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Board seeks clarification on athletic transfers with Ojibwe school

The Cloquet School Board got good news both on its current year budget and on labor negotiations with several of its unions at its Tuesday night meeting.

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The meeting was postponed from the usual Monday night session to accommodate the District Facilities Presentation, the first of several community meetings focusing on facilities. (See story on Page A1 of this week’s Pine Journal.)

Business Manager Kim Josephson presented an amended 2013-14 budget to board members with good financial news inside it.

The budget, which reflected corrected figures from the district’s recent annual audit, also contained about $443,000 in additional revenue, offset by approximately $161,000 in added expenses. The result is an added $282,000 to the district’s bottom line.

“The added revenue is mainly from increased enrollment and added state aid from special education, while the added expenditure is from staff and increased health care costs,” Scarbrough said.

Scarbrough also said that tentative one-year contract agreements had been reached with the district’s paraprofessional, secretarial and dietary unions, with negotiations still ongoing with district custodians.

“We think that went very well,” Scarbrough said. “We got started a bit late with the custodians but all the negotiations have been respectful and we hope to have everything finished up soon.”

The board also directed Scarbrough to seek clarification from the Fond du Lac Ojibwe School and the Minnesota State High School League over a request made by the Fond du Lac School District to renew an agreement with the Cloquet School District which allows students to make athletic transfers between the schools for certain sports and activities.

The MSHSL has long opposed the idea of student-athletes transferring back and forth between schools for athletic purposes and board members expressed concern about this practice.

“I want to make it clear that the students who are going from Cloquet to Fond du Lac and vice versa aren’t ineligible and they aren’t doing anything wrong,” Scarbrough said. “We just want to make sure a policy will work with the state. There’s a misperception among some schools that the students moving between schools are ineligible, and they are not.”

Board member Dave Battaglia, a former area basketball and football coach, said the thought of students playing football at Cloquet, basketball at Fond du Lac and possibly a spring sport back at Cloquet was raising eyebrows.

“I don’t have a problem with what’s happened,” Battaglia said. “But if we let kids go from sport to sport to sport [between the schools in the same year] we will hear from Region 7.”

“[MSHSL Executive Director] Dave Stead has said from the beginning that he doesn’t want kids going back and forth,” Battaglia added.

“Ordinarily it wouldn’t be an issue, if you’ve got a mediocre team it’s no big deal,” Board member Jim Crowley said. “But this year Fond du Lac is pretty good and they’ve beaten Chisholm, which always has a good program.”

“I don’t know if a new agreement would pass state review,” Board member Dan Danielson added.