School board approves budget cuts
The William Kelley High School library was packed with about 50 parents, teachers and residents at the school board meeting Tuesday, May 22. The main subject of interest were proposed budget reductions, which the board passed 5-2, with board members Tom Burns and Al Ringer dissenting the proposals. The budget cuts were proposed in a school board workshop earlier in May.
The decision not to replace a retiring music and choral teacher at WKHS, effectively eliminating high school choir, generated concern among some at the meeting Tuesday. Five individuals spoke against the cut.
"If the choir gets cut, how long before the entire music department will fold?" Silver Bay parent and community advocate Adelia Kindstrand said. "I urge you to reconsider the potential impacts of cutting this position and ask you to do the right thing."
Barbara Hron, the parent of 2000 Silver Bay graduate and professional opera singer Nathan Herfindahl, spoke about how the music program kept her son attending school every day. "I ask you to cut the budget in such a way so that it takes the least way from every student," Hron said. "You remove the music program from this school and I guarantee you'll never have another Nathan Herfindahl graduate from this school go on and do what my son has done."
The refined budget reduction proposal addressed the parents' concerns. Rather than eliminate the position, a halftime K-6 and choral position will be added. The position will be shared with Minnehaha Elementary, alternating days at each location. High school choir will continue, thought it might look a little different.
The proposed reductions also include the reduction of two Title I positions at Minnehaha, savings from hiring new speech professional and English teacher, a reduction in paraprofessionals, a long-term substitute for a Two Harbors High School counselor due to a leave of absence, and the hiring of one bus mechanic to replace two.
Golf suspended; activity fees changing
The golf program will not fully be eliminated but suspended until the numbers come back up, similar to the boys soccer team a few years ago. Superintendent William Crandall said the golf team could be structured similarly to the trapshooting team, and potentially receive financial support from local golf clubs, but retain the school's title in the team name.
Efforts to generate more revenue include looking at a $100 increase in hockey fees, which would raise the fee to $275 per participant.
Activities that don't have a participation fee, such as robotics, one-act play and DECA, would also be subject to a $25 activity fee, generating an estimated $1,000 annually. The proposed cuts and additions in revenue total $620,752, meeting the administration's target of $600,000 to cover the deficit.
THHS sixth grade shifting to new model
Burns, one of the two board members who voted against the reductions, primarily took issue with a proposal that would change the sixth-grade model at Two Harbors High School.
"I cannot with a clear conscience vote without doing more work on this budget this month," he said before the vote.
The sixth-grade class is shifting to a middle-school model where students move from classroom to classroom. Teachers have five teaching assignments, plus a prep period and a supervisory period. This shift in the model will help cover the needs for music and physical education.
One of the sixth-grade classroom teachers will be assigned one period of physical education in an effort to reduce the number of students in each physical education class.
This year, the sixth-grade class splits into two classes for physical education. Next year, due to high enrollment in sixth grade, the class would split into three classes — two of which would be taught by physical education teachers and one by a sixth-grade classroom teacher.
"It's a larger class, so we feel like it's not safe to put all those students into two sections," Two Harbors High School Principal Jay Belcastro said. "I'm not saying what we have is the ideal situation by any stretch of the imagination. You've posed us with the challenge, so this is not ideal, but it's a suggestion."
Burns stated concerns with the plan.
"I personally don't think that this plan is in the best interest of the students. That's all I can say about it. The sixth grade is not getting a fair shake on this," he said.
The board scheduled another workshop in June before the June 12 meeting to further discuss budget concerns. The board will need to vote on the budget June 12. However, the vote to approve the budget reductions does not mean all decisions are set in stone, as board member Cyndi Ryder pointed out.
"Whatever we do, we can undo. We can change things in the future," Ryder said. "So if we decide that this is the route that we want to go, but then we figure something else out, we can do something else. So it's not like it's concrete shoes into Lake Superior. It's always fluid."
"And as you can see, this plan is significantly different than the one presented to the board in April, so it could still change as we continue to look," Crandall said.