Wrenshall School Board approves $70K worth of cuts

The latest approved cuts make the total cuts by the district roughly $100,000, as the district tries to make $330,000 worth of cuts before the next school year.

Wrenshall School File.jpg
Wrenshall School.
Clint Austin / 2021 File / Duluth News Tribune

WRENSHALL — In a continued effort to fix the district's financial issues, the Wrenshall School Board approved its latest round of cuts, effective June 30, totaling $70,000, during its meeting Monday, Jan. 9.

Board member Eric Ankrum, who is the chair of the budget committee, said the district has now made just under $100,000 worth of cuts, with the goal of reaching $300,000 by the end of the school year.

"Which leaves us, if everyone can do the math, about $200,000 left for phase 3," he said. "So a lot to do yet."

The board previously decided to make the cuts in three phases: one which was already approved for December; the second was approved at this week's meeting; and the last cut will happen in the spring of 2023.

Board chair Nicole Krisak said details about the latest round of cuts will be released once the district notifies staff affected by them.


She added that another budget meeting will be scheduled soon, with the intent of planning for the next cuts to take place in April.

While the district approved cuts, it did have news that enrollment had increased by five students, from 345 to 350.

Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro said it was nice to have good news coming from enrollment, and another student is slated to enroll for the next school year.

Krisak said the district is going to work on marketing itself to try and attract more families.

She added that the district will also conduct exit interviews with families to see why they left and what could make them want to come back.

In order to alleviate some of the budget stresses, the board voted to send a letter to the Carlton School District about further collaboration.

The letter was discussed during the board's Dec. 4 meeting, and included the possibilities of sharing a superintendent, facilities and programs.

Krisak said "pairing and sharing" is one way to still have the two school districts work together, but still be separate schools.


"I am hoping to work with (Carlton), right now we have our sports all together so this is just the next step," she said.

Belcastro said the letter will be sent as soon as possible so that Carlton can discuss it at its next board meeting Jan. 17.

Belcastro resignation

The board also discussed how they would like to proceed after Belcastro's resignation was formally accepted, and ultimately decided they wanted her to stay on but at as a part-time employee.

The district welcomed its new board members, and one returning member; shifted its leadership around and discussed how it should proceed after the superintendent's retirement.

Board member Mary Carlson said she has spoken to community members and knows that some support and some do not support Belcastro as superintendent.

"I think that we as a board can lead into a new era and hopefully come together and give everyone a win tonight," she said.

Carlson stated that she would be in favor of making Belcastro a 0.5 full-time equivalent employee for the remainder of the year as another way to save costs in the district. Belcastro had already been working as a 0.6 FTE for the district.

Board member Alice Kloepfer said she was curious if the contract could be week-to-week to allow the district to find a replacement and get them in the role sooner.

"I would like to have a new person to come in, with fresh eyes, to see what is going on in the school," she said.


The board voted 5-1 in favor of Belcastro staying on for the remainder of the school year, with Kloepfer dissenting.

In a separate vote to determine the time per week, the board voted unanimously for Belcastro to work as a 0.5 FTE.

The reduced role is expected to save the district $9,000, according to budget documents, which is a portion of the cuts voted on during the meeting.

In order to stay ahead, the board also formed a superintendent search committee to begin the process of finding Belcastro's successor.

This story was updated at 11:01 a.m. Jan. 12 with more information regarding the district's cuts.  It was originally posted at 8:26 a.m. Jan 10.

Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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