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School board grapples with class sizes

Friday, August 22, 2003 Posted 5:00 p.m.
The Fieldcrest Board of Education was confronted with complaints of class sizes at its normal monthly meeting Thursday night at Fieldcrest Elementary East. Paul Stromberg said that his daughter is in a class of 31 in first grade at Fieldcrest Elementary West. He is concerned that she will not receive the proper attention required for her education because of the big class size. He emphasized also that there may be as many as 4 special education students in the class which will make teaching more difficult for the teacher. He asked the board to consider splitting the class into two classes to provide a better education for the students.

Board member Pat Schmillen said that 31 is too large a class, especially for first graders. She thought that the board was supposed to come up with a plan to deal with large classes. Board member Joe Kirkpatrick said that he thought that the school was to encourage parents to switch their children to a less crowded building. Fieldcrest Elementary East's first grade class has only 19 students. Fieldcrest Superintendnet Dr. Michael Stagliano said that there is nothing in the budget for another teacher at that level. He said that he will come up with a dollar figure on what it would cost to split the class into two classes.

Free teacher passes dropped

Fieldcrest teacher Nancy Turner asked the board to reconsider its decision to drop free passes for teachers to sports events. She said that the presence of teacher's at sporting events helps instill discipline at the games and also helps boost morale for the teachers. She indicated that it won't cost the school anything. Board member Pat Schmillen responded that it would not be a good policy to start giving in on cuts because it may set a precedent for other cuts. "Where do we stop", she said. She said that it may not cost the school anything but it will cut down in potential revenue. The board agreed.

Physicals for bus drivers

Board member Tim McNamara asked why there was such a discrepancy in physician fees for physicals for bus drivers. He said that the physicals are similar in nature and should be similar in cost. Superintendent Stagliano said that the school will pay only up to a certain amount on the bus drivers physicals.

Internet fees

Board President Jeff Pickard asked if the school could cut down on its internet service from Maxiis Internet from 12 months to 9 months in order to save money. He felt that the school was spending a considerable amount of money on internet fees. Dr. Stagliano said that the school uses the internet year round and the school doesn't haven't much choice. Maxiis is the only local ISP to provide high speed internet access in the area that is affordable.

Lawn maintenance

Pickard also questioned if the school could revert back to mowing its own lawns again. He said that the district is spending over $10,000 to Spring Green for lawn mowing. Superintendent Stagliano said that he will investigate alternative costs for lawn care.

TIF check

Superintendent Stagliano said that the City of Wenona paid $12,000 from its TIF fund to the Fieldcrest School District. Much controversy has surrounded the amount of tax dollars currently lost to the school district because of Wenona's TIF district.

Revenue remains flat

Superintendent Stagliano said that state aid remains flat while school expenses are increasing by 3%. Health care premiums have increased by 22% and commercial insurance rates have increased by 9%. He said the schools buildings are in good shape considering their age. He said that transportation costs decreased by $30,000 due to elimination of certain routes. He felt that within two years the current financial crises will ease if the school can hold the line on expenses. He said that since the school has no control over unfunded mandates and special needs students, the school will have to cut funds for extra-curriculars in order to control costs. Extra-curriculars will have to be funded by grants of by outside support. Click here for Superintendent Stagliano's report.

Leasing busses

Stagliano said that he is investigating the feasability of leasing buses versus purchasing. He indicated that it may be more cost effective and will cut down on the maintenance cost because leased busses will be under warranty. Currently, Fieldcrest has 19 busses in operation with 5 spares. The spares are rotated with the other busses.

Citizens advisory committee

Superintendent Stagliano will work with Board members Pat Schmillen and Joe Kirkpatrick in drafting a letter to prospective members of a Citizens Advisory Committee. Jeff Pickard said that the school should target high profile, pro-Fieldcrest citizens for the committee. The committee will be asked to provide input on fund raising, cost cutting, and possible attendance center configurations.

Discussions with Flanagan

Superintendent Stagliano said that he will be having discussions with the Flanagan school district next week regarding a potential consolidation with Fieldcrest.