The school board Monday approved a $20,000 contract for a former school board member to conduct public relations for the district in the upcoming school year.

Amy Amrhein will be responsible for updating the district Web site, publishing newsletters and coordinating media and community communication for the construction projects and the high school redesign process.

Board members voted 3-1 to lower the contract from the proposed $25,000 and added stipulations that Amrhein solicit volunteer help and aim to make the program self-sustaining after this year.

The district is in the midst of construction on all schools and embarking on an ambitious strategic plan, including a total redesign of the high school. Superintendent Juli Di Chiro said administrators will be stretched too thin to accomplish the work in Amrhein's contract themselves.

Board chair Mat Marr said the district would see a net cost savings with Amrhein's help because the district can get ahead of any issues before they become a problem.

"I would love to have this position be permanent, but I really don't think it's feasible with our budget situation," he said.

The position will be funded by district contingency funds.

Board members Heidi Parker and Amy Patton also voted to approve the amended contract. Ruth Alexander voted against the contract, saying she preferred to approve the contract as originally proposed rather than relying too much on volunteer efforts.

"I think Amy has the kind of attitude that we want," Alexander said. "I absolutely believe in volunteers, and I especially believe in volunteers in the classroom, but for something like this, we really need someone we can depend on."

Board member Keith Massie was absent and did not vote.

In preparation for the start of school, the board also approved a slew of goals, established two new committees and approved new business manager Jill Turner to replace Pam Lucas, who resigned in preparation to move out of state.

Goals for the year include compiling a list of recommendations for the high school restructure, studying second language possibilities across the district and completing the majority of construction projects by Sept. 2009. Additional goals include analyzing K-12 class sizes, creating a process to oversee the Youth Activities and Academics Levy and budget reduction, exploring potential alternative programs at the middle school level and studying sustainability efforts.

The district will seek applications from community members to serve on the new committees established to reach those goals &

a second language task force and a class size study group.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 ext. 227 or .