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The new year brings new challenges for Ely school district

Resigning superintendent, recovering board chair, relocating board member

Keith Vandervort
Posted 1/12/22

ELY - A veteran Iron Range school administrator is next in line to lead the Ely School District following the abrupt resignation announcement last month of the superintendent.Meanwhile, school board …

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The new year brings new challenges for Ely school district

Resigning superintendent, recovering board chair, relocating board member


ELY - A veteran Iron Range school administrator is next in line to lead the Ely School District following the abrupt resignation announcement last month of the superintendent.
Meanwhile, school board chair Ray Marsnik faces an extended recovery following multiple injuries sustained in a pre-New Year’s car crash.
And a school board member is leaving the district this spring, triggering a process to appoint a replacement.
Ely School board members interviewed John Klarich on Dec. 23 for the district’s soon-to-be-vacant part-time superintendent position, and voted that day to offer the interim part-time position to him pending contract negotiations.
Klarich, who is now retired, was a superintendent in both the Mt. Iron-Buhl and Nashwauk-Keewatin school districts before retiring. A Buhl native, Klarich is currently mayor of his hometown. He was one of two finalists for Ely’s superintendent position in 2019, the job that ultimately went to current superintendent Erik Erie.
Erie announced last month that he would resign on Jan. 30. The sudden move came several months after Erie signed a new two-year contract. Erie was a former principal at Mesabi East High School and came out of retirement in 2019 to take the part-time superintendent position in Ely, replacing Kevin Abrahamson. Erie cited health concerns for his unexpected resignation.
School Board Clerk Rochelle Sjoberg is filling in as leader of the school board while Marsnik recovers and rehabilitates following a two-vehicle head-on collision on Highway 169 outside of Ely on Dec. 30. Marsnik’s wife, Patricia, died in the crash.
Sjoberg said she has talked multiple times with Marsnik since the crash and is “impressed with his positive spirit” as he recovers. “He acknowledged all the cards and phone calls he received by many in the community and appreciates everybody’s support in this extremely difficult time,” she said.
At the beginning of the school board meeting Monday night, Sjoberg asked for a moment of silence for Ray’s wife, Pat, and family.
“This is going to be a really long process for everybody. Pat was a very kind and compassionate individual, and she had a laugh that was very, very contagious that I, for one, will very much miss,” she said.
School board members approved a six-month contract for the interim superintendent, to run Jan. 31-Aug 30, that will pay Klarich $26,500 for at least 73 days of duty as the lead administrator for ISD 696. He will receive pay for one holiday, July 4, and life insurance, but will not receive health insurance benefits.
Sjoberg indicated that she had a “good dialogue” with Klarich in negotiating the contract. “Everything in here was per a lot of his requirements. He is excited to start with Ely and he has a transitional plan he is processing,” she said.
Klarich requested that each school board member consider their top three priorities to forward to him.
“John indicated that he will be reaching out to the principals for feedback and input, as well as facilities and other areas,” Sjoberg said. “With the contract approval we will now roll out the transition plan.”
Board member Darren Visser and his family are planning to purchase a new residence outside of the school district, but in the area, and he will no longer be eligible to serve on the board.
In comments Monday night, he said his daughters will continue to attend Ely school through open enrollment.
“I strongly believe in Ely schools and what they have done,” Visser said.
He did not reveal a timeline of when he will be leaving the school board.
“I have been in correspondence with Ray (Marsnik) from the get-go on this and looking into what we need to do as a board for replacing my position. At a certain time, I will not be able to serve in this position. We are looking at the process and want to make sure we do it correctly,” he said.
Sjoberg added, “We will work though the parameters of what all is required. We want to have a transition plan in place before Darren leaves the district.”
Project update
School board members approved awarding the qualified bidders for the remaining portions of Bid Package Three in the $20 million school building and renovation project.
The scope of work in the package, totaling $190,150, includes some rough carpentry and demolition work, steel erection, drywall, and ceiling and acoustical tile work.
A large portion of the bid package, namely the window replacements in the existing buildings, was removed from the work scope as the project faces a budget shortfall. The window replacement work will likely be completed and funded through the school’s long-term facilities maintenance budget
Project officials last month recommended approving about $2.6 million in bids, instead of the $3.6 million received, and to reconsider priorities. Several work scopes of Bid Package Three, including fire suppression, mechanical and building controls, and electrical work, have been contracted.
Officials from Kraus Anderson and Architectural Resources Inc. continue to work with school officials to re-establish priorities to complete most of the work slated for the fourth bid package that will go to contractors as early as February.
Todd Erickson, senior project engineer of Kraus Anderson, told school board members that the 16-month renovation and building project is 50-percent complete, with an eye on completion in September and the first day of the 2022-23 school year.
“Roofers were on the roof last week and this week,” he said. “They have to first remove snow and ice from the deck and put down a water and vapor barrier, then insulation, then cover it with rubber. It is pretty difficult on these cold, windy days, but they take that into consideration as they plan their work.”
Concrete was poured on the floor of the wood shop last week, according to Erickson. Underground plumbing work in the new kitchen and restroom facilities continued this week.
“We will be pouring the new floor in the near future,” he said. The concrete floor in the metals shop was scheduled to be poured late this week.
The priorities of the fourth bid package, the boys and girls locker rooms, the special education area, and the high school building doors and hardware will be budgeted and bids prepared for release in February, Erickson said.
Other business
In other business, the board:
• Elected board officers, Marsnik as chair, Sjoberg as clerk and Tom Omerza as treasurer.
• Heard a presentation from the school district’s auditor, Walker, Giroux and Hahne, and accepted the FY 2021 audit as presented.
• Approved a revised Ely Public School Safe Learning Plan, and Minnesota School Board Association Policy 491 regarding COVID-19 vaccination and testing emergency temporary standards.
• Designated Boundary Waters Bank, U.S. Bank, Minnesota School Liquid Asset Fund and PMA Financial Network as district financial institutions.
• Designated Spencer Aune, finance manager, and Jordan Huntbatch, payroll, benefits and finance coordinator, as district staff to conduct electronic fund transfers.
• Designated Klun Law Firm as district legal counsel for 2022, and the superintendent and school board chair as individuals to contact legal counsel, at $120 per hour rate.
• Designated the Ely Echo, the only quote received, as the district’s official newspaper.
• Approved 2022 IRS standard mileage rate reimbursement, 58.5 cents per mile, for school district travel during 2022.
• Established school board compensation levels for 2022 at $208 per meeting, plus $30,000 life insurance for directors, $268 per month plus $30,000 life insurance for the board chair, and an additional $60 per board member for the monthly study session.
• Accepted the resignation of John Meyer from his fourth-grade teaching position effective June 3, and Stephen Holthous from his paraprofessional position effective Dec. 22, 2021.
• Approved a request from K-12 art teacher Kelly Chick for medical leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act from Feb. 4-May 4.


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