Two area school districts are entering new territory with the decision to share business manager services.
The school districts of Weyauwega-Fremont and Manawa will begin sharing the service this spring after the W-F School Board voted 4-3 Monday, Jan. 24, in favor of such an agreement. The concept had already been approved by the Manawa School Board at its Dec. 20, 2010, meeting.
“I think we’re setting a new tone for rural school districts in the state of Wisconsin,” said Scott Bleck, who is the district administrator of the W-F School District.
Declining enrollments and tight budgets mean school districts need to be resourceful, and he sees not only rural school districts but districts throughout the state taking a look at what W-F and Manawa are doing in this sharing of services.
Manawa Superintendent Duane Braun agrees.
“We are on a learning curve with this venture,” he said. “No other district has done this, and there is no example to base it on. We are the example.”
Brian Adesso is currently the business manager in the Manawa School District, and under the agreement, he will split his time between the two school districts.
The agreement states that both districts agree to share the services of one business manager, and the position’s salary and benefit costs will be shared between the districts 50-50.
The term of agreement is March 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012, and the term may be extended if both districts are in agreement.
The W-F School District will pay the Manawa School District $23,615.21 for the period of March 1 through June 30 of this year and will then pay Manawa $70,845.63 for the period of July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012.
Manawa will be responsible for the payment of all salary and benefit costs, and will maintain appropriate workers’ compensation insurance, unemployment insurance and will be deemed the employer of Adesso.
Some members of the W-F School Board said they wanted more input in the negotiations between the two school districts.
Charles Burgess, Sandra Smith, Jim Stuebs and Randy Yorkson voted in favor of the agreement, while Tony Beyer, Dan Kohl and Neal Loehrke voted against it.
“I think his wages never were negotiated by this board. I think that’s wrong. I think when you’re hiring a service, you should have a say,” said Loehrke, who is the president of the W-F School Board.
Kohl said Adesso will be the highest paid business manager in the area. “The concept is good,” Kohl said, “but I wish we had had a little more input. I know we’re contracting for a service.”
Bleck said this agreement is the second one with Manawa and mimics what the two school districts already have in the sharing of a school nurse.
For the past several years, Holly Bauer has been the school nurse in both school districts.
Bleck said one of the reasons why the school district looked into sharing business services with Manawa was because his predecessor, F. James Harlan, had carried two hats.
Harlan was W-F’s district administrator and he also had business manager certification.
“Jim was able to do both,” Bleck said. “With the departure of Dr. Harlan, the district had to investigate ways to fill that void. The Manawa Board of Education and our board of education met to talk about whether it could happen.”
Those discussions took place last fall.
“I guess one of the driving forces,” Bleck said, “is having an individual in Brian that is very capable and in the economic times of being frugal, we saw the ability to share – to merge the business manager between the two districts.”
Bleck said another thing that brought the idea forward was the fact that Alice Prill, W-F’s director of accounting services, will be retiring. Her targeted retirement date is June 30, and her position will not be replaced.
“I’ve been really appreciative of the working relationship that the Manawa School Board and the administrative team have put forth. The collaboration will be a positive impact. The tentative start date will be March 1, so Brian can shadow time with Alice, so he can get up to speed here,” Bleck said.
Members of the W-F School Board said the district’s options are limited and this is the best decision to make now.
“He will be paid quite a bit,” Yorkson said, “but he will be covering two districts.”