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NYM School board approves budget reductions

Through attrition, unrequested leave and contract non-renewal 6.5 full-time equivalent teacher positions are among the budget reduction and containment measures approved Monday by the New York Mills School Board. But depending on the state legislature and possible federal stimulus money, some of those positions could be restored.

The district, which on Monday cut approximately $433,000 from the 2009-10 budget, will not fill two full-time elementary teacher positions, which open through attrition, next year. Elementary teachers Marlene Boedigheimer and Dick Wegscheid are retiring at the end of this school year.

In the high school, the board voted unanimously to not renew the contracts of probationary teachers Amy Drake and Kerrie Speer. Drake currently teachers high school science and Speer teaches high school English. The board also voted for the proposed unrequested leave of absence for high school social studies teacher Carrie Jorgenson and high school Spanish teacher Jennifer Brunsberg. Teachers placed on ULA are essentially laid off.

According to Superintendent Todd Cameron, the district will take a look at enrollment, courses, sections and the final budget this summer after the legislature has adjourned to decide if any call backs for teaching positions will occur. Statutory requirements, along with teacher contract language require the district to make this decision now rather than later.

A previous budget containment plan would reduce high school media specialist Alyce Tomporowski to half-time in the media center and have her teach Spanish half-time. The final decision on Spanish and the media specialist position has not been made yet.

The board also approved the district's decision to eliminate two part-time office assistant positions in the elementary and high school offices. The half-time bookkeeper/payroll position in the district office was also eliminated.

The elementary office will remain open with part-time office staff. The elementary principal position is not among the cuts approved Monday. A previous proposed plan called for the elimination of the elementary principal position. Instead, Greg Esala will remain elementary principal and take on the Community Education duties. One program parents and teachers have said is critical to students' education is Early Intervention Reading. That program was listed as a possible cut with the board's first reading of budget containment. Following Monday's meeting, that program will remain in the elementary school.

"We still have all three administrative offices in tact," Cameron said. "We still have our elementary school principal and we'll still have Early Intervention Reading."

Elementary Science was another area of concern as the administration, board and community talked about possible cuts. The program will no longer be taught by a separate science teacher but, Cameron said, will be taught by the individual classroom teachers.

Cameron commented that despite some cuts the district remains committed to small classroom sizes.

"We're still looking at three sections for K-3. We still want to keep our class sizes small, particularly in the primary grades," Cameron said.

Jon Kotaska, who is currently the Activities Director, will go back to teaching high school science full-time. Supt. Cameron will take over as Activities Director.

Previous budget reduction measures include the teachers union giving back 1 percent in staff development to the general fund. They are now considering an additional half percent.

The 2009-10 budget must be approved by July 1, and depending on what happens with the state legislature, and possible federal stimulus money, things could change before the final budget is approved.