School board votes to discontinue 7 positions

Published 8:54 pm Monday, April 15, 2024

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The Albert Lea school board on Monday voted to discontinue seven full-time positions as it looks to adjust for a declining enrollment.

The positions include three full-time elementary teachers, two full-time secondary classroom teachers and a special services coordinator at both the elementary and secondary levels.

Ashley Mattson, executive director of Human Resources for the district, presented the positions up for vote and said they were recommended after administration reviewed enrollment coming in for the 2024-25 school year and looked at efficiencies in the schedule of classes.

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In March, Superintendent Ron Wagner said administration would need to make “proportional adjustments” because of enrollment projections and said if there is suddenly an increase in kindergarteners before the start of the next school year, he would be happy to add more kindergarten teachers as needed.

At a board meeting in March, Jennifer Walsh, executive director of finance, operations and safety for the district, said the average daily membership of the district was down 127 in all grades from what was projected in June.

For many years the kindergarten classes have been about 240, but this year that number dropped to 207. She anticipated continuing to see a decline in enrollment, with smaller kindergarten classes compared to the classes of outgoing seniors.

School board member Angie Hoffman asked what effect the adjustments would have on class sizes and the budget cuts that the district has to make.

Wagner said administration will present at the next school board meeting about its proposals for $1.19 million in budget adjustments for next year.

In related action, the board voted to place Tammy McGlinnen-Willis and Sarah Stay, who work as the secondary and elementary special services coordinators, respectively, on unrequested leave of absence without pay for benefits effective June 30 because of the elimination of their positions. They are not represented by a teachers’ collective bargaining unit.

The resolution stated the two women have held other positions in the district and have continuing contract rights to other positions in the district.

McGlinnen-Willis and Stay will have 14 days to request a hearing to challenge the placement on unpaid leave of absence.

The board also approved not renewing contracts of eight probationary teachers for next year: Brenda Berg, Celia Crandall, Tess Douty-Amick, Brent Grossman, Tanya Herbst, Kirstin Hughes, Alissa Peterson and Melanie Sanchez.

A probationary teacher is a teacher who is in his or her first three years of teaching at a district. After a teacher is renewed for their fourth contract year, the teacher achieves tenure and has more rights to their job.

In other action, the board:

• Recognized social worker Brittany Roberts, who works at both the high school and Area Learning Center, as the February employee of the month.

• Recognized students who have passed testing for the Minnesota Bilingual Seals program. Bilingual seals or certificates are awarded to Minnesota high school graduates who have met the required levels of proficiency in a world language and completed the English Language Arts credits needed for graduation.

In this case, the students are bilingual in English and Spanish. Some are even taking French.

This is the district’s second year of offering the program.

• Voted to remain with Blue Cross Blue Shield for health insurance after seeking proposals.

Aaron Casper, with National Insurance Services, said the district saw a significant increase in claims for the last 12 months compared to the prior 12 months, from $6.25 million to about $8.8 million.

Using this historical data and projected claims for the coming year, Casper said the formula calculated that the district needed a 9.4% premium increase. By using $200,000 from its reserves, they were able to reduce that to 7%.

The board approved this increase.