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New look for Detroit Lakes community education?

The upcoming retirement of Community Education Director Mark Greenig gives Detroit Lakes Public Schools a chance to revamp the community education program.

The move to alter community education comes at a time when the district is looking to cut costs due to an expected drop in revenue. And it follows on the heels of the City of Detroit Lakes moving to contract out its summer recreation program to the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center.

Superintendent Doug Froke said at Monday's School Board meeting that he's looking at what duplication of services exists among the district, the city and the DLCCC.

"Is there something there we could do differently because of that common staff?" Froke said.

Froke said that the district's position to save money wherever it can became more urgent as the financial crisis deepened in the fall, leading to the state looking to tighten its belt as the budget deficit worsened.

"We started getting hit with terms like shared services," Froke said. "Are we using tax dollars wisely?"

When evaluating Greenig's position, Froke said that the administration had to go through and check how much time Greenig spent on various administrative duties.

"We assigned a dollar value to those areas to get an idea of what that meant," Froke said.

Board chairman Tom Klyve opted to form an ad-hoc committee to study the issue. The committee would consist of interested board members.

"We need some vehicle to do the evaluation and come to the board with a recommendation, and maybe a summary," said board member Dr. Thomas Seaworth.

Seaworth didn't want to have the board decide the matter on its own, because community education isn't just about the school system; the city and the DLCCC also have an interest in the matter.

Froke wanted additional direction from the board before deciding to go further on any specific proposal.

Instead of just replacing Greenig, which is an option on the table, the school board has a couple of other suggestions before it.

Replacing Greenig with another director won't come without a hit to the district. The City of Detroit Lakes paid for 25 percent of Greenig's salary to cover the summer recreation portion of his duties. But with the contract with the DLCCC, that money won't be coming the district's way.

"The savings would be marginal," Froke said, adding that it would be the status quo.

Other options presented to the board are to hire a program coordinator, who would operate under a community education director that would be a director by title only. The district needs to have a licensed community education director in order to levy property taxes for community education.

The district would look to someone already on staff that had a community education license to serve as the director.

Froke said that there are potential savings that come from hiring a program coordinator, because such a position may not pay as much as Greenig's did.

"As we look at the potential for this position, I see it as someone who would probably be within the existing staff over at Lincoln (Education Center)," Froke said. "That goes with the theme that we have quality people running quality programming over there."

The third option would be to contract with the DLCCC for community education. A community education director would still need to be named for levy purposes.

"You take Mark Greenig out and insert the DLCCC," Froke said.

Froke said that the DLCCC would replace Greenig just for community education classes at this time. The district would still run the early childhood education, adult basic education and site rental.

"The DLCCC's role is not in those particular programs, but more on the community ed class side" said DLCCC CEO Stu Omberg. "What we could bring to the table is management, staffing, marketing and facilities, because that's where we think the fit would be."

Omberg said that he wants any proposed arrangement between the district and the DLCCC to be a win-win situation for both sides. Greenig's retirement gives both entities a chance to take advantage of a situation in order to make that happen, Omberg said.

"I don't think it's a situation of where the things we have talked about are a huge hurdle," he added.

Omberg said that Historic Holmes Theatre Executive Director Amy Stearns could help on the community education licensure front. Stearns is willing to take classes through Minnesota State University Moorhead to get her license, Omberg said.

"From our perspective, we look at it that it enhances our value and we have something to offer the school district," Omberg said.

In other action, the board:

- Expelled two students. The expulsions were on the consent agenda because either the students themselves, if 18 or over, or their parents waived the right to a hearing before the school board.

- Heard a proposal from Froke concerning the 2009-10 school calendar.

With a State House committee shooting down a bill on Monday that would allow school districts to begin the school year before Labor Day for the next two years, Froke will plan the calendar as is. He is looking at cutting back the Christmas break a couple of days. "It got to the House Finance (Committee) and it was defeated, and defeated soundly," Froke said.

"This threw me back a little bit in that there is that much disdain for school before Labor Day," Froke said.

Froke is building in a snow day in March so that school will not go past Memorial Day if possible. As of now, school will be held for an entire week after Memorial Day because of the four snow days accumulated thus far in the current school year.