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Cass to renegotiate with Francisco

Published 7:38pm Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Cassopolis Board of Education voted unanimously to not renew the contract of Ross Beatty High School Assistant Principal Hiwawatha Francisco Monday night at its regular meeting.

The board originally voted March 25 to consider not renewing his contract. Since that time, multiple students and community members have spoken on his behalf.

Monday night three more people spoke before the board and Tony Pompey presented 30 signatures on a petition, consisting mainly of Cassopolis elders, who asked they reconsider their position.

Francisco was originally informed that the board was thinking about not renewing his contract because of deadlines established by administrative contracts. The same was true of the vote Monday night to officially not renew his contract.

According to Cassopolis Superintendent Tracy Hertsel, that does not mean Francisco will be let go by the district. In fact, Hertsel and Francisco have already begun discussions on a new contract for the popular administrator.

“It will be renegotiated,” Hertsel said following the meeting. “It was just that we could not with this contract in place that we had to non-renew at this point and we will be looking at a concession package that he will remain an employee here. I have been in discussion with him already about it.”

Francisco had no comment about the contract situation.

The board also approved by a 5-2 vote to hire the Dowagiac firm of Accounting Consultants P.C. to handle the district’s finances.

Voting in favor of the decision were John Bright, Lori Whitmyer, Janet Hall, Scott Ward and Jason Pompey. George Calvert and Sue Horstmann voted against it.

Calvert, who was vocal about the decision to not renew current financial director Tricia Gaideski, was again vocal Monday night.

Calvert questioned if the district’s accounting could be handled in just 20 hours. He thinks that it will take much more time than that and that the savings would be minimal at best.

He also fears that it could take a great deal more time and even called the action a potential “budget buster.”

The board voted to take bids on a new sign and bleachers for Sam Adams Elementary. The district still has $61,000 left over from the original bond issue for improvements to Sam Adams and must spend the money before the end of June or lost it to the state.

The board also approved joining the new Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph County Conference, which is currently being formed.

The new lead would replace the Lakeland Conference, which Cassopolis is currently a member. The other three Lakeland schools — Bridgman, Brandywine and Buchanan — would join with the St. Joe Valley teams — Bronson, Centreville, Mendon and White Pigeon — along with current Red Arrow Members New Buffalo and Lake Michigan Catholic to for a 10-team league.

The league has set a target of the 2014-15 school year.

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