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School board approves staff reductions, cuts

The Morris Area School Board met in the City of Morris' Council Chambers on Monday to test the city's sound and video technology.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

The Morris Area School Board voted to reduce three teaching positions and eliminate another two part-time spots to help erase a projected budget deficit.

The board met for its regular May meeting at the Morris Senior Center on Monday. The board is studying ways to improve acoustics during its meetings and tested the City of Morris' sound and camera equipment for possible cable-access broadcasts of board meetings.

Last week, the board voted during a special meeting on a plan to erase a projected $132,000 budget shortfall for the 2009-2010 school year.

The board voted 4-3 for a plan that calls for deeper budget reductions to erase the deficit. The plan calls for $89,000 in budget cuts combined with $43,000 in deficit spending.

Another option called for about $69,000 in budget cuts combined with about $62,000 in deficit spending to take care of the shortfall.

The board and administration agreed that the instructional cuts would be restored if addition funding comes from the State of Minnesota or from the federal government.

On Monday, the board voted 6-1 -- with Lory Lemke casting nay votes -- on motions to reduce the positions of teachers Nancy Grotjohn, Jody Snow and Deb Swezey, and terminate the contracts of Michael Odello and Larry Syverson.

Eight program areas are affected under the plan, including about $44,000 of instructional cuts. Lemke supported a plan that would have taken all instructional cuts off the table.

The approved cuts are: Eliminating one-half of a full-time music position; reducing one-sixth of an art position; reducing business education by one-sixth of a full-time position; reducing FACS by one-sixth of a full-time position. Other budget cuts include eliminating or restructuring the girls golf program, reducing junior high or sub-varsity coaching staffs, and reducing special education paraprofessional staff.

Board chair Kurt Gartland and vice chair Stan Wulf expressed dismay at making the cuts, but said the decisions were based on enrollment in classes.

Family And Consumer Sciences and art both had lower enrollments, and that the music program has declined by about 16 percent the last two years, Wulf said. He said that music enrollment in 2005-2006 was 508. That number has dropped to 410 this year while the district had maintained a teaching staff of 4-1/2 positions.

"It's difficult to do these cuts, but hopefully you can understand where we're coming from," he said.