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$156,000 cut from Waubun-Ogema-White Earth budget

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Detroit Lakes, 56501

Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

The Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School Board cut $156,250 from next year's budget as part of the district's latest spending cuts during a special meeting Thursday morning.

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The move comes on the heels of a $344,000 cut in March. The additional cuts come as the district is concerned about state proposals to cut per pupil spending from the current $5,127 amount. The state Senate recently passed a bill to cut the per-pupil spending by $270.

"Eventually you get cut so deep that you can't get away from it," said Superintendent Mitch Anderson.

Over half of Waubun's cuts come from capital expenses such as textbook purchases, upgrades to athletic facilities and postponing buying new computers and other technology. Most of the other cuts come from eliminating two full-time paraprofessional positions and two part-time dishwasher jobs.

Not getting new textbooks will affect the science curriculum the most, as the district's current science textbooks were purchased in 1991. As a science component is now part of the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, Anderson said that new textbooks need to teach what is being tested.

"They need to flow nicely from the start," Anderson said.

At this point, though, it's too late to buy new curriculum for the next school year. In the meantime, Anderson said that the district would look to pilot science curriculum materials from textbook companies.

Technology upgrades aren't an issue, Anderson said. He said he's been in contact with the district's technology coordinator, who feels that upgrades to teachers' computers can wait another year.

Student insurance is being cut, to the tune of $5,200 in savings. The insurance coverage goes beyond what the district is required to offer.

Most school districts offer the extra insurance for a fee of under $30 per year. The coverage is secondary coverage in case a student is hurt on campus.

"It was a nice gesture we've offered in the past," Anderson said. "For $25 per kid, it's something they (parents) will have decide on."

Other cost-cutting measures discussed, but tabled for now, were cutting Knowledge Bowl, Speech, One-Act Play and violin. The savings from cutting those programs would add up to slightly more than $10,000.

Teachers in the audience said that some of those activities are the only extra-curricular activities some students are involved in. But there wasn't enough interest or there were conflicts with other events this year to hold speech or One-Act Play competitions.

Ann Wothe, a co-advisor to the Knowledge Bowl team, offered a compromise. She said that the number of students allowed to participate could be cut so that a school van could be used to transport participants instead of buses.

"I'd be in favor of reducing it instead of eliminating it," said Board Member Joe McArthur.

Board Member Tom Teiken said that cuts are tough to make, but needed.

"When you consider it, you have to look at the overall picture," he said.

Teiken said he's worried about state aid shifts that would hold back more of the district's aid than the current 10 percent amount. The district only received the final amount due to the district from a 1981 state aid shift in 2003, Teiken said.

Anderson said that each budget item being cut is important to someone.

"I hate cutting programs as well, but if you go through each item, you can plead your case for anything," Anderson said.

There is also some talk about adding student activity fees, which are common in many other districts across the state.

While a final fee schedule hasn't been proposed, some are uncomfortable with charging students to participate in extra-curricular activities.

"I'm still on the fence on that," said Board Chairman Allan Haugo. "Especially in the area we live in. Do we offer too many programs?"

New schedule on tap

The board also discussed whether to move the high school and junior high to a seven-period schedule from the current eight-period day. A move to a seven-period schedule would give the administration more flexibility in keeping class sizes down if staff is cut.

If the schedule is moved to a seven-period day, there is a proposal to cut some teachers' hours from full-time to slightly more than half time. Seven full-time certified positions would be cut down to save $182,800.

Keeping the schedule at eight periods would give the district a little less flexibility and lead to six full-time jobs being cut to part-time, with a savings of $86,700.

Some teachers in the audience wondered why the elementary school or the administration were not bearing more of the brunt. Anderson said that the elementary school took a hit a few years ago and that when he became superintendent last year, he stayed on as the principal of Ogema Elementary.

Waubun High School Principal Helen Kennedy said that cutting elementary school teachers has its own issues.

"When you cut that, it means increased class sizes," Kennedy said.

With an estimated 38 freshman starting at Waubun next year, Kennedy said that having that many students in a science or English class isn't an appealing situation.

"There are kids with a wide range of learning abilities and it would be detrimental to our students," Kennedy said.

The credits needed to graduate would likely be lowered under a seven-period day, as students currently need 28 credits to graduate. With eight-periods, students can earn up to 32 credits right now, but wouldn't have any wiggle room if a period is eliminated.

Another special board meeting to approve the change in periods is scheduled for Thursday, April 30 at 7 a.m. in the Waubun High School Media Room.

The Board will also be accepting letters of interest for the open board position left by the resignation of Tom Riever last week. Reiver moved out of the district.

Residents of the district interested in becoming a board member to serve out the rest of Rievier's term that expires Jan. 1, 2011 can send a letter of interest to Anderson by May 1.

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