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Chatfield contemplates budget cut proposal

Fri, Apr 23rd, 2010
Posted in Education

"We have x amount of dollars to work with," Chatfield School Board Chair Jerry Chase explained to the large group of students and adults who gathered at the board's April 19 meeting to protest placing Chatfield English teacher Patricia Solum on unrequested leave of absence. Solum's position was part of a budget cut proposal that totaled $314,900 and included cuts to other departments of study as well as extra-curricular activities and maintenance.

Superintendent Greg Ehresmann presented his recommendations for the budget cuts to the board. The actual budget shortfall for the coming year was approximately $20,000 less than anticipated, bringing the district's deficit to $580,000. Many of Ehresmann's cuts to areas such as maintenance and staff support (conferences, substitutes, travel costs) focused on becoming "more efficient" with the district's money. One idea for such efficiency was having teachers attend webinars conducted online instead of full-fledged conferences which involve travel costs. Ehresmann also noted that the district will save approximately $30,000 in the coming year because they will no longer be faced with the cost of maintaining Potter Elementary School. However, cuts still must be made to existing staff in the English, business, music, physical education, and Title One departments. Using student pre-registration forms for next year, Ehresmann eliminated all classes with fewer than fourteen students to try to bring the number of classes down. At the meeting he stressed that, despite these cuts, there will be "no need" for classes of more than thirty students. He also noted that the Title One and physical education positions were eliminated in a previous year and only retained through stimulus funds, which are no longer available. Though sympathetic to the students' dismay over losing Solum, Ehresmann also reminded those present that seniority is a major factor in choosing which teachers to cut and that, in cases such as these, they cut a "position, not people." Three students spoke on Solum's behalf, noting her enthusiasm for teaching and her ability to draw students into English. The students also presented a petition containing 367 signatures of students, parents, and teachers who protested placing Solum on unrequested leave of absence.

The boys' and girls' golf program and Knowledge Bowl were among the extra-curricular costs cut from next year's budget.

The board approved a three-year contract hiring Edward Harris as the new superintendent of schools for Chatfield, effective July 1, 2010.

High school Principal Randy Paulson gave a presentation on the benefits of starting an alternative education program at Chatfield High School. Currently, some students who need to make up credits for graduation or need extra help with certain courses attend Valley View Area Learning Center in Dover. Paulson believes that the needs of students would be better served by instituting a program right in Chatfield which would allow students more flexibility to make up credits and receive additional help. The program would mainly involve non-special education students. Board members decided to wait until the new superintendent can "get on board" before moving ahead with the proposal. Elementary school Principal Craig Ihrke also gave a presentation detailing proposed modifications to and benefits of the gifted and talented programs at the high school and elementary school. The program is funded using designated state money.

Next month's Chatfield School Board meeting will be held on May 17, 2010, at 7:00 p.m. in the high school media center. All are welcome to attend.

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