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Paynesville Press - April 20, 2005

School board considers multi-age classrooms

By Michael Jacobson

The Paynesville Area School Board took the following actions at their meeting on Tuesday, April 12.

*The board received a proposal by the elementary staff to offer two kindergarten/first grade multi-age classrooms in 2005-06. Offering multi-age classrooms has been studied by a committee of teachers, administration, and board members for two years.

The teachers recommended offering two sections so the teachers (who will need to layer their curriculum, including elements for all the abilities of their students) have a peer to meet with, share ideas, and split curriculum writing.

The district plans to have a meeting for parents of current kindergarten students and next year's kindergarten students as soon as this week to gauge interest and explain the proposal.

Board members expressed agreement with the multi-age proposal but took no formal action.

The teaching staff also requested that an additional teacher be added in the elementary school in order to offer eight sections between kindergarten and first grade in 2005-06 instead of seven. A total of 162 students are expected in kindergarten and first grade next year (85 kindergartners and 77 first graders). With seven sections, the average class size would be around 23 students while with eight sections the average class size would be around 20.

The board also took no action on this staffing request but added it as an item for discussion as it makes its budget adjustments for 2005-06.

*The board received information from the middle school staff about the possible closing of the middle school office. As part of the budget reduction proposal, administration has suggested not replacing elementary secretary Sheryl Schmiginsky and closing the middle school office, moving Community Education to the middle school and having one secretary at the elementary school and two at the high school.

Middle school teachers called the best option having a middle school office with a secretary which would give a central, physical presence to the school, greater accessibility to students and staff, and better communications with the public.

If not, they would propose moving the central 6-12 office to the middle school location, which has a larger lobby and could handle more students. This also would have high school students going to the middle school to visit the office instead of forcing middle school students to visit the office in the high school.

The teachers stressed that they just wanted the board to hear another perspective on this issue and acknowledged that administration had reasons for suggesting the change. (More discipline problems occur at the high school, for instance, requiring more of the principal's time in that building.) Burlingame reiterated some of the administration's reasoning in proposing closing the middle school office and moving Community Ed.

Middle school teacher Randy Ziemer praised retiring principal John Janotta for making the floating principal system work and suggested that this indicates that two separates offices is manageable.

The board has discussed this issue at great length and has yet to reach a conclusion. Board members did express at the end of the latest discussion that a decision would need to be made but then the new principal (to replace Janotta) would need to reevaluate that decision.

*The board continued its discussions about budget reductions for the 2005-06 school year.

With additional teaching retirements being announced (see below), the district is now planning to eliminate three and a half teaching positions (an ECSE position at PAES and two and a half positions at PAMS/PAHS) by not rehiring and not to replace one secretary position ($210,743 in total reductions).

The district currently plans to add a sixth class assignment ($4,050) and to increase a speech clinician position from 0.6 FTE to 1.0 FTE ($19,850), bringing the total current adjustments to $190,893.

The district is still considering Title I restructing (only having a part-time teacher to allow for more aide time), the elementary request for an additional teacher, the status of the middle school office, and raising the fees for all-day, everyday kindergarten.

*The board approved a school calendar for the 2005-06 school year. Classes will start on Thursday, Sept. 1; holiday break will be Friday, Dec. 23, to Monday, Jan. 2; all schools will have conferences on Thursday, Nov. 17, and Friday, Nov. 18, and conference and registration on Thursday, Feb. 2, and Friday, Feb. 3; the last day of classes will be Wednesday, May 31; and graduation will be held on Sunday, June 4.

*The board approved a retirement request from middle school/high school communications teacher Randy Ziemer, effective at the conclusion of the 2004-05 school year. Ziemer has taught in the district for 35 years.

*The board approved a retirement request from high school art teacher Carol Lura, effective at the conclusion of the 2004-05 school year. Lura has taught in the district for 13 years.

*The board approved a retirement request from instructional assistant Patty Beier, effective at the conclusion of the 2004-05 school year. Beier has worked for the district for 14 years.

*The board approved a resignation request from ESL and ECFE teacher Sarah Krueger, effective May 31.

*The board approved a general leave of absence for Title I teacher Dave Randgaard for the 2005-06 school year.

*The board authorized administration to start advertising to fill teaching positions for 2005-06.

*The board approved a change to the 2004-05 school calendar, excusing seniors from morning classes on Tuesday, April 26, to accomodate MCA testing for grades 10 and 11.

*The board approved changing the time and location of its meeting on Tuesday, May 10. In order to meet with the student advisory councils from PAMS and PAHS, the board will meet at 2 p.m. at the middle school media center.

*The board acknowledged written notification by the teachers' union to negotiate a new contract for the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years.

*The board appointed board members Deb Glenz, Lowell Haagenson, and Tami Stanger to look at the local financial institutions and their rates and services to determine which would best serve the district. District office staff will also serve on this task force, with the exception of LuAnn Loxtercamp, who has a conflict of interest.

Superintendent Todd Burlingame also has a conflict of interest since his wife works at the credit union. He will facilitate task force meetings but will not be a voting member.

*The board approved the reduction of hours for special education instructional assistant Wanda Hasse, who works one-on-one with a student whose needs have changed.

*The board approved a staff development plan for 2004-05.

*The board authorized principal Deb Gillman to file an application for the title programs for 2005-06.

*The board designated Burlin-game as the district's voting representative for the group health insurance pool.

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