Weather Forecast


School budget cuts approved

Monday night the school board made the $381,000 budget reduction package for 2009-10 official. It passed without changes or dissent, though two board members were absent.

The cuts plus more than $300,000 tapped from the district's reserve fund should cover a projected $680,000 deficit next school year.

Officials and board members warn that another round of large cuts may be needed in another year unless finances improve. A declining enrollment and smaller state-aid increases are factors.

Superintendent Tom Westerhaus said the budget reduction package was tough to do but "fiscally responsible."

He acknowledged Japanese language teacher Jo Dougherty in the audience. The cuts will eliminate Japanese, German and French instruction at the middle school while increasing exposure to Spanish.

The move will reduce Dougherty from full- to part-time next year.

Westerhaus said administrators "feel badly" for Dougherty because she's a skillful teacher who trained and built the Japanese program from scratch.

But he said the Spanish focus will benefit students choosing this popular foreign language.

Westerhaus also said the high school will still offer multiple languages and that new approaches to foreign language instruction are being checked out.

One involves small-class settings in the elementary grades and the other is done online.

Westerhaus reacted to various budget-cut suggestions made at last week's public hearing, including:

  • Transportation's $16,943 cut won't "compromise child safety." But in the near future, the district may look at streamlined bus routes and establishing collection points to save money.
  • Energy conservation and efficiencies will be a high priority. As money is available, the current retrofitting of schools with the latest efficient lights will go on. Other low- or no-cost conservation measures will be considered. Some teachers will take college classes on renewable energy and bring back ideas for the district to use.
  • Promoting some kind of public education foundation or endowment to stretch tax dollars for worthy school district programs.

    "I concur 100% with the need (for this)," Westerhaus said.

    Also at Monday night's meeting, the school board:

  • Accepted a revised labor contract with the union representing the paraprofessionals and health aides. The change means a slight reduction in daily hours for 20 employees and reflects next school year's budget cuts.

    Board member Manny Kenney praised the cooperative spirit to reach the agreement.

  • Approved terms for accepting a $32,000 Kern Family Foundation grant to establish Project Lead the Way that will phase in a high school pre-engineering program this fall.

    The goal, said Academic Services Director Rick Osterhaus, is to prepare students for engineering pursuits at technical colleges and universities.

    High school tech-ed instructor Paul Haugland will train this summer to teach introduction to engineering design. In 2010 math and science teachers will be recruited to train and teach biotechnical and digital engineering.

    Principal Elaine Baumann said the pre-engineering program should be a complete package by the 2011-12 school year. A similar program began this year at Meyer Middle School.

  • Heard Westerhaus explain the next stages that will piggyback the Jan. 31 Education Summit attended by 82 citizens.

    A Strategic Planning Committee composed of 46 people will assemble for a three-day session April 2-4 at the United Methodist Church.

    Westerhaus said the group should have stimulating talks that coalesce into a mission statement for the district and a list of core objectives.

    After that Action Teams will be formed to decide how to implement eight to ten strategies. Each team will tackle a strategy.

    That work will be done in the fall. The school board will consider the recommendations next winter.

    Board member Alan Tuchtenhagen said there'll be "plenty of opportunity" for interested citizens to join one of the various Action Teams.

    The Strategic Planning Committee is made up of these people: Barb Anderson, Elaine Baumann, Jim Beix, Natalie Benusa, David Black, Joan Brathol, Kit Bruesewitz, Anne Buchholz, Rosanne Bump, Bob Casey, Randy Dusek, Kevin Dorn, John Kleven, Chuck Eaton, Charlie Finley, Chris Gottfredsen, Donna Hill, Dan Hoffman, Denise Horseman, Mike Johnson, Stacy Johnson Myers, Dale Jorgenson, Manny Kenney, Tanya Larsen, Jessica LeCapitaine, Carrie Loney, Buddy Lucero, Marlys Mueller, Mary Murphy, Hillary Pechacek, Faye Perkins, Tammy Pitzen, Julia Quick, Deb Quist, Dennis Rank, Kris Roen, Sue Rothberger, Brian Schultz, Robb Scott, Sue Steckbauer, Maggie Watson, Doug Weiss, Tom Westerhaus, Jen Zoller and Abby Testa.

  • Advertisement