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School looks at $650,000 in cuts

Lead Summary

By Reed Anfinson
$650,735 In Proposed Cuts
2013-14 school year
Reductions                                         Savings
Capital outlay                                                   $100,000
      Delay roof work
      Delay computer lab purchases
      Delay other possible expenditures
Delay bus purchase                                            $85,000
The school district has been on a rotation of buying a new bus every other year. That keeps the fleet in good shape. However, Westrum said he thought the district could delay a year since its most recent bus purchase was made the end of last year and that new bus only has one year of service on it.
English teaching position                                   $73,800
English teacher Lori Knutson is retiring. The district can choose to not fill her position. That would put the English department on par with the science and math, social studies departments, each of which has three faculty members.
Family and Consumer Science
(FACS) teaching position                                 $77,193
There is only one teacher in this department and eliminating the position eliminates the department.
Art teaching position                                          $77,183
Eliminating the art faculty member would eliminate the art program in the school.
Part-time superintendent                                    $50,000
District 777 currently has a full-time superintendent, however, Lee Westrum has accepted a position in Wadena. His resignation was officially accepted Thursday night.
With his departure, the board is looking at options that involved a part-time superintendent as well as a principal/superintendent.
Losing a full-time superintendent will throw a greater burden of responsibility on everyone, from school board members to other administrators in the district, Westrum said in an interview Monday.
If the district goes to a superintendent/principal model it would likely also have to hire a dean of students to handle the day-to-day responsibilities of a principal, such as student discipline. However, a dean of students can’t evaluate teachers or suspend students from school because the person doesn’t have the same credentials as a principal.
This would mean that the superintendent/principal would have to evaluate all the teachers. Considering the Legislature’s passage the comprehensive teacher evaluation law, more responsibility would fall on the superintendent/principal. The person would also have to handle student suspensions.
Two years ago, District 777 cut a full-time principal, going from three to two. It also cut a full-time secretary’s position.
The savings will vary depending on how the district structures the position.
Half-time music teaching position                       $33,500
Cutting a half-time position would reduce the program from three to 2.5 faculty members.
Part-time French teaching position                      $10,500
Benson schools currently offer French I and II, which are taught over a television that also links to students in other school districts. District 777’s cost is based on how many students are in the class in relation to the total number of students being taught. The fewer students taking the class, the lower Benson’s cost, Westrum said. Last year the program cost $12,000.
Ending the position would end the teaching of French in Benson schools.
Secretarial position                                            $26,159
There are currently eight secretarial positions in the school district. The district would go to seven, closing the junior high office. All of grades 5 through 12 would be handled out of the senior high office.
Custodial position                                             $29,000
Eliminating a full-time custodial position would mean revamping how the school buildings are cleaned and maintained, Westrum said.
Bus route                                                          $25,000
Westrum said that he expects a retirement coming among the school bus drivers at the end of the school year. The district would not fill that position.
Al Kill, who manages the district’s busses, has told Westrum that he thinks three routes can be combined into two. It will increase the ride times for the students on those routes.
Business office overtime                                     $8,400
College in High school                                       $10,000
Currently, students in BHS can earn college credits through a teaching agreement with Alexandria Technical College. Qualified BHS teachers teach the college course in Benson with the students earning college credits. A student who is ambitious could earn an Associates of Arts degree while still in high school.
The credits are transferable to state universities and colleges. The program wouldn’t be eliminated, but class offerings would be reduced.
Reduce next year’s                              $0
         3rd grade to 2 sections                
Reduce next year’s                              $45,000
         6th grade to 2 sections                
Currently, there are three sections each in grades kindergarten through fifth grade. There are two sections in the sixth grade.
This year’s second grade, a class of 55 students, has had three sections in kindergarten, first grade and second grade. But next year the class will be split into two sections of 27 and 28 students for third grade.
The current fifth grade class has 65 students and has been divided into three sections from kindergarten on. But next year it will be divided into two sections, one of 32 and one of 33 kids.
The moves for the third and sixth grades next year mean that one elementary teaching position will be cut.
Forming two classes with 30 or more students in them is not something the school district wants to do, Westrum said. But, he explained, teacher Katie Reardon currently works part-time with sixth graders on reading and math. She will continue to do that next year, which will help mitigate some of the down side of the larger class sizes, he said.
The research is pretty supportive of smaller classes for kids in grades kindergarten through second grade, Westrum continued, but after that there is no definitive evidence that smaller class sizes make a difference.
Total Proposed Cuts                        $650,735
These are the budget impacts of declining enrollment for the coming year and the district has some significant ones staring us in the face in the coming years as well, Westrum said. He did point out the enrollment figures are projections.
Class sizes                     2012-13          2013-14
Early childhood               8                   8
Handicapped K                4                   4
Kindergarten                   57                  68
First grade                      64                  57
Second grade                  55                  64
Third grade                    62                  55
Fourth grade                   82                  63
Fifth grade                      65                  82
Sixth grade                     54                  65
Sub-total                        447                462
Seventh grade                 64                  54
Eighth grade                   80                  64
Ninth grade                    73                  82
Tenth grade                    79                  75
Eleventh grade                79                  79
Twelfth grade                  73                  83
Sub-total                        448                437
Total                             895                899                                                        

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