Superintendent Gregg Parks said the main factor in this decision will be student enrollment.
“Whenever we’re facing a time of uncertainty, it’s a good practice for us to have the ability to make changes, if necessary,” he said. “As a board, we have to look at the possibility that this could be on the table. Right now the future is fairly uncertain for us because the student count is lower. If homeschoolers come back to us that would really help us out. That is something we can’t predict at this point. It’s also budgetary. The governor is working his preliminary budget and making several changes to it. The worst-case scenario is about $200,000 to $250,000 loss between this year and next year, based on the formula, if our student enrollment continues as it is right now. Keeping that in mind, it is prudent for us to pass a resolution saying we can make changes to programs and staff as an available tool for us.”
Principal Brian Michaelson is in the process of contacting parents who chose homeschooling or another alternative this year to find out their plans for next year.
Parks said any changes proposed by the administration would come back to the board for approval before being implemented.
“We just want to make sure that we give everyone a heads up right now that this is a possibility,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve ever talked about making cuts since I’ve been here, and we’ve identified that this resolution is the first step to take.”
Board member Karrin Lindow said she didn’t agree with the resolution, casting the only “no” vote.
The board also approved an early retirement incentive which will save the district money. Two employees announced their retirements earlier this year. The board also approved Sharon Hadrava’s retirement at Monday night’s meeting. She has been employed by the district since 1999 in both teaching and administrative roles.
“The Retirement Assistance Program is a cost-saving measure,” Parks said. “A new teacher is roughly $41,000 next year. We have the potential to save $20,000 to $27,000 per teacher if we replace retiring teachers with new teachers or teachers closer to the beginning of their careers. Potentially, we could save $72,085.”
The board approved Parks’ recommendation to offer each staff member $5,000 each year for two years to be placed in a Health Care Savings Plan.
“This would roughly equate to spending $30,000 over two years while saving $114,000,” he said. “It will help the teachers bridge the gap between retirement and eligibility for another medical plan.”
Lindow questioned offering an incentive to retirees when it is hard to fill teaching positions.
“There are shortages of teachers,” she said. “I think it’s odd to offer an incentive to retire when it’s hard to replace them when they go.”
Parks said a replacement has already been found for one of the retirees. “By replacing her with a fairly new teacher we’re saving a significant amount of money,” he said. “We are in a teacher shortage in some areas like math and science, but not in others.”
Board chair Andy Lindow said that if the funding for next year isn’t what it should be, this is a chance to save.
“I think it’s a smart decision when we can save money for the district and with the state not knowing how much money we will get over the next two years,” he said. “It also is a way to show the retirees we appreciate their service by giving them a little help until they get to the next stage of health care.”
The motion carried 5-1, with Lindow voting against it.
The board approved Ashley Anderson as a new teacher to fill the vacancy created when Amy Schroeder retires at the end of this school year. Anderson graduated from Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, in the fall of 2020 with a B.S. in Agriculture Education and her teacher licensure. Previously, she received her associate degree in farm operations and management from Ridgewater College in Willmar. She is currently employed at AgReliant Genetics as a field manager and seed lab technician.
The board approved Lindsey Iverson as a long-term substitute to temporarily replace a fifth grade teacher who has been granted leave for the remainder of the year. Iverson is a licensed grade 5-12 social studies teacher who has been awarded an out of field permission to also teach fifth grade reading.
The next school board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Monday, April 26 in the school media center and on Zoom.