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Board approves contract that was previously denied

By Karen Colbenson

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

A teaching contract originally denied with a 5-1 vote during the Austin Public School Board meeting Monday was reconsidered and unanimously approved this morning by the board.

The contract, one of many that was listed on the personnel agenda for the board’s consideration Monday, was for Tisha Simonson, daughter of board member Dave Simonson.

District policy states that because the contract was for the relative of a board member, a unanimous vote was needed to approve it.

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Board member Curt Rude said he voted against approving the personnel agenda Monday because he was concerned about two contracts listed as terminations and non-renewals on an enclosure in the packet of materials.

Because of his vote, the contract for Tisha Simonson was denied. All other contracts on the agenda were approved because they did not require a unanimous vote.

Dave Simonson abstained from voting due to a conflict of interest.

Rude admitted that he may have been confused during the original vote, but he said he had the best interest of the district in mind.

"I’m sure we all remember that when I ran for election, my platform was on my concern with personnel and the number of quality staff we are losing," said Rude. "I’ve been frustrated in that direction. I’ve encountered one roadblock after another trying to come up with any kind of meaningful information."

Rude said his vote Monday had nothing to do with his working relationship with Dave Simonson or Tisha Simonson’s qualifications.

"I worked with Dave for 23 years (at the Austin Police Department) and I know that he has some good kids," said Rude. "Where I have a problem is with the staff that we are losing. I feel my duty and obligation is to make informed decisions when I vote. I had no insight into this matter, and I wanted the personnel committee that deals with this to provide some insight. Is this about Simonson, me and how we worked together? Absolutely not."

Superintendent Candace Raskin pointed out during today’s meeting that Rude originally voted to keep substitute teachers who have retired.

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Rude said he felt like he was "thrown into confusion" and that’s why he tried to ask questions at Monday’s meeting before the vote.

Tisha Simonson’s contract will begin Aug. 25. She was hired as a physical science teacher at Austin High School with a $54,619 annual salary.

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