Cloquet School District enhances vocational offerings

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College isn't for everyone, but that doesn't mean a person can't earn a good wage, Cloquet High School Assistant Principal Steve Battaglia told school board members Monday.

Battaglia said he spent the last year looking into increasing the vocational offerings at the high school, and recommended the board members approve partnering with the Regional Council of Carpenters to deliver a curriculum specifically designed to help prepare students for careers in the trades.

"We offer about 72-33 College in the Schools credits and pay about $80,000 a year for that," Battaglia said. "But some kids might go a different path than a four-year university."

According to a staff memo, by working the the Regional Council, the school can award certificates that will count toward apprenticeship hours if students are hired by the Regional Council of Carpenters.

Class offerings will include:

• Math for the Trades;

• Introduction to Millwrighting;

• Construction Careers 1;

• Construction Careers 2;

• Construction Careers 3 (residential and commercial);

• Robotics; and

• 3D Printing.

Battaglia said kids can pick and choose from the offerings, or take all of the classes.

"You could take all of them and get 500 hours," he said, explaining that the Regional Council of carpenters will assign a certain number of hours toward apprenticeship for each class. "If they're hired, a kid could come in at 500 hours on day 1 and get to 750 in a month or two. These jobs start at $21-$22 an hour ... on day 1. They will train you, more specifically for whatever you're doing."

The redesigned offerings won't require the school to hire any new staff, although the board approved spending a total of $18,600 toward materials on Monday. A third of that will be covered through state aid and a grant. The district will pay just over $12,000 for its portion.

School board teacher representative Regina Roemhildt praised the program as innovative.

"There are so many people that have college degrees who aren't working with their degree," said the Churchhill Elementary School music teacher. "And not everyone is a college-bound student. I think that's a great way of looking out for all of our kids. This is a great idea."

Cloquet Middle School Principal Tom Brenner agreed, and said the district should reach out to parents to let them know about the new offerings and teach them what this kind of training could offer their children.

"Parents are force fed college, college, college," Brenner said. "We need to get the word out that there are great living wages for kids and it's not always about college."

Finances still in red, but better than expected

A year ago, the Cloquet School District was looking at a possible budget deficit of $1.6 million. In February, eight months into the fiscal year, District Finance Director Candice Nelis presented the board with a revised budget, estimating the deficit at $737,000.

That number will likely be even lower when the audit comes back in November because of student enrollment, Nelis told the board.
"We were up about 15-20 students than we thought for 17-18," she explained.

On Monday, Nelis said the district is estimating an operating deficit for the 2018-19 school year at $407,000. However, including reserves, the district's overall estimated general fund balance is sitting at $4.74 million.

In other budget news, after recent negotiations assisted by The Watson Consulting Group, the district will actually see a reduction next year in the amount it pays Cloquet Transit Company to provide busing services for the district. The total paid to Cloquet Transit for the 2017-18 school year so far was roughly $1.7 million, with just over $500,000 of that coming from state aid and $1.22 million coming from the school district.

Board members approved a contract with Cloquet Transit for the 2018-19 school year for $1.61 million, with $663,150 coming from the state and $947,250 from the school district.

Other news

In other matters Monday, board members took the following actions:

• Praised and then accepted resignations from CMS English teacher Ronald Johnson and District Financial Secretary Karen Padgett, who had 27 and 20 years with the district, respectively.

• Approved fall coaching contracts. Most varsity coach contracts remained the same as the previous year, with some changes to JV and middle school coaches. Rachel Peterson will be the new head girls swimming coach.

• Approved a lease for the school district's use of the hockey arena. The lease is with the city of Cloquet rather than the Cloquet Area Hockey Association. The current lease, which started Jan. 1, 2018, is for $128,341. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, the cost would be $125,808. In 2020, it would be $129,582 and $134,765, in 2021.

Board member Jim Crowley said when he started on the board 16 years ago, the district was paying $75,000 less per year than it is now. Crowley expressed disappointment that the city did not offer more favorable terms. The CAHA and Minnesota Wilderness will also lease the shelter.

• The board members thanked Superintendent Ken Scarbrough for his 13 years with the district, and for guiding them through the referendum and construction of the new middle school over the past five years. Scarbrough's last day with the district is Friday. He is retiring after working as a superintendent for a total of 35 years — 38 as a school superintendent.

"We're very pleased and happy to have had you here this long," said Nate Sandman, who was acting board chairman in Ted Lammi's absence.

"It's been a good run," Scarbrough responded.