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Perham-Dent school board takes first step in considering cuts

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education Perham, 56573

Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

With next year's state funding up in the air, the Perham-Dent Public School District's school board took the first official steps in looking at cuts.

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At its regular meeting on Nov. 23, the school board unanimously approved a resolution directing the administration to make recommendations for reductions in programs and positions.

A timeline was also presented for the process. In December the board will review the district's annual audit and determine the deficit. In January, the board will review a draft of potential reductions, and in February and March the board will act on reductions. At the next meeting on Dec. 13, the district's auditor will be on hand to present findings. The public was encouraged to attend all board meetings to provide input.

Rumors are circulating about what the state Legislature could do when it reconvenes in January, but some funding to education could be cut. The district also will lose stimulus funding that had been in place for the last two academic years.

"We also may see a reduction in aid per student," Superintendent Tamara Uselman said.

The state could hold education harmless again, Uselman said, but it is still up in the air. Business Manager Kristi Werner presented how much expenses would need to be cut to make budget with a $100 to $500 reduction per student if the state does cut funding.

Enrollment is another key factor the district is watching. Projections for where enrollment would be in the district at this time are right on the mark, Uselman said. However, the district is projecting a loss of 29 students next year, which will also impact how much money it receives from the state.

The district will also lose levy funding next year after a referendum failed on the Nov. 2 ballot.

In the meantime, the district is now looking at other ways to get creative to keep expenses down. The board met with the New York Mills school board on Nov. 10 to brainstorm ideas for sharing services. Options include sharing transportation and staff development training, Uselman said. The districts need to look at a common calendar first to identify what is possible, she said. The next shared services meeting will be held Jan. 5. Board Chairman Jim Rieber said Pelican Rapids has also showed interest in sharing services.

In other school board business:

• Food Service Director Laura Bjerke reported success in changes to the program this year. Students now have a choice in what they get for lunch, which was a big change for staff. She commended the 11 food service staff members and the elementary staff for their work in making it happen. Bjerke said there was a need for four to six lunchroom "dangerous" tables for the high school. The board asked for cost estimates.

•The state champion boys' cross-country team and Coach Jeff Morris were recognized by the school board.

• The Area Learning Center is set to move to a four-block system, according to Sailer. The new system will "look a lot like the old country school system," Sailer said. Flexibility for students will still be in place, and students will be able to work around their work schedules. Each block will be 45 minutes, but students could be in and out in 15 minutes if they come prepared, Sailer said. "I think we fail the kids by not expecting enough from them," he said.

• The district is now working on a strategic plan. Uselman presented six goals that came from a past community meeting. The proposed goals included building school spirit, developing an open budget and review process, facilities and capital improvement plan, and an open communication plan. Creating the strategic plan will be an open process, Uselman said, and encouraged the board and public to submit input.

For board agendas, the approved resolution, and more information about the budget, go to www.perham.k12.mn.us.

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