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School board OKs contract
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New contract

Here are positions

covered by the board's new contract with exempt staff:

- Cindy Rupnow -BOE/District Administrative Executive Assistant: $46,245

- Eric Ekum - Director of Food Services: $52,019

- Julie Frie - Director of Business Services: $54,325

- Tom Rufenacht - Director of Buildings and Grounds/Safety and Security: $70,227

- Lori Soderberg - District School Nurse: $49,938

- Cathy Timm - Director, Human Resources /Curriculum Assistant: $46,245

- Heidi Witt - Director of Audio-Visual Services: $47,597

MONROE - The Monroe School Board recently agreed to a new contract with its exempt staff that calls for them to pay half, or 6 percent, of their salaries, to the Wisconsin Retirement System.

Those contributions are similar to concessions sought by the district from its teachers in contract negotiations last spring, officials said.

"Take home pay for these individuals will be going backward," said District Superintendent Larry Brown, at the board's meeting on July 25.

The highest salary of the those covered in the contract - $70,227 annually - is paid to District Building and Grounds Supervisor Tom Rufenacht. In a response to a question about Rufenacht's salary from the board's Michael Boehme, Brown said Rufenacht's pay rate reflects his long tenure in the district.

"He's worked himself to that level," Brown said, adding that he was unsure of the exact date Rufenacht started in Monroe.

However, board member Larry Eakins said Rufenacht has been on the job at least as long as the 25 years that he's served on the school board.

As a result of the contract, approved by unanimous vote, the district will budget $638,785 for salaries and benefits for those administrative posts, only a slight increase from the $631,834 spent last year.

The concessions by teachers, meanwhile, were enabled by passage of Gov. Scott Walker's budget law, which restricted the collective bargaining rights of public employees across the state. They agreed to a two-year contract extension and agreed to pay half of their retirement system costs last March.

In another matter, the board was briefed Monday on the status of combining the district's virtual school with its alternative charter school.

The Monroe Virtual School is being moved into the charter school building, located in a former strip mall near Monroe Middle School. The charter school currently has about 40 high school students enrolled, while the virtual school had just under 300 enrolled last year. Virtual school students study online from remote locations around the state.

Brown also named Monroe Middle School assistant principal Melissa Wiegel to lead the combined schools.

"There is no question who will be the educational leader in that facility anymore," Brown said.

Wiegel will continue to work closely with Cory Hirsbrunner, the district's director of curriculum and instruction, but the change will free more of Hirsbrunner's time to work on curriculum initiatives for the high school, according to Brown. Last February, Brown said the district could save just under $10,000 in heating and other costs by closing the portable classrooms at Northside that housed virtual school offices and moving the virtual school. The classrooms will be now be used for storage.

The new virtual school is being transformed into a blended learning lab, officials have said, and students will be given the opportunity to meet, in person, with teachers in subject areas where they may need help. Hirsbrunner also has said some virtual school teachers will work with charter school students.

Renovations to the combined facility are progressing, said Brown.

"It certainly is a viable educational facility now," he said. "We've got a good start."