Guest column: Getting the school facts straight

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 7, 2002

Editor’s note: This guest column has been submitted on behalf of Albert Lea TEAM.

TEAM (Together Education Achieves More) committee members have been meeting since the first of the year. Our main objective is to provide facts and accurate information to the community. TEAM is concerned about funding for adequate educational opportunities in District 241 and the possible need for a referendum.

We owe a big thank you to Grace Schwab and Dan Dorman for ensuring that District 241 received $300,000. This money helped to replace a major portion of the $325,000 we lost because of approximately 65 students being displaced as a result of the Farmland fire. The district received approximately $5,000 per enrolled student this past year. Grace and Dan wrote legislation for the House and Senate. School administrators went to House and Senate committee hearings at the Capitol testifying on the dollars lost because of fewer students. Grace and Dan then fought on the Senate and House floors the last 48 hours of the session to ensure that the funding was obtained for District 241.

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District 241 was able to make a positive step forward by selling the old high school. There was $400,000 set aside for demolition costs that will not have to be spent on the old high school. The public must remember that these dollars can only be used for projects to build or improve facilities and also for technology. These dollars may not be used for general operating funds. These dollars came from the 1998 referendum that provided the funds to build the new high school, improve technology, and improve existing school district buildings. This summer more parking space is being added at the high school not only to accommodate more staff and students, but also more parking for public events. The board is looking at all the facilities and prioritizing how the remainder of these dollars should be spent on facilities and technology.

The school district’s general fund received an additional $200,000 when the teachers voted to provide general fund support with a portion of the staff developmental training dollars. This helped to reinstate four full-time teacher equivalents. This included two elementary teachers, one middle school teacher, and one high school teacher. The school district also received an $80,000 federal grant for class size reduction. These dollars allow for reduced class sizes in grades 4, 5, and 6 in reading and math. At Southwest Middle School it is allowing for an additional math teacher to reduce class size. Family and consumer science is still part of the curriculum and industrial technology was increased by one section. At the high school this money is reinstating some electives and reducing the number of students taking study halls. This brings the actual cuts for the 2002-03 school year down to 10.5 teachers.

There are many positive things going on in District 241. Thanks to a 21st century federal learning grant written by district administration and community members there have been many excellent after school opportunities available for students. This summer there have been over 750 students taking part in summer school and summer enrichment activities. The three-year grant provides these opportunities to our students at no cost to the school district.

Anyone interested in TEAM can contact Dennis Dieser at 373-7451, Becky Johnson at

377-3182, Terri Wichman at 373-3530, Matt Kleinschrodt at 377-0773, Dave Nolander at 373-3745, Mary Ann Dixen at 377-0816, Ann Miksch at 373-8063 or Tom Ehrhardt at 377-2409.