State grants Carlton School District extension on SOD planCarlton School District received word late Wednesday that the Minnesota State Department of Education (MDE) has agreed to grant ISD #93 another extension to submit a revised special operating plan to eliminate its statutory operating debt (SOD).
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Carlton School District received word late Wednesday that the Minnesota State Department of Education (MDE) has agreed to grant ISD #93 another extension to submit a revised special operating plan to eliminate its statutory operating debt (SOD). According to Superintendent Peter Haapala, the verbal agreement stated that Plans A, B, and B1 must be approved by MDE no later than Aug. 31, 2010. Plan C must be approved by MDE no later than Dec. 31, 2010.
Following a series of district meetings recently, Haapala had sent an e-mail to the State Department of Education requesting an extension for the plan deadline.
Though Haapala had not yet received a reply by the time the original June 15 deadline came and went this week, he did get word that the state was planning to send Janna Duffy and Audrey Bomstad of the Minnesota Department of Education Program Finance Division to meet with the school board’s finance committee at a 3 p.m. meeting Thursday, June 17.
Haapaja said at that time the MDE representatives would go over the district’s preliminary plans, provide input and give advice with an eye toward eventually passing along a final recommendation to the state for their approval.
The meeting, to be held at Carlton High School, will be open to the public.
The Carlton School District has operated under SOD for eight of the past 10 years. A referendum earlier this spring to help bring the district back into compliance failed and resulted in an alternative plan to lay off two full-time teachers and reduce the hours of 10 others.
A highly vocal public outcry led to a board decision to table the layoffs until an alternative set of plans could be established.
Prior to that decision, the Carlton School District was projected to be $685,000 in deficit as of June 30. After the layoff plan was tabled, however, the estimated statutory operating debt increased by more than $80,000. By the end of 2010, the district is now estimated to be just over $768,000 in the hole if no remediary action is taken.
Haapala and board members are required to submit four alternative plans for bringing the district out of SOD by 2010. Plan A must detail how much money a referendum proposed for next November will ask for and what the district will do if the referendum passes. Plan B will detail what actions the district will take if the referendum fails. Plan B-1 will describe district actions (staff reductions, etc.) in case the referendum fails and student numbers go down. And Plan C is supposed to tell the state at what point the district will begin the process of dissolving itself or consolidating with another school district, and specifics where the students would go in that event.
Even once the plans are drafted and submitted to the state, the board will not be compelled to make any cuts until after the November referendum. If no action is taken at that time, the district could face significant cutbacks in state aid that could eventually cripple it.
Haapala said progress has already been made on mapping out three of the four required proposals, and he’s hopeful that Thursday’s meeting will result in a more concrete set of plans.
“We’re going to have to make some very tough decisions,” he admitted.