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$51-per-pupil from state saves Waubun from staff, service cuts

OGEMA- The Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School Board approved a $9.4 million budget for the 2008-09 school year that highlighted Monday night's meeting.

Late revisions to the final budget included a $25,000 staff development waiver and $32,000 from the state making a one-time payment of $51 per pupil this year that spared the district from making any further cuts to staff or service.

Plus, the district will be receiving an Education Through Technology (E2T2) grant for $146,700 to pay for mobile computer lab, classrooms with smart boards and projectors, math software, and training for the new equipment.

"It looks good," said district business manager Michelle Heisler. "We should come in to balance the budget."

The one change that could crop up and throw the numbers off, according to Heisler, is the final contract being negotiated with non-certified staff.

In addition, the district approved a new five-year contract with PepsiAmericas of Fargo that will last until the summer of 2013.

Under the deal, Pepsi will provide the machines for sodas, juices and water and the school purchases the product. The district will also receive a $1.75 per case rebate -- limited to $1,100 per school year.

Waubun Athletic Director Dave Peterson said new machines should alleviate some of the headaches he's been experiencing since his classroom was next to the current machines.

"I had kids coming into my room wanting refunds when I was teaching," Peterson said of the faulty machines. "I put a sign out that said 'Use at your own risk.'"

The availability of regular sodas through the machines is limited as at least 50 percent of the brands need to be milk, water, juice, sports drinks or diet sodas. School gatherings where concessions are sold are limited by the healthy beverage requirement.

In his last principal's report before moving on to the superintendent's office, Ogema principal Mitch Anderson finalized his plan of not grouping kindergarten through second graders by ability.

Anderson briefed the board earlier about his plan in last week's special board meeting at the Waubun School Forest.

"I'm not against ability grouping," Anderson said. "I just have a hard time putting six-year-olds in a low, middle or high (group) at that age."

Coaches, including volunteers, will have to go through a background check due to new state regulations. Payment for the check - $15 - will be made by the prospective coaches. The checks do not include current faculty and staff as they already go through the checks before they are hired.

Growing interest in girls basketball necessitates the hiring of an assistant varsity coach - a position that was eliminated due to low numbers in the past. Peterson said that almost 20 girls would go out for basketball.

"I would think that would need to be approved," Peterson said.

In addition, the board approved the purchase of a new burnisher for the floors at a cost of $3,500. Superintendent Joe Merseth said a burnisher heats the wax and polishes the floors. It saves some money because the floor wouldn't need to be rewaxed a couple of times a year.

The drawback, though, is the time required to do the job. "You need to spend a few hours every week if you are going to burnish floors," Merseth said.

The machine comes from Ulen, which bought the machine new, but didn't have the manpower needed to do the job.

With the district's custodial supply company willing to repurchase the burnisher if it doesn't work out, Merseth said it's virtually a no-risk deal for the district.

"Hillyard's would be willing to buy it back because it's a brand-new machine," Merseth said.