Little Wolf High School principal Duane Braun is leaving the Manawa School District, effective Aug. 13, to take the job of superintendent of the Iola-Scandinavia School District.
In a special meeting, the Manawa School Board accepted Braun’s resignation. In his letter stating he was leaving the district to take the Iola job, Braun requested that the Manawa School Board “waive the necessary amount of service in order for me to fulfill the 55 age requirement for the early retirement benefit. I have dedicated 11 years of service to the district and would ask that this request be considered at this time. At the present time I have 35.5 days of vacation accumulated and 32 work days before I turn age 55.”
Braun’s vacation days consisted of 20 that he received as of July 1, with the rest carried over from previous years.
The matter of extending Braun’s vacation days so he meets the 55 age requirement for the early retirement benefit was first discussed at the Finance Committee meeting prior to the special school board meeting.
At the Finance Committee meeting, Ed Dombrowski, district administrator for Manawa, said that the early retirement benefit is in Braun’s contract. Dombrowski also informed the committee that he contacted the district’s lawyer and asked for guidance as to whether the board should extend the vacation time out to meet the early retirement benefit requirement.
In a letter from the district’s lawyer, it stated the benefit in the contract is as stated, “Early Retirement: Any Administrator who is at least 55 years of age and has at least 10 years of service to the district as an administrator, shall upon retirement, be eligible for the following benefits to the extent allowed by law or the carrier.”
In Braun’s case of 11 years of administrative experience in the district, his benefit would have been “six years of up to $1,000 per month for health, dental, long term care and life insurance premium paid.”
Six years, or 72 months, at $1,000 per month put the total early retirement package at $72,000.
In the letter from the district’s lawyer, it stated the board had three options.
The first option was to provide no early retirement benefits. Under this option the letter stated the board could require that Braun retire to receive early retirement benefits. It went on to state that since Braun “is not retiring from the district, but, rather, resigning from the district to accept employment with (another) district, the district could take the position that he is not eligible for early retirement benefits.”
Under this option the letter also stated since Braun is not 55 years of age as of his effective resignation date, he is not eligible for the early retirement benefits. Braun doesn’t turn 55 until Sept. 10, and his effective resignation date is Aug. 13.
The second option in the letter was to treat Braun’s resignation as a retirement and give him the early retirement benefits “equivalent to his administrative experience in the district as of September 10, 2012 (albeit he will not be with the district because he cannot be under contract with the district if he is working for the district his accrued vacation would permit the district to treat him as if he was employed as of September 10, 2012).
The third option was the same as the second option, except it would credit Braun with partial service for the 2012-2013 school year. This would up his early retirement benefit to seven years of $1,000 per month.
The letter also stated that the Manawa School District could negotiate with Braun regarding the level of early retirement benefit.
Ultimately, the letter went on to state that is was up to the school board to determine whether Braun is eligible for the early retirement benefits.
At the Finance Committee meeting, Board Treasurer, Paul Sturm said he expected more advice from the attorney. He also said he wanted to “make a fair recommendation and a fair decision.”
Dombrowski said this is a “unique case.” He also said it is against the law for someone to be under contract with two school districts at the same time.
Sturm asked if there was any precedent for a situation like this.
Dombrowski said he has seen situations like this in other school districts, but to his knowledge none in the Manawa School District.
The Finance Committee recommended that the board extend the vacations days to meet the 55 years old requirement for early retirement. During the special board meeting, the board voted unanimously to extend Braun’s vacation days to meet the 55 years old requirement for early retirement. Board member Rob Karski was not present.
Prior to the vote, Sturm thanked Braun for his service to the district. Braun also thanked the board for the “many years of employment.”