Written by John Plestina
With Wolf Point voters rejecting a $200,000 continuous elementary general fund levy Tuesday, May 6, the Indian Education Committee might have found a way to keep the preschool program running after the current school year, the catch is that teaching jobs could be lost.
The IEC presented a recommendation to the Board of School Trustees Tuesday, May 13. The IEC voted 3-1 with one abstention to make those recommendations. The school board could not act on the recommendations because it had not been on the agenda. School trustees will soon schedule a special meeting to make a final determination of the fate of the preschool program.
The continuous elementary general fund levy failed by just two votes, 392-390, leaving the future of the district’s preschool program in jeopardy. A second levy for $250,000 that would have run for one year only would have increased the building reserve and provide funding for parking lot and gym floor repairs at the high school. It failed 409-370 with voters in the city and 49-37 among Frontier School District voters.
School trustees discussed a need to reduce spending due to the failure of both levies and costs the district incurred from legal fees after a lawsuit that resulted in redistricting before trustees are elected next year. Preschool is one of several programs that could face elimination.
The Indian Education Committee met twice during the seven days between the election and the school board meeting, Thursday, May 8 and Monday, May 12. The committee will meet again Monday, May 19, at 5 p.m.
The IEC agreed on a proposal during the second meeting that was similar to a proposal Superintendent Joe Paine made to the IEC four days earlier. That proposal require cuts from other schools.
The school could have followed the proposal, made changes to it or rejected it and opted to discontinue the preschool program.
If school trustees followed the recommendation, the cuts would include the elimination of a pre-K teacher and two pre-K classroom aids at Southside School, the Southside after school program, the breakfast buddies program and the home school coordinator at Northside school.
Discussions of other possible cuts have included elimination of school district bus transportation to and from preschool, a reduction from four to three fourth grade teachers at Northside Elementary School and elimination of one language teacher.
IEC chairman Rob Manning said during the IEC meeting Monday, May 12 that the decision was coming down to eliminating the preschool program or restarting the junior high school within a school program, which costs the district $66,295.
Southside Principal Susan Brown expressed concern that although she would like to retain the preschool program, she did not want tom lose teachers.
“I hate to say it because I love the preschool; if I had to vote right now, I’d have to vote against the preschool,” she said.
“It breaks my heart, but I have these other children I have to teach reading to,” Brown said.
During the IEC meeting Monday, May 12, a woman suggested charging tuition for preschool.
Paine rebuffed the idea, saying preschool enrollments would drop and some parents would opt for Headstart instead.
“I do think our program numbers would decline. I also think they would decline if we don’t offer a bus,” Paine said.
One man suggested cutting extra curricular activities and not teachers during both IEC meetings.
“I think academics are more important,” he said.
A woman suggested eliminated the golf and tennis programs at the high school.
Paine said the high school would lose enrollments if athletic programs were cut. He said there were extra curricular activity cuts a few years ago, but not at the high school.
“Preschool for me is essential. it gets them ready for kindergarten,” Manning said.
“I’ve talked to the administration at the Faith (Lutheran) Home and they are going to lose a lot of their workers,” he said of employees of the nursing home not being able to afford daycare.