Green Bay school board approves building purchase
By Heather Graves
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay school board voted Monday, June 14, to approve the purchase of the former Cup O Joy building currently housing the district’s welcome center.
Last August, the board approved entering a two-year, lease-to-own agreement with Cup O Joy, with an option to purchase at any time.
The district has been paying $4,000 per month in rent with $2,000 of it going toward offsetting the purchase price of $525,000.
The lease doesn’t expire until April 2022.
Trustee Andrew Becker, who cast the only opposing vote, asked the board to hold a decision on purchasing the building for another year.
“I supported (entering into the lease) a year ago with excellent terms that we negotiated, that some of the lease goes toward the purchase if we purchase, over the whole two years,” Becker said. “We don’t have that much working knowledge of what this building does, because it wasn’t available for much of the time during COVID. Leasing for another year, under a lease that is already signed and we are committed to, would give us the year. We have a lease in progress that will give us a year to see what this building really does for us. I am voting no tonight. I would like to see where we are in a year when the lease is up and vote yes or no accordingly.”
Board President Eric Vanden Heuvel said he sees short- and long-term advantages to purchasing the building.
“From a short-term perspective, I’ve shared the example where I’ve run into a couple of families in this building trying to find out where they are supposed to go, often non-English speakers,” Vanden Hevuel said. “I think for many families, where education doesn’t provide a level of comfort, there is a lot to be desired in this building. It is very institutional. It is very cold. And for a short-term solution, I like what the (Cup O Joy) facility can offer to us.”
He said the benefits of owning property on Broadway make the purchase a smart choice.
“I think for the long term, from an investment, just knowing the development of the city, the future of the Shipyard, the movement of the coal piles, property in this area is going to go up in value,” Vanden Heuvel said. “I don’t know, but I would venture a guess that the future of the district office building and this facility is not going to be the long-term solution as we look at other district facilities.”
Vanden Heuvel acknowledged the building needs work.
“There is an unsafe situation for our staff in there right now with some of the layout,” he said. “I understand not wanting to put a bunch of money in a building we don’t own. But, perhaps a compromise is to agree to make some safety enhancements. Because certainly, the building is not welcoming as it stands. But, I do think short-term and long-term, there are benefits to that building.”
Specific modification plans had not been made because the district was leasing the property.
“Until the building was purchased, there were no plans to do any cost estimates or plans, since construction costs change, etc.,” Lori Blakslee, district director of communications, said.
Superintendent Steve Murley said the building adds significant value to the district.
“The best time to execute that decision is now because it creates the greatest amount of savings for the district,” Murley said. “But more importantly, (it provides) the ability for new families to be able to access the services that they need through a one-stop, one-door model… literally all in one place without having to navigate themselves through (the district office building) or to be stuck in a position where they are waiting for our staff to be able to connect with them under the current model.”
In other business, the board approved the hiring of Lori Miron as chief human resources officer and Mary Lofy-Blahnik as executive director of human resources, who will replace Teri Willems when she retires at the end of June.
Willems has been with the district since 1998 and served as executive director of human resources since June 2019.
The moves fall in line with the updated administrative organizational work chart also approved by the board Monday.
The board approved the transfer of Josh Patchak from the executive director of computer information and technology to chief operations officer, and Angela Roble from the executive director of finance to the chief financial officer.
The transfers are in response to the retirement of Pete Ross, chief operations officer, who is retiring at the end of the month.
Trustees approved an hourly rate increase for co-curricular event workers from $12 per hour to $13 per hour to better align with surrounding districts in response to the lack of workers.
This increase is part of an incremental increase of $1 per year for three years until the rate reaches $15.
The board also approved increases to the substitute teachers and support staff wage rate.
The approval raises the daily rate of pay for substitute teachers from $150 per full day ($75 per half-day) to $190 per full day ($95 per half-day).
Substitutes who work 21 or more consecutive days in the same assignment, will be increased to $210 per full day ($105 per half-day).
The hourly rate of pay for substitute support staff was increased from $12 an hour to $15 an hour.
Substitute support staff who work 21 or more consecutive days in the same assignment will earn $16 an hour.