Feb. 19, 2007

Public says DC is top heavy

Suggested cuts include administrative positions, bumping up fees

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer.

Making cuts to administration and increasing fees were among top suggestions made recently regarding school budget cuts.

Mari Pokornowski and Melissa Weckwerth of the Dassel-Cokato PTA privately tabulated data received from questionnaires after the forum, which was sponsored by the PTA.

The purpose to the survey was to allow the public to give input in an anonymous way.

There was a wide variety of attendees at the forum and a good representation of the community, Pokornowski said.

Throughout the responses, certain themes were repeated regarding cuts as well as suggestions for the board.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents said administration cuts were necessary. This would include combining positions to allow for elimination of a position. Nineteen percent specifically said to cut the curriculum director position.

Only 10 percent suggested eliminating a principal position.

Pokornowski explained that in a perfect world, the administration would stay the same, but cuts need to come in areas that will least impact the students.

Numerous responses were for students’ welfare and making sure the cuts had the least impact on education and extra-curricular opportunities.

Participants weren’t implying activities were more important than academics, Pokornowski said. Instead, with the levies not passing, it was seen as the parents’ responsibility, not the students, therefore they shouldn’t be punished, according to Pokornowski.

There was a strong emphasis and an “overwhelming” response that the district’s greatest asset was its teachers, Pokornowski said.

“They do not want teachers cut. They don’t want any more cut from kids’ curriculum,” Pokornowski said.

One of the district’s greatest challenges was community perception and voter confidences and the ability to pass a levy, according to the responses.

With two levies failing, the perception of the community is important, Pokornowski said. It’s critical that the board acknowledges the community perceptions and responses.

“They don’t have to agree with them, just validate them,” Pokornowski said.

Responses suggested ways the board could help get a levy passed, including acknowledging and addressing the community’s lack of trust and credibility issues with the board and administration.

Ways to alleviate this problem included rearranging or cutting administration and offering more voter education with clear and simple explanations.

The majority of the respondents said that the quality of education does have an effect on their community regarding business growth, and retaining residence.

In fact, some respondents even commented moving or open enrolling to other districts if this problem within the district is not solved.

“The board has to make the final decisions, but the people of the community have spoken,” she said.

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