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School board adjusts in wake of election results

The Dickinson Public School Board bid farewell to outgoing board member of six years Tanya Rude as well as faced the aftermath of losing a ballot measure to increase the mill levy cap for building construction in the June 12 election. For Rude, i...

The Dickinson Public School Board bid farewell to outgoing board member of six years Tanya Rude as well as faced the aftermath of losing a ballot measure to increase the mill levy cap for building construction in the June 12 election.

For Rude, it was an emotional farewell.

"The things I'm going to miss the most are the people," she said. "This board, all of the employees, the kids and everybody in the community, so ... thank you."

School Board President Brent Seaks offered a statement on behalf of the board thanking Rude for her service.

"I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of Dickinson Public Schools for your service, for your passion," Seaks said. "I'm always especially grateful for your willingness to help out whenever and however was needed. You couldn't have had a better attitude."

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Rude took some time during her farewell address, which came towards the end of Monday night's meeting, to give some practical advice to the board, particularly in regards to the next steps following the failed ballot measure put forward to increase the mill levy cap for the building fund from 10 mills to 20.

"When you guys are going to start going to a bond ... you should probably lump Heart River with it and present to the public that way so you can get a good financial backing for both projects," she said. "The time we've spent this spring is nothing compared to what it's going to take to get a bond passed. Just be prepared for that. I'm glad I don't have to do that."

On the subject of the mill levy cap increase measure, Board President Brent Seaks and Kim Schwartz gave comment following the meeting.

"To me this was a litmus test. We put it out there we found that the vote was about 35 percent yes, the rest no," Seaks said. "I think there's two parts to that. Part of that is, I truly believe, it is difficult to understand what (the mill levy cap increase) means and why we're doing it ... I think a lot of times it makes great sense that if you can link something like that ... to a specific project, people can see the need."

"I agree with President Seaks," Schwartz said. "It's nice to know the work ahead of us that we need to do for the future. We're excited for the direction Dickinson Public Schools is taking and we're ready to dig in and do what is necessary."

Seaks said that the board could revisit the issue, possibly as early as November-he expressed confidence that should the public see a specific project linked to the mill capacity increase, they'd better understand why it would be valuable for the district to have.

"With respects specific to the mill levy for this building fund, that was never directly linked, like those funds only go towards a new high school renovation, they were funds used for all kinds of things," Seaks said. "Once the district decides 'yes, this is what our phase one is going to be in regards to the high school' and the district decides what the growth of the elementary is ... whenever those plans are solidified then I think the people of Dickinson will see some real specifics."

Following the meeting was the swearing in of the victors of this year's June election-newcomer Michelle Orton and incumbents Jason Rodakowski and Schwartz.

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In Rodakowski's case, he had announced prior to the election that he did not want to continue on with the school board, but once his name was on the ballot he said he was legally obligated to accept the voters' decision.

"There's no such thing as it going to the next person. Basically the only choice is to take it and then resign," he said.

When asked whether he intended to resign, he simply said "I have not chosen to resign as of right now."

The Board also confirmed the hiring of a new assistant superintendent, Keith Harris. Harris hails from Wyoming, having in fact worked in the same school district as incoming superintendent Dr. Shon Hocker, Schwartz, a member of the hiring committee, said.

"They worked together in the Bighorn School District #1," she said. "It was serendipity that he applied. Nothing behind the scenes, Dr. Hocker was not on the selection committee for the candidates being interviewed."

The position of assistant superintendent has existed before, but without a set job description, Seaks said. The board passed a motion that established that job description and named additional responsibilities, such as being Human Resource Director. The position carries a salary of $149,291 annually. Seaks said the board was willing to go without a new assistant super should they not have found the ideal candidate.

"We are very fortunate to have him on board ... we felt like if we didn't have the right candidate or it wasn't a good fit, we'd have to go through without that position," Seaks said. "It's much better to go into the new school year with the pieces in place you want in place."

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