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Albert Lea School Board approves program reductions, contract non-renewals

By Evelyn Seffinga

The Albert Lea School Board on Monday approved several reductions in programs and contract non-renewals in the district.

Jim Quiram, executive director of administrative services, said the procedure — which involved two resolutions — is done yearly as required by state statute.

The first resolution proposed outlined reductions to programs in the district.

“There are three pots of money here that will affect the programs,” Quiram said.

The first that will see reductions is the voluntary pre-kindergarten programs, which will affect three full-time employees.

Next is Title I reductions, which is an anticipated 10 percent reduction in federal funding to districts under the Trump administration. This could affect 2.15 FTEs.

The last area is that of pilot compensatory money, which is a program that is renewed every two years to certain districts in the state. This would affect 5.25 FTEs.

Albert Lea is one of seven districts in the state to receive the money. Superintendent Mike Funk explained that the district’s hope is that the pilot compensatory money is more reliable in the future.

The three areas total 10.4 FTEs in program reductions.

The board approved the motion to reduce the three programs with a 5-1 vote.

Neal Skaar, Ken Petersen, Dave Klatt, Mark Ciota and Angie Hanson voted yes. Jill Marin did not support the resolution.

Quiram pointed out that the Minnesota Legislature does not require additions to programing to be brought before the board.

“Unfortunately the Legislature doesn’t require us to talk about increases in FTEs, so I don’t bring those before the board, but we do have to bring reductions. For instance, the high school sees an increase of 75 to 80 kids next year so they will have an increase in FTEs, which will offset some of this as far as program reductions.”

The second resolution described the annual nonrenewal of probationary staff or teaching contracts. Quiram reviewed the district’s staffing process for the board, stating that the process is mathematical in nature.

The board discussed the process in which probationary teachers are notified of their employment status with the district. Quiram outlined the different reasons behind the termination of contracts, citing that performance, progress and the district’s needs are taken into account.

The board approved the motion to terminate 13 probationary contracts in the district. The resolution passed on a 5-1 vote. Skaar, Petersen, Klatt, Ciota and Hanson voted yes. Marin voted no. 

The teaching contracts of Kenneth Alexander, Jay Austinson, Michelle Bonitto, Catherine Dudley, Kari Frankenberg, Abbey Helmer, Sarah Hengel, Chris Irvin, Jodi Passer, Laura Paulson, Jennifer Sarff, Kelli Smith and Beth Wilde were not renewed.

Funk stated he is hoping the district receives exact numbers from the Legislature by June 30 to create an accurate budget for the following school year.

“This is kind of an annual thing that does happen, so I know that it’s a tough thing to do but when you don’t have funding then it is something that needs to be addressed,” Petersen said.

About Evelyn Seffinga

Evelyn Seffinga covers education and arts and culture for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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