At its June 17 meeting, the Greenbush-Middle River School District heard it would facing some class arrangement and staff-related decisions in the future. This comes as a result of lower enrollment numbers that will eventually make their way into the secondary level.
The district is also facing a projected $375,000 deficit for this upcoming school year. This deficit factors in the decrease in revenue primarily due to the enrollment decline. It also factors in an increase in expenditures due to built-in staff pay increases and the district currently taking on $150,000 in capital improvements, ones that GMR Superintendent Tom Jerome said the district had been delaying.
First, as for the enrollment issue, the 2019-20 projected budget is based on an enrollment of 271 students. The district graduated 35 seniors this past May and anticipate 21 kindergarten students coming into the district this September–resulting in an enrollment net loss of 14 students.
Next year’s senior class is 33 and the following year’s senior class is 30. After that, no class size is higher than 26, dropping to as low as 15 in this past school year’s first grade class and 11 in this past school year’s second grade class.
Over the past few years, the district did make corrections in staffing at the elementary level, where the district is seeing its smallest enrollment numbers. Jerome emphasized how the district has no more room for staff reductions at the elementary level.
During these past few years, the district could not make adjustments at the high school (secondary) level, unless, Jerome explained, the board was willing to have some classes with 30 students in them or reducing some staff members by half-time and offering a half-time position to an existing staff member.
Class and staff adjustments will have to be made down the road though, Jerome explained.
“Perhaps starting as soon as next year or the year after,” Jerome said, “reductions will need to take place within the English department, the Social (Studies) department, the Math department, to adjust with the smaller numbers that are coming.”
As for this year, staffing changes are being made through attrition. Science teacher Chad Stromlund submitted a letter of resignation after accepting a teaching position in Thief River Falls– the town he resides in– and administratively, Jerome said, the district was not recommending replacing this position.
Music teacher Nick Flattum submitted his letter of resignation also after accepting a position at another location. Administratively, Jerome said, the district is recommending reducing the music department to one person.
The board approved both these resignations at a June 17, 2019 meeting. This year’s budget does factor in these resignations.
Speaking of staff, the district’s 2019-20 budget also factors in staff pay increases– two percent for certified staff and three percent for non-certified staff. These increases are scheduled to occur this fall.
Capital project improvements also factor into this deficit. What capital projects is the district taking on at this time?
FLR Sanders is working on the school’s gym floor replacement project. It began the week of May 27 and is moving “rapidly” with “no hiccups” according to Jerome.
Sidewalk replacement work in front of the school building also continues. According to Jerome, these sidewalks will go wider and to the curb to allow students to step off the bus right onto a concrete surface versus snow, grass, or mud.
“In our view, it will increase safety and is a well-needed improvement on school grounds,” Jerome said.
Following a health and safety inspection, the school received a directive to put in a dust collection system in the wood shop area. The board accepted the bids from Dvergsten Heating and Cooling for $17,750 and Labine Electric for $3,997 to do this work.
“We need to do that to benefit our students as well as our instructors that spend the bulk of their day in that environment,” Jerome said.
Also of note, Jerome said the district is likely to spend more on its new part-time (60 percent) superintendent. As a reminder, the district was sharing the cost of Jerome with the Badger School District as part of a 60/40 percent split administrative service contract that officially concludes at the end of this month. GMR was paying the 40 percent.
The Greenbush-Middle River officially hired Larry Gussiberg from Roseau as its part-time (60 percent) interim superintendent. The district received two applicants for this position and MSBA, aiding the district with this superintendent search, recommended Gussiberg. He was also one of the finalist for the Badger superintendent-principal position.
As for the Badger District, it hired Kevin Ricke from the Fosston School District as its full-time interim superintendent-principal.
To see the complete story, read the June 26 issue of The Tribune in print or online.