Zumbrota-Mazeppa board cuts teachers, custodians, books

/ 24 April 2012 / jennifer

Sandy Hadler, Rochester Post-Bulletin, April 24, 2012 –

ZUMBROTA — Teachers, custodians, lunch servers, books and a football coach fell victim to the budget axe on Monday as the Zumbrota-Mazeppa School Board struggled to cut $261,000 from its 2012-2013 budget.

The board terminated Patricia Bronk, a part-time Title I teacher and half-time middle school reading teacher, and part-time middle school industrial technology teacher David Kennedy was placed on unrequested leave of absence.

To save language arts teacher Heidi Hanson’s job, the board decided to hire a part-time high school science teacher instead of a full-time teacher.

The district will save $80,426 by not replacing a retiring elementary teacher. This saved the district from cutting two elementary teaching positions. Another $36,592 was saved by eliminating summer custodial help.

Four overload lunch supervisor positions were eliminated, along with an 8th-grade football coaching position.

The district’s supplies and materials budget was also reduced, and $25,000 was cut from the district’s annual classroom books budget.

During Monday’s school board meeting, Chairman Brian Grudem apologized to those whose positions were eliminated, noting how difficult the decision had been. He thanked them for their years of service to the district and then opened the meeting to discussion.

Elementary teachers were concerned that with the cuts classroom sizes in the upper elementary grades will exceed 26 students. Grudem said that while this is not an ideal situation, the average elementary classroom size in Minnesota is 27.3 students.

The teachers were told by board members Jim Wendt and Marie Josselyn that without the cuts, the district would have been in statutory operating debt within a year, and the state would have stepped in to make the necessary cuts. Wendt said the classroom sizes could be reduced during the year, if there were problems.

Superintendent Tony Simons said he did not believe the upper grade elementary classrooms would have more than 26 students.

“I would be very nervous about increasing the class sizes if the district had mediocre teachers, but ZM’s teachers are experienced and are excellent at what they do,” Simons said.

He said he felt the teachers could handle larger classroom sizes for a year, at which time the class sizes will once again be evaluated.