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Frazee board discusses reinstating positions, programs

DETROIT LAKES - Cautious without being over-cautious. That's what Frazee-Vergas School District is trying to do with programs now that the referendum has passed.

Superintendent Deron Stender said he'd like to make more use of the full-time employees already at the school.

"That's a challenge, but I think it can be done," he said.

Board member Rich Zeigler, meanwhile, wanted to look deeper into the benefits of hiring more staff.

"It's good to be cautious without being overly cautious," he said, adding that he didn't want to feel he gave false hope to the residents when out campaigning for the referendum.

The board voted Monday night to advertise for a .5 math position, .5 music position and .15 art position.

The district is already advertising for a full-time music position, due to a retirement at the end of this school year. The half-time position would be extra. For the .15 art position, that is taking into consideration another art teacher that can increase his or her hours.

The board and administration expressed that they'd like to find candidates with licensure in two areas, but the chances of that are slim.

The board discussed also advertising for business and technology positions, but decided to wait on those positions at this time.

"Time is on our side," Stender said. "We have more time to consider options for the district."

Referendum money doesn't start coming to the district until July 1, but at this point, they know what the Legislature has decided with regard to dispersing funds.

Zeigler argued for the music program, for one. With the possibility of getting part-time -- or .5 -- applicants, Zeigler said the district should advertise for full-time music or business teachers. He said while out speaking about the referendum last fall, he encountered more of an outcry to save the music program than anything else. "I want an outstanding music program," he said.

Board member Dwight Cook agreed, saying he married into a musical family and understands the importance of it.

"If we're increasing and they're decreasing, it might bring some students here," he pointed out about surrounding school districts having to make cuts to their music departments.

With the addition of a full-time music teacher, rather than just part-time, Dean of Students Troy Haugen said it would provide music lessons for fifth and sixth grade students five days a week. Now, those lessons have been cut to two times a week, and some lessons are with small groups rather than one-on-one sessions.

"Is this the best option, no. Will it get us by now, yes," Haugen said of a part-time position.

"We need to encourage our music program. We have a shining star," Cook said.

Stender said the district is looking at what has happened to the positions after seven years of cuts.

He argued that the district is still providing a quality education, so any additions would be an improvement, but, he added, maybe he is being too conservative.

"We made statements to the public," Cook said.

Deciding to hold a working session on Monday, March 24, at 7:30 a.m. in the media center at the high school, the board went forward on advertising for .5 math, .5 music and .15 art positions.

But they asked also staff to bring more information to the session about what benefits it would be to students to have full-time music, technology, business, etc. positions.

The board also discussed ordering more Smart Boards for teachers who wanted them. There are 10 ordered for the elementary and 10 more in the future for the high school, but 25 teachers who want them. The board also directed the staff to find out if there was an interest in providing 10th-12th graders with laptops.

One of the items the district is purchasing is science curriculum. Having budgeted $120,000 for textbooks, they found the actual cost will be $149,000.

"We promised the taxpayers we'd update the curriculum," Cook said, saying he didn't mind going over the budget.

After brief talk of what extra curricular activities could be supported, board member LaRaye Anderson said she felt the board should get the academic pieces in place before any extra curricular activities. Board members agreed.