Wrenshall School Board looks at budget questions, superintendent hiring and enrollment projections

A look at some of the items on Monday's school board agenda as discussed during the board's committee of the whole meeting Wednesday, April 12.

Wrenshall School
Wrenshall School
File / Cloquet Pine Journal

WRENSHALL — Enrollment projections, continuing budget concerns and the superintendent hiring process were the main topics on school board member's minds at the Wrenshall School Board committee of the whole meeting on Wednesday, April 12.

Decisions on a few of these topics will be voted on at the upcoming board meeting on Monday, April 17.

Enrollment projections

Three hundred and thirty-seven students. That's the number Superintendent Kimberly Belcastro presented to the board as an updated enrollment projection for the 2023-24 school year. This doesn't include a few students who she heard might be returning and could bump the numbers up to 345 or 346.

The number includes a kindergarten class of 22, as Belcastro said they are struggling to get confirmations with families for the district's kindergarten round-up.

One area of the district where numbers are booming are the Hatchlings, 3-year-olds, and Little Wrens, 4-year-olds, Early Childhood programs. The Hatchlings are almost at capacity at nine children, and both groups will have a wait list as they are anticipated to fill to capacity.


Budget concerns

A lot of questions remain unanswered about the district's budget. Recently the board went through three rounds of cuts to work down an approximately $320,000 projected general fund deficit and leave the budget with a $100,000 surplus to keep the district in a healthier financial position.

Nevertheless, four issues with budgetary impacts need to be resolved and most revolve around staffing.

"So our remaining impacts are whatever we decide to do with the boiler operator, a tech director or a tech company, the superintendent-principal decision and what's the last big thing?" asked board member Ben Johnson. "Yes, the business manager."

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The first impact is whether the district will need to hire a boiler operator for a higher amount than initially budgeted. Secondly, the board voted in March to lay off the district's business manager and has not yet found a replacement and is therefore unsure exactly how that decision will impact the budget.

Third, the board is currently considering contracting outside IT staff from a couple of local options. The board had a presentation from Citon Wednesday evening about their services and plans to meet with Integris and get some estimates for their services.

The last impact leads to the final main topic discussed: hiring a superintendent.

Searching for superintendents

The board recently made the decision to post for a full-time superintendent position as they did not receive many applications for the position when it was posted as a part-time superintendent, part-time principal position. The move to have both a full-time principal and full-time superintendent would add $87,000 to the existing budget deficit, something business manager Angela Lind advised the board against.

"You can't afford this," Lind said. "To be honest, I really don't think it's an option."


Board member Mary Carlson added that they just wanted a full breakdown of the budget with those numbers and the technical support costs added to get a full picture of the situation. To go over the numbers in greater detail, the board set a budget committee meeting for 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 18.

As the board anticipated, since making the change, the district has received more interest in the position and received four applications. The board plans to send invitations to all four applicants to interview starting at 4:30 p.m. May 1. Each applicant will have an hour for their interview. The board also plans to invite the top two or three candidates back for another finalist interview and public reception at 5:30 p.m. May 8.

Teri Cadeau is a general assignment and neighborhood reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. Originally from the Iron Range, Cadeau has worked for several community newspapers in the Duluth area for eight years including: The Duluth Budgeteer News, Western Weekly, Weekly Observer, Lake County News-Chronicle and occasionally, the Cloquet Pine Journal. When not working, she's an avid reader and crafter.
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