At the regular April 19 Rushford-Peterson School Board meeting, most of the time was spent discussing the school’s financial situation. With a projected $100,000 deficit before factoring in losses due to the pandemic, it’s mandatory that R-P adjust the budget.
Superintendent Jon Thompson has offered to reduce his salary by 20% by shortening his contract by 52 days. Both elementary principal Angela Shepard and middle school/high school principal Jake Timm assured the board they would be able to handle Thompson’s absence, noting he was only a phone call or text away if needed.
Thompson would have his schedule dictate when he takes the days off. Thompson will be in his final year of his three-year contract. He shared that originally he had intended to retire after that, but found that he likes R-P and would like to “stick around.” He considers this a stair-step down and noted, “I wouldn’t do it or suggest it unless I felt it’s doable.”
Bonnie Prinsen, who has returned to the board having been appointed to fill Kathy Wade’s spot until November, declared this a “generous offer — a real money saving opportunity.” The savings for the district would total $29,020.
Board member Jeff Michel suggested the superintendent contract revision be tabled until he can “read up on it.”
Chairman Chris Grindland asked how the staff felt about this and wanted the staff to be polled. The revision has been tabled until May.
The board went on to discuss the remainder of the suggested budget reductions. These included the following: ESSER funding will cover the cost of .20 FTE of the preschool teacher; a retiring elementary teacher will not be replaced; an elementary teacher, a music teacher, and a trades teacher will be retained using ESSER funding; and the Community Services Director will be reduced by 12 or 24 days. It’s possible that two paraprofessional positions could be eliminated; this would depend on class loads. An additional special education teacher may be hired. These proposed cuts would result in a savings of $272, 404. Thompson informed the board ESSER funding of $66,000 for ESSER I, $260,000 for ESSER II, and $580,000 for ESSER III have helped the budget significantly.
In further staffing adjustments, one probationary teacher will not be retained; further details will be at the next board meeting.
Board member Matt Helgemoe expressed concern about cutting people; he said he and Lisa Lawston, Community Ed director had brainstormed about how to get Community Ed back on track. It has been in the red for several years. Helgemoe offered that having the school itself run sports tournaments rather than an outside entity could bring in a significant amount of money for Community Ed.
Supt. Thompson replied that he views this as a financial situation — not a program discussion. He went on saying, “We need to make sure revenue meets expenses. It’s hard to justify taking money from general ed programs for Community Ed. Our goal going forward is to get Community Ed back in the black.”
Preschool is part of Community Ed, but the costs are subtracted from the preschool expenses. Thompson said the program helps prepare students for future education and declared, “I feel good about making our preschool program great!”
Prinsen reminded the board that the deficits are not just a result of tournament money, but also that an additional session of preschool had been added and the teachers are now on the R-P contract.
The Community Ed board member reps, Thompson and Lawston will meet regarding the issue.
Prom and graduation
Prom is scheduled for May 15 with a grand march on the football field (inside the gym if weather is inclement with only prom royalty parents attending) The dance will be in the gym.
Graduation can be held in the gym with each graduate receiving six tickets for family and friends. The ceremony will be streamed on the school’s YouTube channel as well.
In other business the board:
• Approved the purchase of a new $6,396 trailer for the band and football teams to use with buses.
• Heard that MS students are returning to school on Wednesdays; the MS students have had a harder time learning online. High school teachers have been setting up field trips and projects for Wednesdays and more students have been taking advantage of the chance to get one-on-one help from the teachers that day.