Superintendent pours cold water on closing Bess Maxwell

By Triplicate Staff May 13, 2013 05:16 pm

The Del Norte County Unified School District discussed the following issues Thursday:

• School closure: The subject of potentially closing Bess Maxwell Elementary School will appear before the board at its May 21 meeting, but Superintendent Don Olson said he will recommend that the item be tabled. 

“I recommend that at this time we do not proceed with the recommendation to close Bess Maxwell School,” he said, adding that school district staff will search for other ways to increase revenue. “I don’t believe it’s in the community’s best interest.”

Olson said he met with more than 50 representatives of the Hmong community, which has a strong presence at the school, who had concerns and suggestions over the use of the word “segregation” on a list of arguments for and against closing Bess Maxwell.

“It was never our intention to desegregate the Hmong students,” Olson said. “I assured them that I didn’t believe the board will close the school.”

• Retired employees: In response to a new state law that took effect in January, the school board unanimously approved three resolutions that would enable an employee to continue to work for the district despite being newly retired.

Assembly Bill 340, the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013, requires newly-retired employees to wait 180 days before coming back to work, said Human Resources Director Pamela Holloway. But there is a provision in the new law that allows a retired employee to work within that 180-day window if it serves a critical need and is approved by the County Office of Education Board of Trustees.

Three employees will be retiring by the end of June, including Deputy Superintendent Rodney Jahn, Food Services Director Judy Wangerin and Transportation Director Patricia Jensen, Holloway said. Despite their retirement, those three employees may need to stay on to help train their successors, she said.

The cost to the district may vary depending on need, according to Holloway’s staff report. Jahn will earn $63.43 per hour. Jensen will earn $39.33 per hour and Wangerin will earn $35.83 per hour, according to the report.

• Meeting date changed: The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. May 21 instead of May 23. For more information on meeting agendas visit www.delnorte.k12.ca.us.