Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, April 24, 2000

Serious budget cutting begins at LP school

By Jane Otto

In an attempt to reach its goal of $150,000 in cuts, the Lester Prairie School Board eliminated three full-time positions and three part-time positions at its meeting last Monday.

Those positions are a full-time counselor, a full-time physical education teacher, a full-time special education instructor, a part-time elementary position, a part-time junior high math teacher and a part-time social studies teacher.

The faculty affected by these cuts are James Schultz, Lyle Kritzeck, Kristine Schwartz, Steve Hermann, and Patricia Gillispie.

This doesn't mean that these persons will be eliminated, but that the programs will be rewritten and reduced in some form, Board Chair Chester Hoernemann said.

Prior to announcing the cuts, Hoernemann read a statement from the board which said that the board will maintain as much curriculum and programs as possible to allow for the fastest recovery.

The proposed cuts only reach about $100,000 of the $150,000 goal. Hoernemann said additional program cuts will be looked at as to how many students the program serves versus the cost and how often it's offered.

Board member Barry Kyllo said that the district needs a variety of programs in which the kids can participate.

"We can't cut things beyond that point where we're still a viable district educationally for the kids," said Kyllo.

A few other possible cuts were on a list for board members, but weren't specifically addressed.

"The solution isn't just cuts," said Blaser. "We need to look at the places where we've lost students and try to entice them back."

The board is still faced with cutting a bare minimum of $155,000 to $175,000 for the next year and will have to look at doing something drastically different for the following year, said Kyllo.

Considering the topic, it was only a matter of time before consolidation would enter the discussion.

"I'll probably go where no one wants me to go," said board member Gene Starke.

Starke then said that a Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted school board member, who called him, told Starke that the door was probably still open. Faced with cutting programs, maybe the people of this town want to re-look at that option, he added.

Consolidating with Glencoe-Silver Lake, Watertown-Mayer or Norwood Young America are also options that might be pursued, said Starke.

Another option discussed was having only a K-8 school since a high school is the more expensive of the two to operate.

A declining enrollment is primarily the cause for the district's financial demise, however, Hoernemann explained that everything is cyclical and that the district needs to hold together until it recovers.

"Can we limp along for three years?" asked board member Nancy Krull. "If we start cutting too deep, we won't have a good program anymore."

In looking at possible growth, Hoernemann said that demographics show that the communities around the metro area that have grown the fastest have had their growth follow the building of high school. He said that is a risky option which he didn't advocate.

"There are people coming out from the cities, but are they going to come here? Are we going to develop something that will make people come here?" asked Starke.

Whether it's building new, consolidating, or a K-8 school, Kyllo said somebody needs to come up with another plan and it needs to be discussed.

"We can't just say, 'no, we already visited that one,' or 'no, that doesn't make any sense,'" said Kyllo.

Blaser said that he didn't see any need to visit the consolidation issue again, since it was evident to him that the people of Lester Prairie want an independent school district.

"We've gotten as much out of this as we're going to get out of it, tonight. Obviously, we have lots of questions and very few answers. We'll keep you posted as much as we can," said Hoernemann to end the discussion.

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