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RE-1 moving forward with new John Mall Principal

by Gretchen Orr

WALSENBURG — After several applicant interviews, the RE-1 BOE on Monday completed their search for a new team captain to fill the principal’s role at John Mall High School… Gunnison ‘Gunny’ Pagnotta.

With over 25 years in the classroom as a teacher and coach, Pagnotta is currently enrolled in the principals licensure certification course at Adams State University, completion of which is a requisite of his hiring. Most recently, Pagnotta taught at Rye High School.

The selection committee brought forth their recommendation to hire Pagnotta with several teachers who served on the committee duly impressed with what he brings to the table.

The board accepted the staff resignation of Tanya Gatlin who is moving to Oklahoma and hired Sean Patrick as Language Arts teacher at the high school. Patrick returns to Walsenburg after spending several years teaching abroad and serving in the Peace Corps. Barbara Sandoval was hired as the Gardner School cook. The district still needs to fill seven teaching positions.

Two agenda items dealt with revising board policy. First, regarding the hiring of teachers who come to the district from other districts, policy GCFA deals with the portability of time served by Non-Probationary teachers and their ability to keep tenure. The second item dealt with the district’s ability to offer probationary contracts to alternative teachers who have not yet received their full certification on a 90 day basis to determine if it is a good fit for both teacher and district. This change came as a result of issues which arose last year.

The biggest discussion concerned the approval of the preliminary budget, with the district financial accountant reporting on the state of the district. Certain resolutions will be made to move revenues from one account to another to help balance the $6.147 million budget. The BOE reviewed the budget, which will be submitted to the Colorado Department of Education at the end of June. A few details need to be worked out, but in general, they are looking good.

A major budget item concerns benefits and salaries. This single line item represents over 79.7% of the budget, a percentage in line with many schools across the state. The budget also includes the $79,000 increase in base salaries and the step increase the BOE granted during the Huerfano Education Association negotiations held in April.

Projected revenues are close to $4.25 million, leaving a deficit of $1.87 million. Funds to alleviate the deficit are in reserve accounts already on the books and will be moved once appropriate resolutions are passed. The board clarified the district is not operating in a shortage or pulling additional funds from the general account, having done what was needed the past two years to compensate for decreases of state funding termed the “Negative Factor.” It was reported in the meeting the district has lost approximately $4,203,327 over a five year period, numbers also reported to the District Accountability Committee. The next DAC meeting will be June 21 at 3 pm at the district office.

There was a brief discussion concerning the proposed mill levy override initiative to be placed on the November ballot. The district will ask voters for a 3.5 mill increase over five years to fund educational needs within the district, including replacing educational materials, technology, and maintaining current educational programs, including those suspended because of prior budget cuts; preventative maintenance to the facilities and bus fleet, and attracting and retaining more highly qualified teachers and staff. There will be more discussion detailing this initiative in the coming months, it was announced.

One fact pointed out is the low cost of the tax increase. Property taxes on a home valued at $100,000 would only increase $25.64 per year, and only for five years. Also discussed was the District Strategic Plan, which is now in its infancy stage. The BOE will seek the input of teachers, community and staff in designing the plan.

In a final action, the BOE gave Superintendent Michael Moore a $5,000 per year raise, his first in the two years he has served the district.