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Fillmore Central talks budget cuts


Fri, Apr 29th, 2011
Posted in Education

Much of the discussion at the Fillmore Central School Board meeting on April 26 was about the proposed budget cuts. Superintendent Myrna Luehmann explained they still do not know what the state is going to do as far as making cuts in education this year. The budget committee went with the assumption they would need to make a three percent cut in the budget, which totals around $160,000.

Luehmann added that the last two years, the school has received stimulus money that they will not have next year. "We are trying to recoup," she said. "We have looked at all kinds of scenarios."

The list of proposed cuts included not rehiring a high school FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences) teacher for next year, eliminating one eight-hour shift per week for a custodian, possibly eliminating a bus route, and rehiring a media aide at a lower salary than the aide who is retiring after this year. A science class at the high school will be offered less often, and a position at the elementary school could be eliminated. Another cut proposed was to put the school social worker, Danette Grimsrud, on Unrequested Leave of Absence (ULA).

Before the board discussed the budget cuts, first grade teacher Emily Erickson spoke to them about her concerns with cutting Grimsrud's position. Erickson detailed the things that Grimsrud provides for the students, including working with at-risk kids, helping with social skills, friendship, feelings, grief and loss. Erickson said 32 percent of Fillmore Central Elementary students use her services in some way. She works with parents, attends doctor appointments, court hearings, and has many community resources available to her.

"She is an irreplaceable resource for us teachers," said Erickson. She added that she understands that budget cuts need to be made, but wants the board to think about the repercussions of this decision.

Erickson pointed out that Grimsrud has been a constant in the lives of students who need consistency and someone they can rely on. "Her services are critical to the health of the students, parents, staff, and community," said Erickson.

Luehmann said only a small portion of the social worker's salary is funded by special education money. She doesn't see any other way to pay for the position.

Board member Sue Sikkink asked how they would continue to offer the services that Grimsrud provides. Luehmann said the district still has a part-time family support worker. There is a licensed EBD (Emotional Behavior Disorder) teacher at the elementary school, and the school psychiatrist would be in the district more time, going from a .2 FTE to a .5.

Luehmann said they would work out where the needs will be, but there will still be some holes. She added they have to continue to have Maintenance of Effort for the neediest students, as it is mandated by state law.

Board member John Torgrimson, who is on the budget committee, said it is difficult to look at budgets, as it is like "trying to jump on a moving train." He said they guessed at the three percent cut depending on what the state might do, but they really have no idea. The state could choose to cut more, or they could not make nay cuts.

"There are no good situations," said Torgrimson. "We discussed a whole range of scenarios, and this is the best we could come up with. There are no good scenarios."

Board member Jim Love expressed concern for losing the social worker position. Chairman Ross Kiehne said he agreed, and the committee is always open to new ideas.

The board approved the tentative budget cuts. They also approved the first proposal to put Grimsrud on ULA. Next month they will have to approve a final proposal.

Luehmann said if things change with the state and the budget, they can also stop the proposal for ULA.

Summer School

Special Education Director Micki Breitsprecher informed the board of the summer school needs for some students who are on an IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Breitsprecher explained these are extended year services, and there are very strict qualifications for who can receive the services.

There will be a center-based program in August that will require two teachers for four hours a day for two weeks. They will also need three paraprofessionals, as there are now two students that require one-on-one instruction. The physical and occupational therapy needs will be the same as last year.

Breitsprecher said she has reduced the snack budget by more than half. There will also be no field trips this year to save on costs. However, because of the extra paraprofessional, the total costs will be $1,500 more than last year.

There are a few students that require home visits, and so far there are six infants. Breitsprecher said more kids with special needs are being recognized earlier, so schools are helping more infants. There are also some children ages 3-6 who will need services at home throughout the summer, as well as the center-based program in August.

Sports Updates

Athletic Director Jane Montgomery was at the meeting to discuss coaches for the fall sports, as well as discuss the girls' basketball schedule for next year.

The board approved the fall football coaches. Chris Mensink will be the head coach, with Tom Siebenaler the assistant. Darrin Ellsworth will coach B-squad, Aaron Janssen ninth grade, Tim Ostrom eighth grade, and Tris Tollefson seventh grade.

Montgomery said there are fourteen seniors signed up, nine juniors, seventeen sophomores, eight freshmen, twelve eighth graders, and 21 seventh graders.

The volleyball head coach will be Denise Case. Montgomery said she would like to see a total of four volleyball teams with the numbers they have so far. In grades 9-12 there are currently 23 girls signed up. In ninth grade there are eleven, eight in eighth grade, and sixteen in seventh grade. The board approved as long as Montgomery and Case go over the numbers and decide who will play where and how many coaches they will need.

Montgomery said she has some varsity games lined up for the girls' basketball team. Plainview-Elgin-Millville, St. Charles, Grand Meadow, Spring Grove, and Rushford-Peterson have all agreed to at least one game. There are some that cannot play Fillmore Central due to scheduling conflicts, and Montgomery still has to hear from several schools. Montgomery is confident they will have enough games to play for the season, and will be able to play in the tournaments.

Ag in Motion

High school agriculture teacher Lisa Sackreiter spoke to the board about the plans for a summer Ag in Motion class this year. Last year was the first year a class was offered in the summer for half a credit to students who were not able to fit an agriculture class into their schedules but wished to have the experience.

Last year Sackreiter, along with two teachers from other districts, took students on a bus to South Dakota to visit many places. The students had assignments to do along the way and had to write a final paper upon return for the half-credit.

This year will be much the same, except the students will be going to Wisconsin from June 20-24. Sackreiter explained they will be visiting places such as a cranberry farm, a Jelly Belly factory, cherry picking, Lambeau field, a paper mill, and a Milwaukee Brewers Tour.

The total cost of the trip is $200 per student. The cost will be paid by FFA for any FFA member that is going. Students will be required to put down a $50 damage deposit. Olstad recommended continued support of the program. The board approved.

Collaborative

The school board voted to join the Southeast Minnesota Learner Achievement Collaborative Consortium. This consortium, which developed out of the Flexible Learning Year consortium, will allow several districts in the area to collaborate with their staff development. The cost to join the consortium is $6.00 per student, and money will come out of the staff development budget.

"I think this will be a good support for our staff," said Luehmann. "I can see really good things coming from this."

Olstad said the majority of the staff approved of joining the collaborative, but some were concerned about the cost or cautious about the actual benefits.

Other Business

The Superintendent Search committee went over the 13 applications received for the half-time position. They narrowed the candidates down to five interviews. The board approved the resignation of third grade teacher, Rita Thorson. The board also thanked her for her many years of service to the district.

Kathy Tesmer was hired for the part-time Daycare Director position.

The board also approved the following items:

•the calendar for the 2011-2012 school year

•membership in the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) for the next year

•a contract with Student Assurance Services for student insurance

•word changes to the fund balance policy

•putting support staff on seasonal lay-off for the summer months

•participation in the NCLB Title programs

•child care leave for Tara Corson, preschool teacher, in the fall

•an open enrollment request for three students entering kindergarten

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