The Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn School board was bombarded with last minute pleas not to reduce the early educational staff in the primary building at Monday night's board meeting. Kathy Jochims, a social worker employed with the local AEA, discussed the various problems regular classroom teachers are facing today as many students require strong medications to get them through their day.
The larger the classroom, the less time they have to work with children who have developmental difficulties. She noted that MMC has a perfect classroom setup where many problems can be addressed bringing children up to snuff where they should be. She noted state and federal authorities are focusing in on meeting special needs of children and perhaps a grant could be applied for to help cover staff expenses. She noted by saying she chose the MMC District to educate her children since she felt they had the best situation around the area.
Kay Ogren and Julie Letsche, MMC instructors, addressed the board. Ogren said the personnel in the elementary building have a passion to do the best they can for their students and that small classrooms make it possible to have extra time to work personally with special needs students.
She also questioned whether the reduction was equitable and that some high school classes have only 10 students in them. She hoped the board had looked at the high school to see if there could be a cost savings there instead of at the elementary. Letsche reminded the board that much of their success was being able to spend much time individually with students and the staff is happy to work with all kinds of students.
A few parents were there to explain they chose MMC to send their kids as MMC has a great academic reputation. They were aware of time spent helping kids who needed extra help. They felt the younger students needed more one on one time to build a good foundation for future learning. One parent said she moved back to the area just so her children could attend MMC and get the best education possible.
Renea Ogren, guidance counselor, noted there were grants which could be applied for. She knows the staff is passionate about passing learning on to those young ones so they could have a good start.
The board had already received two requests for early retirement from Rick and Joy Nielsen of Cleghorn who both teach in the middle school. The board also accepted the resignation of Beth McDermott, Spanish instructor; Renae Smith, Special education aid; Christy Alquist, high school English instructor; and Pat Bird, girl's junior high basketball coach.
Supt. Jan Brandhorst addressed the meeting with the information that the board has looked hard and long at the best way to make budget cuts. Early retirements and resignations will allow the board to make some cuts through attrition.
The board still needed to make a reduction of one full-time employee at the elementary level plus the full-time school nurse position was reduced 25 percent. The board juggled the educational load and numbers of staff to balance next year's budget.
The board was quite pleased to learn that both construction bids for the proposed building project came in under expectation. The winning bid was from Wilson Construction of Le Mars at $2,650,000 plus $53,000 to add a skylight in the commons area. Holtze Co. of Sioux City was the other bidder at $2,743,000 plus $53,000 for the skylight. Wilson will begin work as soon as all of the papers are sign. The MMC District voters gave approval for a $2,800,000 project. With some money in SILO, the project is on target to begin.
At the end of the meeting, board member Loren Mohning addressed the crowd that the board studied hard and long on how to make cuts and that their decision was not reached lightly. People need to understand that part of the budget (general funds)is geared to pay for salaries where the one-cent sales tax is geared to pay for facilities.
The other negative looming over the board's head is settling with the certified staff. On Monday night the board was looking at the real possibility of having to bring in an arbitrator to settle a contract between staff and district. If so, this only adds to the district's expenses. They have no idea where the money will come from.
The board went over a number of summer projects to keep the buildings up. The list included: caulking windows and doors; resealing both gym floors; work on the north wall of Cleghorn locker room; installing some drop ceilings and putting up new lights in several rooms; perhaps moving the weight room to the art room in the Cleghorn building; painting some rooms; epoxying the main hall of the elementary building and some classrooms; working on playground equipment; developing a rotation plan on replacing the doors to the halls in the high school.
The board also was pleased the MMC District won 100 large pizzas from Pizza Ranch which are being sold for $10 each as a fund-raiser. The pizzas may be picked up on May 2 but call in your order anytime for either hamburger, pepperoni, sausage and cheese.