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Paynesville Press - February 20, 2002

Principal position added to possible cut list

By Michael Jacobson

The lack of potential budget cuts in school district administration was addressed with little comment by the school board at their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 12. Added to the potential cut list was the middle school principal position, a possible savings of $63,508.

Board members have reported numerous calls on the topic of administration cuts and the topic was raised at the public hearing on Monday, Feb. 4. (In the original list, the only potential cut in administration was a $5,310 reduction for support of seventh and eighth grade athletics.)

The middle school principal position was rated by the school board members last week and will be included in the compiled rankings that will be used to determine the final cuts at the board's next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Cutting the position would mean that the district's three-building concept would be altered, said superintendent Howard Caldwell in a separate interview last week. He said his aim was to move to two building administrators by the 2004-05 school year and that the district would not be able to restructure its organization by next fall. "This comes at a time when we don't have a lot of time to plan and prepare," he said.

Eventually, the district may reorganize to two buildings: one K-6 and the other 7-12. But that reorganization might not be done by next fall, according to Caldwell. He anticipates additional duties being assigned to the high school principal, to middle school teachers, and to himself in 2002-03 if the principal position is cut and having a more thorough reorganization in place by the following school year (2003-04).

One immediate change, according to Caldwell, might be the elimination of Prime Time, a homeroom period at lunchtime where students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades meet in mixed classes to watch daily news and do activities.

Eliminating the middle school principal position would mean the elimination of the middle school concept, which intended to recognize the special needs of young teenagers. The middle school concept, which has taken shape in the past decade since the construction of the new middle school, aims at emphasizing both the academic and social needs of students, bridging the transition from the elementary school to high school.

Several teachers spoke of the importance of the middle school concept at the public hearing on Feb. 4, in part because class sizes in both the sixth and seventh grades could be increased next year by the elimination of a section in each grade.

"Great things are happening at our middle school," middle school teacher Kathy Olmscheid told the school board at the public hearing. "The total philosophy of the middle school leads to emphasis on the whole person, not just academics."

"That age group is rather unique in their needs," agreed Caldwell last week.

If the position is cut, the district will "try to do the best we can," said Caldwell, including salvaging as much of the middle school concept as possible. But there will be changes. "You're not going to provide the same service with less administrative support," he said.

This possible cut only addresses the 0.68 FTE position of middle school principal. Middle school principal Deb Gillman also spends 0.32 FTE as curriculum coordinator, a position that was eliminated as a separate position a year ago and assigned to her. That portion of the job is needed for the implementation of the graduation standards, for the preparation of the required basic skills tests, and for curriculum review, development, and implementation, according to Caldwell.

Due to licensure, Gillman would be bumped as a principal if the cut is approved, said Caldwell. She could bump back into the teaching ranks if her administrative position were reduced, he added.

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