Faribault School Board further discusses levy

/ 11 June 2012 / jennifer

Allison Roorda, Faribault Daily News, June 11, 2012 –

A levy is looking more and more likely as part of Faribault’s voting choices next November. But each member of the Faribault Public School Board has his own ideas about how the funds for the levy should be used.

Faribault Superintendent Todd Sesker gave a presentation to the board that supposed the Faribault School District started with a blank slate and then built up those programs and positions that were necessary to provide an education that met both state standards and the minimum school board members wanted to offer.

After looking at core curriculum, class sizes, administration and paraprofessionals — among other programs — Sesker said the district was just meeting the standards they needed with the minimum of administrators and staff.

“What we have to offer if we start with a clean slate is what we have to offer to our students, and that’s what we have right now,” Sesker said.

That said, Sesker concluded that passing a levy of $515 would allow the district to continue with all its programs without resorting to budget cuts, when combined with the current levy of $385. Sesker then presented a list of suggested additions to the school board, based on recommendations from focus groups both within and outside of the school district.

The list of additions included 0.2 FTE (or full-time equivalent) in art, 1.0 FTE in industrial ed/vocational/ag/service learning teacher, 0.4 FTE in music at the high school and 1.4 FTE in music at the middle school, plus 3.0 FTE teachers in the English Learners program for a total of 6.0 full-time positions. In order to accomplish all these additions, the levy amount would have to be $605, bringing the total when combined with the current levy to $990. Sesker thought a levy total of $1,000 is the maximum the school board can ask of the community while still expecting the levy to pass in November, based on feedback from the focus groups.

“I’m uncomfortable with discussion on where the threshold is,” said school board treasurer James Wolf. “I think trying to pick a number out of what the community might tolerate is not the right methodology.”

Wolf expressed a desire to see the potential and costs for implementing a seven-period day for the high school.

“I think we can do a lot more for our arts program if we go to a seven-period day to give kids those options,” Wolf said. “I’m not ready to just sort of dismiss the idea of a seven-period day and go with this to support our arts.”

Faribault High School principal Lyle Turtle said if he had an increase in music teachers, the high school would be able to offer more opportunities to students, such as a higher music course, like AP music or music theory. An increase in technical teachers would also offer the opportunity to reinstate service learning at the high school.

Other board members had other opinions on what should be added to the initial list. Jerry Robicheau asked to see additional teachers at the kindergarten to first-grade level, where class sizes are currently at an average of 21.

Sesker said if he were forced to choose, he would rather have three English Learner teachers than three kindergarten teachers. Robicheau said smaller class sizes could help all students with individual attention.

The deadline for the school board to decide on and approve of a levy is Monday, June 18, at the regular school board meeting at 6:30 p.m.

Allison Roorda covers education in Rice County. She may be reached at 333-3132. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonRoorda