No cuts coming at Marshall Schools

/ 19 June 2012 / jennifer

Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent, June 19, 2012 –

MARSHALL – It’s been a memorable last few days for Marshall Public Schools Business Director Bruce Lamprecht. Not only did he get a hole-in-one at the Marshall Golf Club during league play, he also got a standing ovation from a couple of Marshall School Board members after giving his budget presentation Monday.

In the required third reading of the school district’s budget, Lamprecht summed up the 100-page document in a concise, realistic manner.

“This is the news that won’t make you snooze,” Lamprecht said. “Things are going to change. Enrollment will change, funding sources might change, but this is what we do know: There are no cuts this year in education.”

In fact, the district is planning to add a small number of positions, pilot new technology and expand reading instruction. Those factors were made possible, Lamprecht said, through “frugal” decision-making in the past.

“We’re in a good place, but things can change quickly,” Lamprecht said. “Life changes. So we need to still be looking to the future. We’re still going to have challenges.”

Lamprecht praised the administration’s effort to replace 20 teachers who were part of the planned retirement buyout, setting up big savings for the near future.

“That’s a good thing,” Lamprecht said. “We still have severance pay for 2012-13 yet, but we’ll be saving a significant amount after that.”

Unfortunately for Marshall, and most other Minnesota school districts, borrowing money has become a way of life.

“The state shift has put a strain on our district and all districts as far as cash flow,” Lamprecht said. “We used our $500,000 line of credit. We don’t like it, but it’s a way of life. Until the state economy gets on stronger footing, it’s going to continue.”

In preparation for unpredictable years, Lamprecht said the administration, finance team and the school board did a good job of keeping promises to the community, including small class sizes and the maintaining of a minimum 8 percent fund balance. An updated preliminary report estimates the fund balance at 12.3 percent.

Being conservative in the past will allow current transportation costs, which are at a historical high point, to have less of an impact on the budget.

“It’s not a balanced budget, but it does encompass a lot of good things,” Lamprecht said. “It is about wants and needs.”

As the federal government moves toward more healthy eating, school districts are forced to recalculate food prices.

“Having gone through the price calculation, the district will be going up 10 cents for lunch, across the board,” Lamprecht said. “Most districts are facing the same thing. Breakfast and milk prices will not change.”

Marshall Schools Superintendent Klint Willert asked for the board’s feedback in regards to a possible grant application which would also the district to focus on individual learning plans.

“Many components of it, we’re already putting in place,” Willert said. “It would help answer whether or not we’re pushing the top kids enough and if there are enough interventions in place for struggling students.”

Willert also relayed information regarding interest that the city of Marshall has in possibly acquiring property near the Marshall High School.

“It would involve 27 acres,” Willert said. “And it would be contingent on the vote for the amateur sports complex.”

Coordinator Amy Eckart gave an annual presentation on QComp, highlighting areas for improvement and positively looking towards the future. Currently, the district has one QComp coordinator, eight coordinating teachers and 29 peer coaches.

Principal Brian Jones and Assistant Middle School Principal Michelle Schrantz presented the board with reading results in the district, focusing primarily on the middle school level.

“It’s important to know where we’ve been and where we’re going,” Schrantz said. “In 2010, we began 30-minute daily reading instruction with every teacher. Everyone taught a strategy and students rotated around to each of them.”

Using AIMSweb data, Schrantz reports that the district is moving in the right direction, seeing positive growth in most grade levels. The hope is that the district can hire a reading specialist to continue efforts already made.

Board chairman Jeff Chapman expressed concern that two grades appeared to go backwards from mid-school year to spring, but the presenters explained that sometimes a snapshot doesn’t tell the whole story.

The board approved 12 action items, but chose to table the one regarding the approval of the 2011-12 Superintendent Goal pending further information.

The board also modified one other action item. While approving the next board meeting change from July 16 to July 23, the board agreed to begin the meeting at 4 p.m. instead of the previous time frame.