Written by The Herald-News Saturday, 19 May 2012 13:29
Following interviews with three candidates on Monday, May 14, the Frontier School board voted unanimously Monday night to hire an alum of the school as its new dean of students.
The school board voted 4-0 to hire Jeffrey Whitmus of Havre as dean of students, with a salary of $45,000.
Whitmus will be offered a one-year contract to assume day-to-day management of the school.
In addition to performing dean of students’ duties, Whitmus will also serve as the school maintenance and transportation supervisor upon the resignation of current dean of students Wes Young.
Superintendent Christine Eggar said a contract will be offered to Whitmus.
Contacted Tuesday, Whitmus said he would accept the contract and that he looked forward to the job.
“Yes, I’m going to accept the position and I’m excited to start,” said Whitmus, who is 40 years old.
The school board also approved paying Whitmus before his official start date of Aug. 1 to work with Young to learn the ropes of the position.
School board chairman Brandon Babb later thanked Young for his service.
“Thanks again for your dedication and vision that you brought to this school,” Babb said to Young.
A committee comprised of Eggar, Babb, a teacher and a paraprofessional interviewed three finalists May 14 for the dean of students’ position.
Eggar said the committee voted unanimously to recommend the hiring of Whitmus, an agricultural research manager at Montana State University - Northern in Havre.
Whitmus is originally from Wolf Point and graduated from eighth-grade at Frontier Elementary School in 1986 before graduating from Wolf Point High School in 1990.
The other two finalists interviewed for dean of students were Lacey Dickinson of Scobey and Tiana Smoker of Wolf Point.
Eggar explained that the interview process began by selecting the top candidates based on a rubric scale, without knowing the identities of the various applicants.
“I thought that it was very professional and a lot of the right questions were asked,” said Babb, a member of the interview committee.
School board member Glenn Strader asked if the selected candidate needed certification.
Eggar said the dean of students position did not require a principal’s certification or teaching license. She added that Whitmus has both a bachelor and master degrees, although not in education.
Eggar said the job description of dean of students is to run day-to-day operations at the school, assist with students and answer questions from staff members.
“He had a lot of experience dealing with people,” Babb said, while conceding that Whitmus lacked experience in the educational field.
Eggar said none of those interviewed had experience as a principal or dean of students.
Babb was asked if he were comfortable hiring a dean of students without education experience.
“We had 12 applicants that we looked at really hard,” Babb said. “That led us to about five or six, which we whittled down to three. Yeah, I’m comfortable with that.”
Eggar said if school board members wished, they could re-open the application process. None of the four school board members present at the May 14 meeting said they wished to do so.
Eggar, who is certified as both a principal and superintendent, said her and Whitmus’ strengths complement each other well. She said she could train Whitmus in educational areas, while Whitmus has experience in other areas, such as maintenance and management.
“The area of weakness is my area of strength,” Eggar said.
“His weakness is our strength — school teachers,” Babb said.
School board member Shelly Hafner then motioned to hire Whitmus as dean of students and maintenance and transportation supervisor, and the motion passed unanimously.
After approving Whitmus’ hire, the school board took up what salary to offer him for a 10-month contract beginning Aug. 1.
Eggar noted she had advertised the position with an annual salary of $42,000, based on experience.
She said based on Whitmus’ education and management experience, she suggested a salary of between $48,000 and $50,000.
“I would not want to lose him to a job somewhere,” Eggar said, adding administrators at Wolf Point schools start at about $50,000. “We will only do a one-year contract the first year out.”
Babb said the job responsibilities included the possibility of being asked to drive a bus for a month.
Eggar said Whitmus would first have to obtain a commercial driver’s license.
“Do you think this guy would walk away if we offered $42,000 the first year?” asked school board member Dave Kirkaldie.
Eggar said she did not know.
Babb then recommended offering Whitmus a salary of $48,000, while Kirkaldie suggested a salary of $45,000.
Hafner noted Whitmus had applied for the job that was advertised with an annual salary of $42,000. She said he should be pleased with an offer of $45,000.
Kirkaldie then motioned to offer a $45,000 salary, and the motion passed unanimously. Whitmus will also be offered health insurance, sick leave and vacation pay, Eggar said.
Prior to Monday’s regular monthly meeting, Babb and Strader took their oaths of office as newly elected school board members.
Babb and Strader, who were unopposed in May school races, were re-elected by acclamation.
Babb and Strader were both re-elected to a second three-year term. Babb had fulfilled a portion of a prior term before winning election three years ago.
Strader motioned for Babb as board chairman, and the motion passed unanimously. Babb has been the school board’s chairman for several years.
Hafner then motioned to nominate Kirkaldie as vice chair, and the motion passed unanimously.
Hafner then motioned to reappoint Ann Landsrud as the school board’s clerk. That motion also passed unanimously.
Following reorganization, the school board held its regular monthly meeting.
The school board approved 25-cent per hour across-the-board pay raises for all classified staffers. The school board also approved a $500 pay raise for office manager Gloria Sande and a $400 pay raise for school counselor Dave Riggin.
The school board unanimously approved renewing the contracts for nine classified staffers for the 2012-13 school year and also the certified contract of teacher Bridget Drummond.
The school board also approved hiring Renee Goodman as a full-time substitute teacher, hiring Mecaila Martin as a summer maintenance employee and re-hiring Cam Martin as head girls’ basketball coach, Jed Loucks as head boys’ basketball coach and Louise Petersen as head girls’ volleyball coach.
The school board also approved two policy revisions and a multi-district agreement with Lustre Elementary School District No. 23.
The personnel policy revision further defines how teachers and staff members may obtain up to a $500 educational aid grant per semester for completing educational endorsements requested by the school district.
“I think it’s a good idea,” Babb said.
The school board also approved a policy amendment related to travel allowances and expenses. The amendment states school district employees and board members traveling outside the school district on official business should keep meal reimbursements within state guidelines, and utilize meals provided at conferences in lieu of meal reimbursements.
The multi-district agreement with Lustre provides that the two school districts may share the results of staff background checks and investigations and jointly participate in pupil-instruction related days.
Eggar said the agreement with Lustre is only for one year.
“There’s no commitment here to do anything other than talk,” she said.
The school board also approved two minor student handbook revisions.
The school board approved hiring accountant Ross Stalcup of Ashland to perform the school district’s audits.
Stalcup proposed performing the school district’s audit for the 2010-11 school year at a cost of $15,500.
Eggar said Stalcup’s quote was $3,500 less than the proposed cost from an auditing firm.