The Mabel-Canton School Board honored retiring superintendent Mike Moriarty and retiring business manager Chris Hansen during its meeting last Tuesday evening. Both Moriarty and Hansen will be leaving the district at the end of June, the last day of the 2012-2013.

Moriarty thanked the board for its support over the past three and a half years he's served as part-time superintendent after he had retired from his post at Caledonia.

"It has been great working here again," he stated as he thanked the board members for their cooperation and leadership. Moriarty had served as part-time superintendent at Mabel-Canton for several years prior to 2004.

Hansen has worked for Mabel-Canton for over 30 years and also thanked the board for having the opportunity to work in the school district.

The board members presented gifts to each of the retiring employees and hosted a small going-away party in their honor at the conclusion of the meeting.

The board has hired Jennifer Backer, who was present at the school board meeting, on a .3 full-time equivalent (FTE) or part-time basis. She will be serving the Lyle School District on a part-time basis as well. She most recently served as the superintendent at the Cromwell-Wright School District. She will begin working at Mabel-Canton on July 1.

In a related matter, the board approved a change in the language in Backer's contract, allowing a $5,000 stipend to use toward purchasing family health insurance. Moriarty explained that the Lyle School District has approved a similar stipend. "Between the two of us, that goes a long way towards Jennifer to be able to provide health insurance for her family," he added.

Moriarty stressed that it does not add any cost to the district, but allows that money to go into a health savings account to be used for insurance costs.

The board has hired School Management Services (SMS) of Rochester for district business services to fill the vacancy left by Hansen's retirement. Todd Netzke, the owner of the company, has worked in school finance since 1998 and formed the company in 2006. He is a certified public accountant and has a staff of 15 and serves 27 school districts around the state.

Moriarty explained he has been working with Netzke already on bringing him up to speed on the district's finances and business practices. He added that Netzke plans to have a support person in the Mabel-Canton district office by Aug. 1. He has also committed to spend time each week within the district himself.

The board was also updated on the negotiation committee's meeting with Principal Jeff Nolte regarding a contract for the 2012-2013 year. Moriarty explained that the contract would be for one year and retroactive to July 1, 2012. He anticipated another meeting soon after the start of the school year when a two-year contract would be negotiated for the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years.

As for the contract in question, approved by the board, Nolte was allowed additional personal days. "Mr. Nolte works a longer year than the teachers, so he was allowed a few vacation days," Moriarty said.

Other changes included an increase of $10 to the contribution toward his annuity; a stipend of $80 a month for travel expenses, using his own vehicle; and $100 per month to use toward the cost of a cell phone.

The stipends "simplify things," Moriarty explained, saying this eliminates some paperwork and is still a good deal for the district.

Nolte will also receive a 2.5 percent increase in salary, which matches that approved in the teacher contracts during their negotiations.

Moriarty complimented the committee and Nolte on the negotiations process, saying it went really well and the group members worked well together.

The board also approved a .6 FTE contract for Bonnie Wenthold to teach English. Wenthold had retired from her full-time position earlier this year, but is returning on a part-time basis with no benefits. "We are fortunate it worked out this way," Moriarty told the board. "This allowed us to keep the younger staff in their current positions."

In other personnel matters, the board approved the contract renewal with Jeremy Braun for speech and language services and accepted the resignation of Erica Lind, who had been serving as a paraprofessional in the special education department.

Preliminary budget approved

The board approved the preliminary budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year. Revenues were projected to be $3,631,785 and expenditures projected are $3,629, 673. General fund revenues are expected to be $3,022,112 with expenditures projected to be $3,031,787.

Moriarty noted there is about a $9,000 deficit in the general fund, but overall the budget has a positive projected fund balance.

He said last year's balance was $624,620 and this year's is $546,037. "We have a nice, healthy fund balance," Moriarty added. "We are still at 20 percent. The state recommends 8 percent."

The board also reviewed and approved the Health and Safety policies and budget, which needs to be done yearly even though it includes a three-year plan. The budget includes $51,485 for last year, $46,160 for this year and $48,970 for next year. There were no changes.

Lunch prices increase

The board approved a 10-cent increase to the cost of school breakfasts and lunches to work toward the Minnesota Department of Education's recommended meal price of $2.52.

The new prices will be $1.30 for breakfast; $2.05 for elementary students; $2.15 for high school students and $3.80 for an adult meal.

"It will take us a couple more years to catch up," Moriarty said. "This puts us in the ballpark with the other districts."

He also added that milk prices and prices for the snack cart will remain the same.

Principal's report

Nolte did not attend last week's school board meeting, however he did provide a report, which was shared by Moriarty.

Nolte asked the board to think about a few issues that he would like to discuss at the July board meeting. He explained that Mabel-Canton has had a closed campus lunch program since 2001. "It's working," Nolte said in his report, "but the seniors want some freedom to go up town during the day."

Moriarty explained that Nolte suggested a few options, including allowing the seniors an open campus one Friday a month. The privilege would also only be given to students in good academic standing.

The other item that Nolte would like the board to consider is to also allow the students to use their cell phones during the noon hour. Moriarty explained that the students are becoming more reliant on their cell phones to communicate with parents and employers. "We hope to channel it and allow them to use their phones during a time when it won't be disruptive to the other students."

Finally, Moriarty shared that Nolte had also congratulated the members of the Class of 2013 and thanked them for being good role models and leaders for the underclassmen. The class had a large percentage of students who were named as honor students, which is an accomplishment to be proud of.