Dassel-Cokato School District seeks voter approval

October 29, 2007

By Kristen Miller
Staff Writer

As many know already, the Dassel-Cokato School District is asking voters to support education financially through an operating levy Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Currently, there is no local levy in place to help with operational costs of running the district. Also, there are only four out of the 340 districts in the state receiving less money per pupil than DC.

With federal and state mandates, along with increased costs not only in heating and fuel but overall, DC is asking for extra help maintaining its current budget.

If the proposed levy does not pass, the school board will be forced to find other areas where $300,000 will be cut for next year.

According to the DC School Board, if the levy is passed, the money will be used to:

• restore smaller and more manageable class sizes for k-12, which better provides a quality learning environment. For example, one science class in the high school currently has 38 students in it.

In 2004-05, the board cut 4.62 full-time positions in the high school and middle school, and in 2006-07, 4.5 full-time positions from the middle school and the elementary schools were cut.

Eliminating positions limits course offerings and increases class sizes.

• Offset bus fuel and heating costs, which are ever increasing.

• Enhance foreign language opportunities for high school students.

With the French program cut in 2005-06, there is only one foreign language opportunity – Spanish.

• Expand the science and math opportunities for high school students. This will help reduce class sizes.

• Update computer hardware and software more frequently. The schools are currently on a 12-year replacement cycle.

For example, the current software, which is only six years old, is not compatible for the new online state science exams.

• Update technology so that students are ready to compete in the 21st century workplace.

For example, many surrounding districts have Smart Boards – an interactive white board.

• Update media center book collections. The current collection would take 86 years to replace, according to Paul Beckermann, high school media specialist.

“Like it or not, kids won’t read old books,” Beckermann said.

• Provide more technical college and college credit classes.

• Provide more support to students who struggle so that they can reach their highest potential.

• Restore opportunities for students in fine arts and athletics.

Over the past four years, the activities budget has been cut by $68,222, activity fees were increased twice within that time, and free passes for seniors and school staff were eliminated.

Other cuts made include, but are not limited to:

• Replacing the assistant principal position in the high school with a dean of students position, which is not an administrative salary. If passed, this would remain a dean of students position.

• The current school year, the curriculum director was cut which, also includes assessment, gifted and talented, and staff development.

• The activity and community education director positions were combined.

• The field trip budget was reduced by 50 percent.

To learn more information or to see the property tax impact, the school district web site has been set up with a tax calculator along with other information regarding the levy. For more information, visit www.dc.k12.mn.us.

The special election is Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and there are two voting locations. For school district residents in the City of Cokato, Albion, French Lake, Middleville, Stockholm, Victor, and Cokato townships, voting will take place at the Cokato City Hall.

School district residents in Collinwood, Darwin, Dassel, Ellsworth and Kingston townships will vote at the Dassel City Hall.