[Zumbrota-Mazeppa] School budget cuts take effect

/ 2 May 2012 / jennifer

Emily Urness, Zumbrota News-Record, May 2, 2012 –

ZUMBROTA – At the Zumbrota-Mazeppa School Board meeting on April 23 the board announced that they hired a new full-time high school Spanish teacher and will be extending the position of special education coordinator. These two items went by without much notice as the discussions of who and what were being cut took precedence in the crowd of teachers.

The budget was reduced by $261,000. Reductions include:

• Elimination of Patricia Bronk’s position as half-time middle school reading teacher

• David Kennedy, part-time middle school industrial technology teacher, was put on unrequested leave of absence

• Elimination of four overload lunch supervisors

• Elimination of one eighth grade football coach

• Supply costs reduced by $25,000

• A replacement will not be sought for a retiring full-time elementary teacher

• Elimination of summer custodial help

• A high school science teacher position will be part-time rather than full-time

Chairman Brian Grudem said, “We need to get to a number and we can’t get there without affecting some full-time employees.” He expressed the board’s appreciation and regret for the teachers who were let go during the budget cut process.

Many of the teachers in attendance voiced their concerns regarding how cuts will be affecting class sizes. The cuts could raise the class sizes for next year to 26-28 students per class. Grudem noted that the average class size statewide is 27.3 students per class section.

“If we had average teachers I’d be nervous,” said ZM Superintendent Tony Simons. “But, we don’t have average teachers, we have excellent teachers.” Simons noted that the classroom sizes will mostly affect the upper elementary grade levels. “We want to keep the K-2 numbers low because we realize the importance of kids getting individual attention as they learn those basic math and reading skills,” said Simons.

School Board Director Jim Wendt said, “I don’t think there is anybody here who wouldn’t want to be able to hire more teachers. The reality is we can’t.” Wendt said if the school were to continue operating as it has, the school would be in statutory operating debt within a year and the state would step in and make cuts.

“We have to have some trust here that we are going to try to look out for the kids and we are trying to do that the best we can,” said Simons.

Other business

• Simons noted that the school is in talks with Sugarloaf regarding transportation.

• “We are looking at maybe raising some of the fees that we charge for being involved in activities,” noted Simons.

• The board will look into replacing the existing food service accounting system.