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Middle school principal post won't be cut

Perham-Dent school officials have been searching everywhere to find places to cut expenses--without cutting academic programs.

But there's one place Superintendent Tamara Uselman won't consider cutting: Operating without a middle school principal.

"I would never recommend it," said Uselman firmly, describing it as a "flat out safety issue."

"I think it breaks the social contract we have with the ensure the safety of children," said Uselman.

The statement was made at the public meeting Feb. 26, after more than an hour of discussion with some 75 district residents. Held at the firehall in order to accommodate the large group, the meeting drew input on the school board's continuing discussion of the budget--and the prospect of cutting as much as $500,000 a year for the next two school years.

But school administration has not been spared from the cutting knife. The Dean of Students position, held by Scott Bjerke for the past two years, would be reduced or even eliminated under one proposal.

Also, the school board anticipates replacing the middle school principal with a lower-paid, less-experienced candidate. Current Principal Kitty Krueger announced last month that she would be retiring after this year.

A list of possible cuts has been compiled by school administration, though none are firm at this point.

Visual arts programs targeted for cuts

Cuts in arts programs generated perhaps the most discussion at the Feb. 26 session.

High school art teacher Laura Moe explained that the state requires schools to offer programs in three art areas--music-performing arts, visual arts and media arts.

One of the budget cuts calls for reduction, or elimination, of both visual arts teachers.

"If an art position is cut, I'll be gone, so I'm not advocating for myself--but the students," said Moe, who passed around a photograph of the school's Art Club--which has evolved into a stable, active group over the 15 years she has been in Perham.

Often, students in the art club are those who are not active in sports or other activities, said Moe. In some cases, these students would be at risk of dropping out without visual arts to keep them engaged in school, she said. Moe further noted that many Perham graduates have continued in arts fields as a career.

Music program cuts eyed

Meanwhile, music programs are also a target.

The equivalent of two full time music teachers could be cut under one proposal--citing "low demand and lack of numbers."

Music teachers contend, however, that block scheduling and other factors have reduced participation. It's a "Catch 22," with scheduling issues reducing numbers in orchestra, band and choir--there is a perceived low demand, therefore a target for budget cuts.

Cuts would also include extra-curricular music--such as pep band.

Other arts, academic cuts

Other arts-related and academic cuts might include:

---Cut one act play in middle school.

---Cut National Honor Society as paid position; assign to principal or dean.

---Cut elementary school yearbook advisor.

---Eliminate German language program.