Cloquet School Board trims list of budget reductions

Cloquet School Board members moved closer to a final list of budget cuts after much discussion and public comment at Monday night's meeting. About 40 people packed the room during the four-hour session and many spoke their minds to applause about...

Cloquet School Board members moved closer to a final list of budget cuts after much discussion and public comment at Monday night's meeting.

About 40 people packed the room during the four-hour session and many spoke their minds to applause about keeping certain programs and personnel in the 2007-2008 school year.

Before taking public comment, Superintendent Scarbrough presented more reduction possibilities after board members requested last week that he find an additional $50,000 in cuts.

The additional ideas included cutting five days of work by an "on-the-job coordinator," who organizes job sites during the summer months, and closing down the swimming pool for 100 days per year. Others to contemplate included increasing the walking distance for students, thereby cutting business expenses, cutting a Washington kindergarten paraprofessional, as well as cutting some of the athletic supply budget and part of the budget allocated for paper.

Before taking public comment, Jim Crowley made a motion to add a cut in administration to the list of possible reductions. The motion failed after Ken Scarbrough spoke to the many cuts in administration in recent years and said the district would be hurt by any more at this time.


The board took public comment for about an hour about the additional ideas, along with the originally proposed reductions of six paraprofessionals, the orchestra program, two half-time second-grade teachers, half of a bus route, the print-shop position, part of the technology budget, 2.5 social workers and one special education teacher at the high school.

With several elementary school teachers reiterating the importance of the print shop position, it was the first board members elected to spare for next year.

"There just isn't time [for teachers] to make these copies," said Heather Johnson, Washington Elementary third-grade teacher.

Fourth-grade teacher Mary Goranson concurred.

"The secretaries and print people are the bones of our district and to take it away from future generations is not a benefit," she said.

In what board member Sandy Crowley called a "gratuitous proposal," the school secretaries offered to cut $8,000 from the budget by reducing their days worked by four each.

That proposal came after last week when Crowley had asked administration to show them an option that would trim the secretary budget by $15,000.

The board voted unanimously to accept the secretaries' proposal.


Despite another plea to save the orchestra program by former student Paul Mueller, it remained on the possible cut list as of Monday night.

The idea of closing the swimming pool 100 days of the year, however, for a savings $20,000, was scrapped by the board.

"That would be a tough one," said Gary Huard, board chairman. He explained it would affect community members who use the pool for lessons and lap swimming.

"I wouldn't close the pool to make a point, but at some point we need to keep the pain of what's happening to our schools out in front of the community," added Scarbrough.

Another budget reduction rejected by the board involved increasing the walking distance limit for students from one mile to as much as two.

"I've never seen a proposal like this accepted in any community," Scarbrough said.

Duane Buytaert, board member, cited safety problems such as the lack of sidewalks, as reason to nix the idea.

Judy Nelson spoke as a paraprofessional and said with six on the cut list their biggest concern is that administrators will decide where to make those cuts without input from them.


"The paras who will be cut should have the right to speak before the board," she said. "We're the front line, especially in special ed ... and necessary to get the teachers through the day."

Scarbrough said paraprofessionals and anyone else affected would have a chance to speak.

"I do feel it's important for everyone to have the chance to be heard," he said.

Sandy Crowley made a motion to make sure no kindergarten paraprofessionals would be cut as part of the six on the list. The motion passed unanimously.

The last motion of the meeting kept the list of possible cuts as it stood. If all cuts remaining on the list were realized, the total budget reduction would amount to approximately $450,000.

Scarbrough emphasized that the list is not yet final.

"I will bring this list to the next board meeting," he said. "Much depends on the legislature as far as which cuts would actually happen. We will have an open forum and will notify people who may be on the final reduction list."

Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann can be contacted at: .

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