Cloquet School Board cuts jobs, tables elementary schools discussionThe weather outside was warm and bright, but Monday night’s Cloquet School Board meeting was anything but. Board members unanimously voted to terminate a total of 17 contracts and positions in light of potential budget short-falls. Many of the cuts are
By: Brittany Berrens, Pine Journal, Pine Journal
The weather outside was warm and bright, but Monday night’s Cloquet School Board meeting was anything but. Board members unanimously voted to terminate a total of 17 contracts and positions in light of potential budget short-falls.
Many of the cuts are being made by not filling positions after employees retire.
The terminations, which equate to seven full-time positions and 10 part-time positions, were made in response to the likely drop in educational revenues due to Minnesota’s dismal budget. The next biennium projections show state deficits of $5-8 billion.
In a report given to the board members from Superintendent Ken Scarbrough, this year’s budget is expected to produce a nearly $800,000 deficit, and next year looks to be far worse with an estimated deficit up to $1.5 million.
Contributing to this deficit is the potential loss of $250,000 a year if a current referendum is not renewed this fall.
While this may seem like a large deficit, the district still has an estimated $4 million in unreserved funds.
“I still feel like with that $4 million fund balance, if they come in and reduce aid, we can still weather the storm and make sure we don’t end up in statutory operating debt the next year,” said Scarbrough, “But that will mean we will have to look at more reductions that spring.”
Scarbrough said programs are safe from cuts at this time, but may not be able to dodge the bullet in the coming years.
Also in light of a bleak budget outlook, board members voted to postpone the motion to consider the restructuring plan proposed by Scarbrough in the previous board meeting.
“It just seems too expensive at this time to even look into it, although I really think it’s the way to go,” said board member Sandy Crowley.
The proposal was to group kindergarten through second-grade classes at one elementary school and third- through fifth-grade classes at the other.
Scarbrough suggested it would make staffing and student enrollment issues more efficient and would demote any sense of competition between Washington and Churchill elementary schools. He also recognized it could be a pricy plan to implement.
Board Member Jim Crowley reiterated Sandy Crowley’s feelings about the decision.
“The way the budget looks, it’s going to take a lot of money to reconfigure things,” he said. “[The plan] makes pure sense from an academic point. I’d like the dialogue to continue, but maybe not as anything official.”
On another note, Cloquet High School Principal Warren Peterson reported that students in the Light at the End of the Tunnel (L.E.T.) program, which serves students at risk of not graduating, have released a 1920s-style newspaper. The Pine Needle features news articles, photos and comics from March 17, 1927.
The group of students, along with volunteers, spent nearly three months researching, writing and designing the newspaper.
“It’s a lot of hard work, and some of them might want to back out or quit, but they realize they are a part of something special,” said Peterson.
Board member Rose Scheuer was interested in collecting data to see what L.E.T. graduates were doing after high school in order to properly assess whether or not the program is helping students find career paths after high school.
All in all, members were impressed by the issue the students produced.
“It’s nice to be able to give these kids a second chance,” said Jim Crowley.
The Pine Needle was distributed at area nursing homes and at the high school production of the play, “I Don’t Have a Clue” which was also based in that era.