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Detroit Lakes looks at options for community ed

When it comes to what to do about community education, the Detroit Lakes School Board has narrowed the discussion down to four options.

With the retirement of Community Education and Recreation Director Mark Greenig came the reconfiguration of his position. The city's funded portion of the summer rec program became contracted through the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center. The school's portion of community ed is what is still up in the air.

The four options the board is discussing further include:

• Hiring a replacement for Greenig's director position.

• Dissecting the position and distributing the responsibilities throughout the district employees.

• Hiring a community ed coordinator, working with the district's Curriculum Director Lowell Niklaus, who is licensed in community education.

• Niklaus would serve as interim director and relocate his office to the Lincoln Education Center (where Greenig's office was) and his job duties with the school district would shuffle.

One of the major players, besides the school district, is the DLCCC.

"The DLCCC had made an offer to pull out the community ed and we're left to fill the other components of the chart," board chair Tom Klyve said of an analysis of the community education director position.

Two roadblocks for that to happen exist. One is the fact that the person running the program must possess the proper licensure. Amy Stearns, administrator at the Holmes Theatre, who already has a master's degree, has offered to get her licensure. The second is that, according to the Department of Education, the district must employ the person filling the position.

If Stearns does earn her licensure, she could than become a part-time employee of the district, similar to Greenig's position, being employed by both the school district and the city of Detroit Lakes.

"We would love to," DLCCC CEO Stu Omberg said. "We think we can do a good job. What's your vision for community ed?"

Board member Barbara Boyle said she sees "exciting opportunities" in pairing with the DLCCC, but the bottom line is cost. She requested to see some comparative numbers between the four options.

"My first question is who is supervising who and when," board member Terri Boyd said. Once that is figured out, she continued, the DLCCC will be a great resource. "We can save taxpayer dollars all the way around."

She added that she sees the coordinator position as the DLCCC's role, as does board member Dave Langworthy.

"I see the benefits of contracting some of that out," he said of the community ed director position.

"I have 100 percent confidence the DLCCC can do a great job," board member Cyndi Anderson said. She continued that Niklaus is a good option, but she "wants (the program) to grow and do something different.

"I think it's worth giving it a shot."

If the DLCCC would take over the community ed portion, it would include only the classes. The district would still be responsible for the Adult Basic Education and Early Childhood and Family Education programs.

Klyve, on the other hand, said he sees the staff at the Lincoln Education Center as the coordinators already, and that they would work with Niklaus. When asked what the DLCCC expects to get paid for contracting for the position, Omberg said "$30-some thousand."

"What are we getting for $30-some thousand," Klyve questioned. "I think it needs to stay in-house."

Omberg said later the number was just one he threw out on the table and that the school district would dictate how much it wanted to spend.

He added that he is in favor of Niklaus serving as director, reshuffling his other duties and keeping the staff at Lincoln Education Center on as the coordinators.

The coordinator position would coordinate programming, coordinate public relations and marketing, fill out grants, etc. The position would be between secretary and director, school district business manager Ted Heisserer said. "This is a new position so we're kind of flying by the seat of our pants."

The job is being proposed as a 200-day a year position. The person would still need to work with a licensed community education director.

The question of bringing more to Niklaus' plate was also brought up several times. His duties would be distributed to others in the school district, and the existing secretaries and workers at Lincoln Education Center would be his coordinators. He would still serve as curriculum and assessment coordinator for the school.

Robin Turnwall, who sits on the Community Education Advisory Council, said "whichever director we go with needs to have passion."

Stearns said that from a DLCCC standpoint, "we are so excited to take this on," and would like to even find ways to enhance the program.

"The passion is there," agreed Omberg, "the vision is up to the school board." If the board says it wants the program to grow, "we'll put arms around that" and make it grow, he added.

"It is not our intention to take this and make it the community center's," he said, pointing out that the district would have the say as to what's done with the program.

Heisserer agreed to make up a list of the estimated costs for each of the four options, and the board will meet in one week on Tuesday, April 28, at 6:15 p.m. in the administrative building to continue the discussion.