District looks to hire for Gerard

Published 1:35 pm Thursday, December 4, 2008

Discussions are underway at Austin Public Schools on whether or not staff at New Dominion School should be employed by the district.

New Dominion provides educational services at Gerard Treatment Academy, established in 1968 to serve challenging youth. Both are owned and operated by the Nexus family of treatment centers.

According to Bruce Anderson, interim superintendent at Austin Public Schools, the district is seeking a special services supervisor — hopefully with principal licensure — to fill a vacant position at New Dominion. The hiree would be employed under the district until July for sure.

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Anderson explained that New Dominion, although it is not owned or operated by the district, falls under their legal responsibility because it is housed within the district.

The previous long-time principal, who had proper licensure, left the school; therefore, Austin Public Schools wants to fill that position for “legal protection,” Anderson said on Wednesday.

The position, which was listed Monday on the Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA) Web site, will be posted for six months. The district is offering a salary range of $56,000 to $75,000, based on education and experience, as well as a benefits package. According to the Web site, job duties include managing the education program at the fully-accredited, year-round non-public school for grades K-12; attending Nexus clinical staff meetings along with Austin Public Schools’ and Gerard’s leadership team; and “providing crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques when appropriate.”

In July, the district may consider employing all members of New Dominion; however, Anderson said, the district would allow the school to run its own programs and “continue to develop its culture.”

“It doesn’t mean there would be a whole new staff,” he said. With the district employing New Dominion staff, legal responsibility would no longer be a continual concern.

“Then we’re going to have to meet and address that legal question; the district can’t be legally liable unless there is a way to address that,” he said.

According to the MASA Web site, Nexus has also posted a position: principal/director of special education. The job was posted Nov. 20.

Anderson said he isn’t familiar with Nexus’s job posting.

Nexus CEO David Hutchinson released a statement today about the position.

“Gerard Academy is moving swiftly to find a replacement in order to maintain the continuity and integration of the school with the rest of our residential program as we have successfully operated it for the past 25 years,” the statement said. “While there appears to be some disagreement between Gerard Academy and the district as to the best course of action, it is our intention to cooperate in good faith with the district to the fullest extent required by law in continuing to make New Dominion School the best it can be for the children we serve at Gerard Academy.”

“Contrary to rumor, Austin Public Schools is not taking over Gerard Academy,” stated Damien Londino-Green, communications director at Gerard, in an e-mail Wednesday.

New Dominion has been operating since 1986 on the Gerard campus. The school opened the doors of its 10,300-square-foot, $1.1 million school building in 2005-06. Gerard Academy, which employs more than 129 people, provides residential treatment for boys and girls ages 6 to their 19th birthday. It is located at 1111 28th. St. N.E. at the former Jay C. Hormel mansion.