Alex Apostle will begin collecting receipts and writing down his mileage on Wednesday.

At Apostle's own urging, the Missoula County Public Schools board of trustees Tuesday night approved a contract revision that will require the superintendent to track expenses related to his job to get reimbursed.

Meanwhile, Dave Severson, head of the teachers union announced "with regret" that he's leaving next month, and the vacant board trustee position was unofficially opened.

The contract modification eliminates the flat $1,000 per month Apostle was receiving in his new three-year contract, a particularly sore spot to critics of that contract, especially district employees.

The motion was made by trustee Drake Lemm, seconded by Scott Bixler and passed unanimously without discussion.

It was a rather prosaic event that came near the end of a sparsely populated board meeting in which there was plenty of cheer and praise for what Apostle called "the best opening of a school year in my 35 years (in education)."

Teachers, principals and administrators agreed about the success of the first two weeks of MCPS classes, saying things have run smoothly across the district.

Their testimony was preceded by the surprise announcement by Severson, the Missoula Education Association president. Severson, who has led a parade of fierce criticism against the school board for giving Apostle a substantial raise in a year in which the district's two unions agreed to a one-half of 1 percent base pay increase.

Severson has accepted a job with the MEA-MFT union as a field consultant based in Missoula and will serve his last day with the local union on Oct. 22. MEA-MFT represents school teachers and other union employees in Montana.

"It's been a great pleasure to work in this district for 26 years," said Severson, a longtime journalism teacher who became president of Missoula's union last year.

Janice Bishop, who currently serves as vice president under Severson, will take over as president next month.

Besides that surprise, things seemed back to business as usual Tuesday evening, in marked contrast to a summer of friction in the district, one that saw the resignation of one trustee and visceral anger hurled at the rest.

The board approved a motion to begin accepting applications for the open trustee seat vacated by Nancy Pickhardt, who resigned late last month. Interested residents who live within the MCPS elementary boundaries can go to the district Web site at www.mcps.k12.mt.us.

Applications are being accepted even though the position isn't officially "open" until it's advertised in the Sept. 19 Missoulian. The deadline for applying is Sept. 29. The trustees will interview finalists at a special Oct. 5 board meeting.

The board also introduced its new student trustees; a handful of high school students excelling in athletics and academics were introduced and made a jog around the room to shake hands with trustees, as is the custom; a business leader gave the board his views on the importance of the district's 21st Century Education initiative; a Hellgate student testified that the elimination of study hall for freshmen and sophomores is making his life difficult; and the Writing Coaches of Missoula group announced it has nearly doubled its number of volunteers to help tutor MCPS students.

And speaking of students, here's one more update that was shared: MCPS is home to 8,483 of them. That's the enrollment as of Sept. 7.

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at jkelly@missoulian.com.

 

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