Board choses Michigan Leadership Institute for superintendent search

LEROY — In a unanimous vote during an Oct. 14 meeting, the Pine River Area Schools Board of Education chose to allow the Michigan Leadership Institute to begin searching for potential superintendent candidates.

Current superintendent Jim Ganger announced his plan to retire following the completion of the 2013-14 school year, and the board reviewed a proposal from MLI and the Michigan Association of School Boards before making the decision.

MASB offered its services for a price of $6,700 plus expenses that include items such as mileage reimbursement and hotel fees, while Michigan Leadership Institute quoted a flat price of $5,500 and the promise to help the district with the search again free of charge if the new superintendent fails or leaves on his own accord within the first year of his position.

Board members discussed both proposals and their similarities and agreed they were more comfortable and confident with the MLI proposal. The search is expected to take about four months.

In other business, board members approved transferring all business services to the Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District for three years.

A number of districts, including Marion and Lake City, use the WMISD for services including accounts payable, payroll, workers’ comp audits and more. The cost to transfer all services is $15,000, while transferring partial services would have cost about $7,500. Due to the change, the district is expected to save nearly $100,000 each year.

Ganger also discussed a concern regarding the retaining of substitute bus drivers for the district. Recruiting attempts have been unsuccessful, and after surveying other local school districts, he discovered sub drivers make an average of $13.73 per hour. Substitute drivers for Pine River receive $12 per hour. Ganger said he would like the board to consider raising the wage to at least the average pay and continue to not offer benefits. This way, the district has a competing offer for drivers.

Board member Ron Schalow, who is also the executive director for the Mecosta Osceola Transit Authority, said he has the same issue with his part-time employees because drivers will compare company wages. It is better to pay additional wages to a quality driver than to lose the driver, who is a trusted person within the school district. If there are not enough drivers for the district, it can lead to potentially expensive issues, he added.

A vote on a potential wage increase for substitute bus drivers is expected to take place at the next Pine River Area Schools Board of Education meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 11, in the high school/middle school media center.