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Lester Prairie school budget is on track; no cuts for next year

March 24, 2008

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Superintendent Joe Miller told the Lester Prairie School Board at its Monday meeting that the 2007-08 budget is on track and there would not be any budget cuts for next year.

Miller was even optimistic that, as long as spending stayed on the present course, there would be a budget surplus at the end of this school year.

The board reviewed a year-to-date budget report which showed spending to be in the average range when compared to the school’s spending over the last five years.

Miller told the board that they will still need to stay vigilant for the 2008-09 school year – just a reminder that he will not be there as the school’s superintendent to keep watch himself.

Student population is one of the biggest factors for keeping the school out of debt. Miller explained that it needs about 30 students per grade level to break even financially.

The report showed the high school student population was on a downward trend, with the two largest grades being the junior and senior classes this school year.

Search begins for a new superintendent

The school board discussed the best way to begin its search for a new superintendent. The board had asked for Miller’s input at a previous meeting.

His suggestion was the interviewing process should begin in the first half of April. Because the school is sitting in a good position financially, Miller was hopeful the position would attract a number of qualified candidates.

A packet of information regarding the interviewing process, including sample questions and an interview rating form, was reviewed by the board.

It suggested two committees be chosen to interview simultaneously with separate candidates. The committees’ responsibility would be to meet after all candidates had been interviewed to decide on two or three top candidates.

One committee would be made up of all board members, both principals, and the business manager.

A second committee would have a representative of the board, two certified staff representatives, one or two non certified representatives, and four members of the community.

Once the top two or three candidates have been selected, another committee would be formed to check references and do site visits. The second half of the interviewing process would be completed by the middle of May.

If everything went according to plan, a contract might possibly be offered before the school board meeting Monday, May 19, when the board could finalize it.

Anyone wishing to be part of the hiring process for the new superintendent should contact Miller at (320) 395-2521.

Kindergarten-plus option for 2008-09 approved

Although the board was, once again, questioned with concerns regarding the kindergarten-plus program by parents attending Monday’s meeting, it did approve the option for the 2008-09 school year.

“I believe, after looking at our books, we can afford this kindergarten-plus,” Miller said.

Council Member Jeff Hecksel told the parents attending, “Some kindergarten students will go to another school if we don’t have an all-day program.”

The parents were reassured the afternoon program was being developed with the help of a teacher with over 35 years of experience.

“It is not just recess,” Miller said. The program is to provide an expanded curriculum with support help in skills learned from morning instruction.

All kindergarten students will be offered a half-day of core classes that meet Minnesota standards taught by Jan Smith.

There will be a morning class from 8:15 to 11 a.m., or an afternoon class from 12:15 to 2:55 p.m.

The kindergarten-plus program will run from 8:15 a.m. to 2:55 p.m. each scheduled school day.

Miller told the board if the all-day kindergarten student numbers were not there by June, he would bring it back to the board for a follow-up decision.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• approved the resignation of School Board Member Robert Carlson effective Monday, March 31.

The board expressed its appreciation for Carlson’s more than eight years of dedication to the Lester Prairie School Board.

• watched a PowerPoint presentation given by National Honor Society students showing the many projects and services they have been a part of this past school year.

• heard from Principal Pam Lukens regarding a deadline of Tuesday, April 15 for parents to sign up for a Community Education summer school-age day care program.

• heard from Secondary Principal Scott Fitzsimonds that he is currently finishing the master schedule for the 2008-09 school year.

Some students will be taking online classes, as well as iTV classes including Chinese, teen and family issues, personal finance, and a couple of advanced placement classes.

• reviewed a comparison of grades to MCA II scores and NWEA scores and how teachers may use the information for helping students reach their full potential.

• learned the end of the third quarter is Friday, March 28.

• approved contracts with Southwest and West Central Services Cooperative for cooperative purchasing, service co-op, service co-op dues, health and safety management assistance, regional management informational center, special education services, and regional low incident project. All contracts will remain at the same rate as last year’s.

• approved a contract with Southwest and West Central Services Cooperative for environmental occupational health and safety program at a 3 percent increase over last year’s contract.

• approved the lawn mowing contract with Mathews Lawn Service for 2008 at the same rate as last year.

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