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Grand Forks School Board extends Brenner's contract, bumps pay for elementary school admins

Terry Brenner succeeded Larry Nybladh as superintendent of Grand Forks Public Schools on July 1, 2018. (Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

The Grand Forks School Board on Tuesday voted to extend Superintendent Terry Brenner's contract to 2022.

The move comes about a year into Brenner's tenure on the job. In February 2018, the board chose him as superintendent.

His original contract was slated to run through June 30, 2021. He'll earn an annual salary of $195,000, in addition to benefits, according to School Board documents. His compensation package includes 25 vacation days and 65 sick days.

At Brenner's request, his salary will remain frozen over the next three years. Board member Chris Douthit said he "respectfully" disagreed with that decision.

"With the work that you're taking on, the leadership that you provide, the number of people that are under your guise, I would certainly hope in the not-so-distant future we would look at" potential pay increases, Douthit told Brenner at the meeting.

Though the contract won't expire until 2022, Brenner still could be let go if the School Board wanted, according to member Shannon Mikula.

"At any point, if there's adequate cause for termination, you can terminate the contract," she said.

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously approved new administrative leadership positions at the district's four largest elementary schools.

The board's decision establishes associate principal positions to replace "building resource coordinators" at Discovery, Kelly, Century and Lake Agassiz elementary schools.

The schools' current building resource coordinators won't automatically be promoted to associate principals. Notice of the new positions will be posted publicly, and those interested — including current staff — will need to go through the regular application process, Brenner said.

The associate principals would get an annual salary in the $79,000 to $101,000 range. The current building resource coordinators make around $65,000 a year.

Douthit said the pay bump for the positions was "long overdue" given the coordinators' increasing responsibilities.

"The responsibilities when you're doing the administrative work can be very challenging, and I believe this is something that has been more than deserved for some time, so I absolutely, 100 percent concur with them becoming associate principals," said Douthit, who previously served as associate principal of Red River High School.

The new roles also mirror the leadership model at Grand Forks' middle and high schools, Brenner said.

In other local education news, the School Board also heard a presentation from Valley Middle School Principal Todd Selk about an elective course redesign.

"The goal was to increase choice for the students, increase relevance for the students in their course choices," said Catherine Gillach, assistant superintendent of secondary education.

The School Board approved the redesign last year, she noted.

Selk told board members that local middle schools now offer a range of new coursework, including classes on unmanned aerial systems, computer apps and animation. Not all the courses are available at each middle school, Selk noted.

A recent survey administered by the district found that 80 percent of eighth grade students reported satisfaction with the new courses, Selk said.

Dan Niepow

Niepow covers social and community issues for the Grand Forks Herald. Before joining the paper, he worked as a magazine writer and editor. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he currently resides over the river in East Grand Forks, Minn. To reach Niepow with story ideas, send him an email at dniepow@gfherald.com or call him at (701) 780-1110. Follow him on Twitter @dniep.

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