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Grand Forks School Board appoints EDC official as district's next business manager

Brandon Baumbach assumes the role on May 9, taking over for Scott Berge, who resigned earlier this year

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Brandon Baumbach, vice president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., has been hired as business manager for Grand Forks Public Schools. (Submitted photo)
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GRAND FORKS – The Grand Forks School Board on Monday approved the appointment of Brandon Baumbach as the next business manager for Grand Forks Public Schools.

Baumbach, vice president for business development for the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., will begin in his new role May 9 at an annual salary of $130,000.

He replaces Scott Berge , who resigned in February to accept a position with Altru Health System.

Baumbach, who has served as president of the Emerado (N.D.) School Board for the past seven years, earned a bachelor’s degree in global studies and a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Minnesota.

With the EDC, Baumbach’s “leadership role, which includes visioning and assisting upstart businesses, makes him a terrific fit within our organizational structure,” Superintendent Terry Brenner said.

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Baumbach was among five prospective candidates for the position. They were interviewed April 12 by a panel of a dozen district administrators.

While Baumbach does not hold an accounting degree, Brenner said his role as president of the Emerado School Board and the “deep dive homework he did in preparation to apply for this position demonstrate a commitment to understanding school finance from a local, state and national level.”

Brenner also has had “a front-row seat observing Mr. Baumbach present concise and articulate messaging to the EDC Board of Directors and the Grand Forks City Council,” he said.

Other large school districts in the state – including Bismarck, West Fargo and Mandan – employ a business manager without an accounting degree, Brenner said, and “all are pleased with the overall leadership of the business office.”

On Friday, April 22, school district officials interviewed six candidates for the position of accounting supervisor, who will report to Baumbach. The position has not been filled, but it is likely the person who accepts that position will have a background in accounting, said Linsey Stadstad, GFPS human resources director.

Youth Survey

The board, during Monday's meeting, also heard a report on data collected from about 1,350 students in grades 8, 9 and 11 concerning their use of alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and vaping products.

The anonymous survey, which netted a 70% response rate, is conducted every other year opposite the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Associate Superintendent Catherine Gillach told the board.

It is designed to provide district leaders with “consistent longitudinal data surrounding social pressure, adolescent behaviors, and resiliency factors surrounding the students we serve,” Gillach said.

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The data collected is used to implement programming and interventions at the district and building level as well as in collaboration with community partners who dually provide youth-based programming and services, she said.

Using the 2018 survey as a baseline, the data revealed that the percentage of students reporting having one or more drinks in the past 30 days dropped from 13.9 in 2018 to 9 in 2022, and the percentage of students reporting using marijuana one or more times in the past 30 days dropped from 8.7 to 5.9.

Other data showed a nearly 50% decline in the percentage of students reporting smoking all or part of a cigarette, in a certain time period, from 6.1% to 3.2%.

The survey also confirms that “parents’ influence is extremely strong” in affecting a student's choice to use or not use these products, Gillach said.

Resignations

The resignation of Geoffrey Gaukler, a long-time GFPS employee who has served as mental health coordinator for the school district for several years, was approved by the board at Monday’s meeting.

Other resignations approved by the board were tendered by Tawni Murphy, special education teacher at South Middle School; Taylar Sundin, speech-language pathologist, Lewis and Clark Elementary School and the district’s Special Education Program; and Amanda Weston Caillier, school counselor, Phoenix Elementary School.

All the resignations are effective June 3.

In other action, the School Board:

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  • Corrected an error in the salary for the newly appointed associate principal of Red River High School, Jay Hepperle, that was approved at the board’s April 11. The corrected salary is $114,427, plus a school factor of $2,000, for the 2022-23 school year. 
  • Approved the appointments of Kendra Hart, as an early childhood special education teacher, at an annual salary of $42,977; Chloe McCarthy, grade 6 biology teacher at Valley Middle School, $42,977; Jacob Schauer, grade 6 teacher at Valley Middle School, $49,360; and Houston Wallace, social science teacher at Valley Middle School, $47,765.
  • Granted leaves of absence for the 2022-23 school year to Lisa Berglund, a second-grade teacher, and Emily Thompson, a dyslexia intervention strategist, both at Ben Franklin Elementary School, and a family care leave to Abigail Goldenstein, speech-language pathologist at Phoenix Elementary School  
  • Voted to authorize Superintendent Brenner and School Board President Eric Lunn to sign documents that cannot wait until the new business manager, Baumbach, begins his job May 9. This action is in accordance with advice from the district’s legal counsel, Brenner said in a memo to the board.     
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Related Topics: GRAND FORKS SCHOOL BOARD
Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at pknudson@gfherald.com or (701) 780-1107.
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