Thirty speakers address the school board

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 2/07/01.

(At the public hearing for the school budget cuts on Thursday, more than 30 speakers provided comments to the board. The comments ranged from supporting certain programs to questioning the overall need for cuts and suggesting other solutions. A summary follows.)

Danceline speaks •Cindy Fuchs, cheerleading coach, spoke in support of her football and wrestling cheerleading programs. She said school spirit is low in the school, and the cheerleaders have made great strides in the past few years to revive it. The wrestling squad has won the cheerleading competition at Farmington for three straight years.

Wendy Bennett and Lindsey Savage spoke on behalf of the high school danceline team.

•Melinda Zachman, remedial and at-risk teacher, described her accomplishments in developing a curriculum and helping middle and high school kids who need to pass either the math or English portion of the basic skills test. Zachman said a number of students had passed the English portion as a result and all scores on the math test had improved.

•Charles Weber, a resident of Hawick, told the board to save classroom items and the marching band. He wondered why smaller cuts weren't made earlier.

•Karelle Steinhofer, a mother of a cheerleader, spoke in support of the cheerleading program. She said the girls work just as hard as their peers in sports and told the board that a petition with 191 signatures had been collected on the cheerleaders' behalf.

•Pam Pfeiffer, who works in Early Childhood and Family Education, pointed out that the ECFE currently used the noon transportation for the kindergarten to get special education students to school. These younger, sometimes medically fragile, kids could not go for a full day. After the meeting, superintendent Howard Caldwell said that should kindergarten be changed to alternate days some alternative transportation would need to be provided for these ECFE children.

•Wendy Bennett and Lindsey Savage, representing the danceline, noted that danceline is a sanctioned sport and is an important option for some girls. Bennett noted that more money is spent on sports for boys than for girls, a gap that would widen if danceline and cheerleading were cut.

•Colleen Pelton, kindergarten teacher, described how half-day, everyday kindergarten came about and its value. Pelton taught every-other-day kindergarten for her first 18 years, and everyday kindergarten for the past seven. The everyday program provides more continuity, requires less reteaching, and has students learning faster, she said.

•Becky Hoey, business teacher, stressed the need for a business teacher to teach keyboarding skills to sixth graders. Improper skills could lead to a negative experience, while proper skills are more important than ever in the increasingly technological world.

•Alicia Kohnen and Heidi Steinhofer, basketball cheerleaders, spoke in support of their sport. They suggested each sport should get a set amount and have to fund raise for more money if that isn't enough.

•Len Gilmore, who serves on the district's technology committee, questioned how the school could live without a technology and curriculum coordinator when the current one doesn't have enough time. He stressed the importance of learning about computers, and wondered how the schools would keep their computers running if they cut their technical support, too.

•Lowell Haagenson, former board member, told the board he doesn't think the situation is as dire as it may seem. He prefers to have more services and a tight budget than reduced services and money in the bank. He doesn't think this year's budget will be in the red as much as projected and urged the board to consider not trying to make all the cuts in one year.

•Rhonda Arnold, the mother of a kindergarten student, said that she was disturbed by the amount of cuts suggested in the elementary school. She urged the board to keep class sizes under 20 in the lower grades and to keep everyday kindergarten. The loss of teachers and instructional aides led her to wonder who would help her kid.

•Julie Youngs, a mother of three, questioned why the hearing was held on a night with four out of town sporting events. She noted that the school got aide for class-size reduction and wondered if it was right to cut a position. After the meeting, Caldwell told the Press that state and federal dollars for these programs are not finalized until the summer. He does not include them in the budget until they are set for certain, so the school could add a class at that time if the money comes. Youngs also told the board that while they may have talked about the need to make cuts, they had not taken any action. •Bob Gardner, who had a son graduate last year and still has two kids in the school, said he was disturbed because the students coming up will not have the opportunities of the past. He said he didn't want to cut anything and suggested a tax levy may be warranted to support education.

•Julie Jimenez, another mother, said the loss of teachers would have the greatest negative impact. With open enrollment, the reduction of services could lead to further losses in students. Sports, while important, could be offered through community education, she felt.

•Laurey Malling, another mother, noted that cutting teachers and instructional assistants in the elementary school would put a much larger burden on the primary teachers. A former teacher, she said kindergarten students did not have enough attention span to make a full day productive. She called the afternoon expensive daycare. She also noted that damaging the educational program at the school could lead to the loss of students.

•Kori Maas, another mother, thought that seventh and eighth grade sports could be offered through community education and that the school's priorities ought to be in education.

•Tami Stanger, another mother, agreed that the school needs to stay competitive or risk losing students. She wondered why the school did not offer college credits and pointed out that sports can keep kids in school.

•Rick Paul, who serves on the curriculum committee, also thought that the curriculum and technology coordinator position would be too demanding to add to the middle school principal's duties. He thought sports could be offered through community education and wondered why it took three years of deficit spending before cuts.

•Ashley Lieser and Jessica Lahr, seventh graders, spoke on behalf of a group of middle school students. They said that students lead healthier lives and focus on school to stay eligible for sports. They felt they had learned a lot through sports.

•Beth Realdsen, school nurse, said that the nursing assistant allows both building sites to be covered for emergencies. More kids have chronic disabilities that require attention, she said. She also noted that spreading out preschool screening over seven sessions was preferable to mass screenings.

•Laura Haagenson, a ninth grader, asked the board to look at what they were taking away. She stressed that the elementary school provided an educational foundation.

•Randy Ziemer, a middle school teacher, urged people to take the fight to the state government for better funding for schools. He also felt the budget projections are conservative and the actual deficit for the year won't be as much as projected.

•Dean Hanson, a former board member, stressed the importance of keeping student-teacher ratios low, of offering lifelong skills like band and choir and speech, and of having a secretary in the special education department to relieve the teachers from some of the paper work demands.

•Otto Naujokas, a father, felt that athletics have value and teach things that aren't covered in the classroom. Without them, he thought at-risk kids might fall through the cracks.

•Cindy Spanier, a mother who open enrolled her sons in Paynes-ville's schools, urged the board to keep enough teachers and helpers in the elementary grades, where students need one-on-one attention and immediate assistance to keep them from falling behind. She suggested that the public should have been involved in the budget cut process earlier through a public meeting.

•Dustin Zachman, who teaches in another district but whose wife teaches here, stressed that quality teaching is the most important part of education.

•Trevor Thompson, a father whose wife heads the EDFE program, thought sports were an important part of education, wondered if the school district needs a new superintendent or an assistant, and stressed that what's best for the kids should be the bottom line.

•Paul Bugbee, a local resort owner, thanked the board and administration for doing a good job. He said his property tax check is always difficult to write, but that thinking of the marching band or a sports team coming home with a trophy made it easier.

•Terry Skoglund, president of the Bulldog Booster Club, said that kindergarten should be offered everyday, that jazz band and pops choir cost so little that they should be kept, and that fund raising is an inadequate option for athletics compared to school funding. She took advantage of the programs at her school while growing up and feels it is her duty to provide those to the next generation.

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