The Cherokee School District Board of Education, on the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom, Monday night ratified the negotiated labor contract with the Cherokee Education Association for the 2012-2013 schol year.
The new agreement calls for a 3.55-percent total package increase that will cost the District an estimated $263,000 if all employees of the District (including support staff contract yet to be ratified)) receive the 3.55-percent hike.
Chalstrom also pointed out that due to enrollment decline, the District will receive $187,000 less in State aid for FY 2013, so that totals an estimated $450,000 cost that must be compensated for. To maintain revenues in line with expenditures, that $450,000 would need to be eliminated by cost containment that would total 8-9 certified teachers being cut.
However, Chalstrom said the District currently has a "very healthy" unspent balance ($2.2 million), and a "healthy" cash balance ($1.4 million) and this year is recommending that those funds be tapped to help make up the difference, along with attrition.
The Cherokee District also is committed to adding a second grade section next school year due to larger enrollment numbers, and may have to add a kindergarten section for the same reason.
Chalstrom added that while it is not prudent to commit unspent balance to recurring costs, it is also not prudent to cut 10-percent of the certified work force, or increase class size, loss of programming, etc.
Next year could get scary, according to Chalstrom, lead negotiator for the District in its contract with the CEA, because the rate of expenditure increases are 4-percent, and the State Allowable Growth is 2-percent or less. If enrollment declines as is the trend for most Iowa Districts, that could lead to "very difficult decisions" regarding programming, class size, and quality of education.
In the future, Chasltom recommends that the District examine every position when it is open and determine then if it can be absorbed.
"Next year, if there is not an appreciable increase in Allowable Growth, enrollment, or captured attrition, the District will have to implement significant cost containment strategies in order to preserve the radical erosion of our unspent balance," explained Chalstrom.
The Superintendent, now in his eighth year at the Cherokee helm, also was quick to laud the quality negotiation tactics of the CEA team and thanked them for their understanding and fairness during the negotiations.
In other action, the Board approved acceptance of several resignations, including Director of Technology Donna Sennert, WHS Language Arts Instructor Tara Gunderson, Roosevelt Elementary Associate Diane Jolly, Roosevelt Special Education Associate Jill Paulsen, girls JV basketball coach Jim Leonard pending finding a suitable replacement, and Roosevelt Special Education Instructor Vicki Laughlin.
The Board also approved a contract for Travis Schipper as varsity football coach, and approved the transfer of Kate Leavitt to replace Laughlin.
The Board also approved raising the school lunch price from $1.80 to $2 for students for the 2012-2013 school year, and approved the dairy bid from Dean's Foods in Le Mars, and the bread bid from Sara Lee in Sioux City. The Board also accepted a $26,100 bid for a new dishwasher at WHS.
Chalstrom also explained some of the results from the Department of Education's site visit in Cherokee in early April. The DE spent three days here interviewing "stakeholders" in the District.
Chalstrom said the DE provided seven areas of strength, including clear vision, mission and goals that are clearly communicated; strong support staff; strong community support; the ability to meet the needs of a diverse community; a safe, orderly learning environment; strong academic program and offerings; ;and a strong and focused approach towards professional development.
Areas of improvement cited were to improve the use of data for the review/evaluation of programs; difficulty of maintaining relationships by teachers who serve multiple buildings; and the need for more collaborative planning time.