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Lake Park-Audubon seeks grant for smaller classes

LAKE PARK - At a time when many area school districts are looking at downsizing staff, the Lake Park-Audubon School Board approved a grant application Monday night that would, if approved, allow them to add two full-time instructors to the district roster for 2009-10.

The district would, however, only need to pay for 10 to 15 percent of the total cost, or about $8,000-$12,000 for the two positions. The added staff would allow one more section of first grade and one section of second grade to be added at LP-A Elementary School for next year.

The remainder of the cost would be funded through a combination of federal class size reduction revenue (50 percent) and an Alternative Delivery for Special Instruction Services Grant (35-40 percent).

According to Superintendent Dale Hogie, the main reason behind adding one section of classes for both the first and second grade is because the district has an especially high number of special needs students, who require more one-on-one attention.

"We want three sections in the first and second grades because of our high needs students," Hogie said after the meeting.

In fact, roughly 31 percent of the district's kindergarten students have I.E.P.'s -- Individualized Education Plans, required for all children receiving special education and related services. According to Board Chair Vicky Grondahl, that number is roughly twice the norm for most districts.

The remaining 69 percent of the student population would also benefit from the smaller class size, Hogie noted, because "the student-teacher ratio would be lower for all students" in those grades.

Also at Monday's meeting, the board finalized its evaluation of Hogie's performance as superintendent for 2008.

In the 10 main areas covered by the evaluation, Hogie scored a 3.0 or better for all categories, which basically means there were "no areas that are deficient at all," according to Board Clerk Richard Ellsworth, who compiled the evaluations.

"There are some areas where improvement could be shown," Ellsworth added.

According to the evaluation findings that were approved Monday night, those areas include assisting the board in the process of establishing district goals, and submitting an annual report to the board regarding progress toward achievement of those goals.

Evaluation of mid-management staff and participating in civic and community groups as a means of promoting district support were other areas where the board felt Hogie "needs some work."

But overall, Ellsworth said, "The work Dale has done in the past year, and since he's been here has been great -- I'm well pleased with the job he's doing for us."

"I think we all feel very lucky to have Mr. Hogie," Grondahl added.

In other business, the board doled out a couple of special commendations at the meeting: The first was to the staff and students at LP-A, and Lake Park city workers who helped to minimize the impact of a break in the main water line at the high school on Friday, Feb. 20.

The second was to long-time district instructors Erlene and Fran DeCock, who will both be retiring at the end of the school year. Both resignations were approved at the meeting. Erlene DeCock will leave her position as high school language arts and psychology instructor on May 29, while Fran DeCock will depart his position as high school agriculture instructor June 8.

Because fuel prices have fallen significantly below what was anticipated when the 2008-09 district budget was approved, LP-A is expected to have a small surplus in its transportation fund at the end of the school year.

"We allocated $100,000 for gas and fuel oil costs (this year) -- my projection is we'll probably be spending about $30,000 less than anticipated," Hogie said.

At Monday's meeting, the board authorized the transportation committee to begin looking for a new Suburban-size vehicle to replace one of the existing Suburbans with higher than recommended mileage. The vehicle would be purchased out of 2008-09 transportation funds.

In addition, the committee is going to start looking into the possibility of replacing one district bus in 2009-10; there is one bus in the district's fleet that is over 12 years old and has over 161,000 miles on it, Hogie noted.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454