if Montana were to see a cold winter, the utility budget may not be adequate.

For elementary schools, the district spent $4,000 more in phone and cellphone usage than was budgeted, so this year that line item increased to $22,000 compared to $12,100 last year.

The district spent more than $13,000 in the high school budget than it budgeted for the same expenditures. This year phones and cellphones are budgeted at $7,150, which is less than the previous year.

The board is considering hiring a firm to assist in educational facility planning to collaborate with staff and the community to develop or revise educational programs and delivery methods. A committee will continue discussing what the objectives are before hiring. The firm, when hired, will be paid using the building reserve fund. They meet on Monday to continue discussions.

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or

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