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New GFW Supt. reveals staffing plans

Horton

Special meeting July 5 in Gibbon

By Fritz Busch

Staff Writer

GIBBON — New Gibbon Fairfax Winthrop (GFW) Schools Superintendent Jeff Horton of Duluth hit the ground running Wednesday, revealing his administrative staffing plans at a special board meeting in the Gibbon Primary School gym.

“I’m very excited to be here. I’ve been talking to the superintendent, school board and other local leaders on how we can serve everybody,” Horton said. “Classroom teachers have the biggest impact on students. A strong administrator is a coach that develops great policies for students to do great things. Leaders are multipliers.”

Horton showed a projected Fiscal Year 2020-2021 administrative staffing plan that would cost the district $345,822 and would allow it to operate at $70,759 under the current statutory operating debt (SOD) plan.

Talking with media members after the board meeting, Horton said the administrative savings could be realized by reducing the junior/senior high principal position from a 12-month position to 208 days, and by using a state literacy grant to help free up other district general funds.

The details of his plan for the coming school year include utilizing three administrators instead of four, including a superintendent, two principals and a coordinator, which he said cost the school district $531,117 in FY 2019.

Horton said last school year, three administrators, a superintendent and two principals, cost the district $443,965 in administrative costs.

“I compared GFW administrative costs with six comparable districts and found they are below average,” Horton said.

With the recent resignation of GFW Junior/Senior High School Principal Justin Johnson, Horton has to work quickly to fill the position.

“I plan to build a principal profile, create a hiring committee, post the position, keep it open two or three weeks, and hold two rounds of interviews,” Horton said. He will do some principal duties if his plan moves forward.

“I will do some extra things to support the positions,” Horton added. “In July, I’ll develop a district flow chart so it’s very clear about the positions. It’s a team approach for the district.”

“I want to make sure our budget is sustainable. I need to really analyze it,” Horton added.

Horton said he plans to create a 100-day plan for the school district.

“This is a challenging time with COVID-19, an operating levy and budget work,” Horton said. “We have to be thoughtful and understanding.”

Last month, the board unanimously approved holding a $2.5 million operating levy election on Tuesday, Aug. 11 (Primary Election Day). The 10-year operating levy hike would be $1,406 per pupil unit.

If approved, the levy would boost annual property taxes on a home valued at $100,000 in the school district by $200 a year ($16.67 a month, starting with 2021 property taxes.

The levy would help the school district climb out of statutory operating debt, defined as a year-end net negative unreserved general fund balance exceeding more than 2.5% of unreserved/undesignated operating expenses.

Horton said he would like to see the sale of the former GFW Intermediate school building in Fairfax be pushed back to Friday, Oct. 2.

Another special board meeting was set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 6, in the Gibbon gym.

Fritz Busch can be emailed at fbusch@nujournal.com.

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