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Decisions on leasing Prescott School to a private school and settling principal salaries must wait until Missoula County Public Schools trustees recover some missing pieces.

The school board appeared ready to grant a three-year lease extension to the Missoula International School for the Prescott building at its Tuesday meeting, but had to postpone the matter for lack of a quorum. And a contract for MCPS building administrators was tabled after a majority of the board members present agreed salary discussions needed more time.

While eight of the 11 trustees were present, the Prescott decision stalled because two members recused themselves from voting. Board Chairwoman Toni Rehbein and Trustee Adam Duerk said their previous association with MIS prompted them to stay out of the decision. But with trustees Jenda Hemphill and Kelley Hirning absent, that left three of the seven-member elementary district board available to vote. The four high school district trustees don't have a vote on elementary district issues.

MIS operates a private Spanish-language immersion program in the former Rattlesnake Valley elementary school. Its board has requested a lease extension. However, MCPS is in the process of appraising the building and is waiting for that value to be determined before it sets a lease fee. So a decision Tuesday night wouldn't have settled the matter anyway.

Nevertheless, several people advised the school board not to go forward. Ross Best and former trustee Carol Bellin asked why MCPS would essentially lock potential buyers out of the market by allowing MIS a three-year exclusive period to get its own bid in order.

On the administrator contract, nearly every principal and dean in the school district quietly made their dissatisfaction known to the trustees. The administrators don't have a union, and instead use a "meet and confer" process with Superintendent Jim Clark to work out their employment changes.

Group leader Mark Thane, principal of Chief Charlo Elementary School, told the trustees that the talks had not reached a consensus and they'd like more time to work with the superintendent. Clark responded that he had made his recommendation of a one-year contract with a

3 percent salary increase without waiting for the consensus.

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The comments left several trustees concerned about how they should react to the limited information they had. Thane and other administrators declined to say what they disagreed with in Clark's recommendation, but asked for a chance to make their case at a different meeting.

Trustee Scott Bixler pointed out that the school board wasn't in a position to negotiate or even referee negotiations. But a majority of the members opted to delay the salary decision and get more information later this month.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

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