At its February 27 meeting in Greenbush, the Greenbush-Middle River (GMR) School Board directed Superintendent Tom Jerome to make recommendations for reductions in programs, positions, and other areas. The board provided Jerome with some ideas to examine more closely.
First, board member Kurt Stenberg proposed looking at the costs of having the seventh to twelfth grade students all in Greenbush, and keeping kindergarten to sixth grade students at each site, adding how it may allow the district to utilize and eliminate positions. Board member Laurie Stromsodt recommended looking at the costs of having all kindergarten to fifth grade students in Middle River and all the sixth to twelfth grade students in Greenbush, while also looking at combining some grades.
Speaking of combining grades, board member Carrie Jo Howard also recommended looking at the cost savings of doing this, based on enrollment, along with examining the costs to having seventh to twelfth grade in Greenbush and an elementary school at both sites. Another recommendation, courtesy of Stromsodt, involved looking at the costs of housing all kindergarten to eighth grade students in Middle River and all ninth to twelfth grade students in Greenbush, an idea board member Joe Melby didn’t think would garner much support.
Melby also asked Jerome if they have any teachers on staff close to retirement who they can buy out. Jerome said they did. Board Chairperson Shane Kilen added another idea– look at the costs to house all kindergarten to fifth grade and ninth to twelfth grade students in Greenbush and all sixth to eighth grade students in Middle River.
The board also provided some ideas regarding extracurricular activities. Board member Melby asked about looking at raising sports fees and the board recommended for Jerome to examine participation numbers of and the expenses associated with extracurricular activities.
Despite all these ideas and recommendations and if the district moves forward with any of them, Kilen said, “This can’t be the end of the plan.”
He added that this is going to help decrease the deficit, but the district would still remain in the deficit, unable to make advancements. Currently, the district is operating in an approximately $400,000 deficit.
During the meeting, Jerome addressed several questions proposed by a district resident in regards to decreasing expenditures. He addressed some of those, from combining the superintendent and principal positions to looking at providing more online electives and examining the high school block schedule among others. After he addressed some of these, board member Howard responded.
“We can struggle through these questions each and every meeting, but the bottom line is for all of us, we have to figure out how to best spend our money and right now we don’t have very much money,” Howard said.
After all recommendations on reductions were brought before him, Jerome reiterated a message he has delivered in several prior meetings, explaining how the district can’t continue to engage in deficit spending.
“We still have to move forward as a district,” he said. “… We have to move forward on advancements for our students.”
The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting will take place on March 20 in Middle River at 7:30 pm.
To see the complete GMR school board story, read the March 8 issue of The Tribune in print or online