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Paynesville Press - February 1, 2006

School board revises budget, discusses attendance policy

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 24.
*The board approved a revised budget for the 2005-06 school year, which now includes the four percent increase in state funding and contract settlements with the teachers and other unions. The state aid increase is a major part in raising expected revenues for the school district by $366,000, while the contract settlements and other expected expenses increased only $136,000.

The net result is that the original budget, passed in June 2005 before the legislature concluded and approved the state funding increase, called for a deficit budget of $243,500, while the updated budget calls for a deficit of only $12,700. Full story

Revised 2005-06 Budget
FundRevenue Expenditures
General$8,659,242 $8,671,930
Food Service$417,500 $419,697
Comm. Ed.$300,994 $298,926
Debt Redemption$741,936 $843,753
TOTAL$10,119,672 $10,234,306

Original 2005-06 Budget
FundRevenue Expenditures
General$8,292,568 $8,536,064
Food Service$402,000 $412,822
Comm. Ed.$300,994 $299,610
Debt Redemption$741,936 $843,753
TOTAL$9,737,498 $10,092,249

*The board approved a resolution directing administration to review and consider recommendations of budget adjustments for the 2006-07 school year. Budget adjustments - both cuts and additions - should be brought to the board in February.

*The board discussed a proposed attendance policy and suggested various changes, during its first reading before the board.

The purpose of the policy is to promote regular school attendance defining roles for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Parents, under the policy, would need to call the school each morning when their student is absent as well as sending a note then they return to school. The policy defines excused absences, and make-up procedures, as well as potential consequences for unexcused absences. Students would get two days for every day of absence to make up their school work. Middle school and high school students would receive two hours of detention for every hour of unexcused absences.

In addition to the parent calling requirement, other new provisions in the policy include: a maximum absence rule that prohibits credit for any class where a student has 12 or more absences during the semester; and allowing excused absences for working at home only through a certified school-to-work program or in an emergency.

The policy also redefines exemplary attendance as not missing more than three days during the school year; previously it defined exemplary attendance as missing at most one day per semester. In the proposed policy, students with perfect or exemplary attendance could miss the last two test days of school and not take finals.

Board members discussed this provision, weighing the merits of this reward versus the value of taking final exams. If finals are important, and she believes they are, said board member Deb Glenz, then students should take them. For students who are not good test takers, countered board member Gretchen O'Fallon, not taking finals are a big carrot for them to come to class and maintain exemplary attendance.

Superintendent Todd Burlingame suggested as a compromise that all students would need to take finals but students with perfect or exemplary attendance could throw out these scores unless they help their final grade.

This being the first reading of the attendance policy, changes will be included in the policy draft for a second reading by the board, at which time the board could act on it.

*The board approved moving its next meeting from Tuesday, Feb. 14, to Tuesday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m.

*The board heard a report from secondary school principal Lorie Floura, who previously told the board that she was concerned by the number of juniors and seniors who take two study halls. One way to prevent this would be to increase credits required for graduation, which Floura said she did not want to pursue presently.

Instead, she said, the school could have a policy that juniors and seniors must take six classes. (Students in a school-to-work program or who mentor at the elementary or middle school would be allowed to take two study halls, as might those who take a college-credit class.)

The board, while expressing support for the idea, inquired about the costs of such a policy. More students in classes would likely require more class sections and thus more teaching time. This year, Floura said, such a policy would have required 40 students to take an extra class (which would be two class sections). Floura said she would have a better idea of the cost for next year after the upcoming registration this week, where students will be asked to register as if this policy is in place, until the board makes its final decision.

*The board tabled a proposal to purchase a financial planning program for the district office. The program would cost $7,500 the first year and $6,000 the second year, including staff support. It would allow the district to run better budget projections, not only the next year but for future years, superintendent Todd Burlingame and bookkeeper Joan Brogard told the board. The board asked about costs after the second year, if it would stay at $6,000 per year or what. The district already contracts with this company for computer programs and this planning software is new.

*The board approved joining the Central Minnesota Tech Prep Consortium, which allows vocational students to earn college credits, for 2007.

*The board approved lane changes for two teachers effective Feb. 1, 2006: Chad Campbell (BA 75 to BA 90) and Sue Currens (BA 45 to MA).

*The board approved a maternity leave request for teacher Jenica Rindahl, starting (approximately) in late April and extending to June.

*The board approved a personnel policy manual for nonteaching staff for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

*The board approved changing the district's group life insurance carrier from Reliance Standard to Harleysville starting in March.

*The board approved renewing its group long-term disability insurance with Madison National Life.

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