MARCUS - The Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn School Board held a special meeting on April 7 to discuss realignment of grades as a cost-cutting measure for the coming school year.
Superintendent Jan Brandhorst proposed to move grades seven and eight to the high school building as a means of saving $176,000 which will go a long way to meet the necessary proposed reduction of $196,000 for the coming school year.
Brandhorst explained, "With the unexpected resignations, the administration decided to take a closer look at this possibility. I really hadn't thought of making this decision for a year or two yet. I realized eventually the district would need to do this with the rising fixed costs of fuel for classroom, busing, utilities and so forth. The state does allow four percent growth which is alright if your enrollment remains constant or grows. But we are graduating more students than the numbers coming into kindergarten. Something has to be done to keep the district financially strong. Our trend line suggests we are in a declining pattern. So for that reason, the board needs to look at that option."
Brandhorst said that the principals have been looking at staff, classrooms and considering the overall effect of such a move to see if this would be feasible. He also doesn't want the communities to be upset as the district wants to remain as MMC as long as possible. Changes are always inevitable. As in the past, by working together the district can have a bright future for many years.
The principals noted there will be space for the two grades in the high school. There are enough lockers to accommodate every student.
All six grades are taught departmentally so that staff would be used more efficiently. A reduction of four teachers could be made. Three resignations had already been given to the board which is why it made sense to make the move this coming fall. There would be a need to hire two more aides to handle the library and study hall and possibly another would be needed for the elementary area.
"It has been depressing to go through the process to find cuts to make our budget for the last four years. This will be a big help to consolidate instruction," added Brandhorst. "We could bring the fourth grade to the elementary building in Marcus (which is what the originial plan was) but that would only save the district $109,000. The junior high sports and practices will be in Cleghorn. The busing will not increase costs as we are already busing. The sixth grade will remain with the fourth and fifth in self-contained classes in Cleghorn. The sixth grade will not have exploratory classes," explained Brandhorst.
Teacher contracts should be out by the end of April. The principals had informed the staff of possible changes. The staff reaction was guarded and curious how it all would work. High School Principal Bill Sillau noted that the staff will need to vary its teaching style according to class level.
Brandhorst thought the staff will look after the students as this is a small district where everyone knows each other. He didn't see that as a problem as everyone wants the district to remain intact. Students will adjust quickly and some are already looking forward to coming to the high school. It was thought that older high school students can become mentors for the junior high students.
Board members reacted.
Rachel Holmes thought the kids would adjust easily and better than the parents. Eric Wester said kids will acclimate to it all as he recalled having the high school and junior high in the same building in Cleghorn years ago.
Vernon Letsche said, "If it is feasible, we need to do it this fall to save the money. It will be a good opportunity for both grades with the ICN room and science lab in the high school."
Karla Prunty hoped everyone would try the change on a positive note and when problems arrive, they will be taken care of. This will bring about good utilization of the staff. Loren Mohning asked that the administration get a schedule worked out as soon as possible in order that teachers know what will be expected and if it is to their disliking, they can apply elsewhere. Mohning thought they need to go with this move as did Jeff Gross. Gross appreciated the effort gone thus far into this planning.
Brandhorst commented, "We can't rely upon our neighbors to solve our problems. We need to work together on this and get the support of the staff for the plan. When I came, kindergarten was held in the high school and there was concern about it. It worked out well and benefited the young ones as well as the high school students. This can work. I hope if someone in the community has some questions, they need to approach us. We don't want this to be an upsetting event but one in which the district can work together to solve it's financial woes."
The board also approved the budget for next year and the license staff master contract. They will meet again in two weeks at their regular time or possibly have a special meeting to go over schedules or assignments.
The board then went into closed session to go over principal applications. Sillau has resigned his principal's post.