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HomeNewsEducationBad News for School Budgets: LSSD Reductions

Bad News for School Budgets: LSSD Reductions

The library at William Kelley School was packed the evening of May 14th. The school board, ac­companied by parents and grand­parents crowded the room until, at the start of the school board meet­ing, it was standing room only, with some parents sitting on rolling library stools in the picture book section in order to hear what would be said.

After the call to order, Pledge of Allegiance, roll call, and the agen­da approved; Kerri Bilben, WKS band director, stepped forward with her proposition. She requested per­mission from the board to have her band students begin fundraising in the community for a band trip to Los Angeles in two years. Bilben stated she isn’t asking the school for money, merely for permis­sion to have her students fundraise in the community, as it is her desire to have the band play in other lo­cations and with other people. The board stated they would review her request.

ICS came next with an update on the school district building projects. Two Harbors High School is com­plete, and the Minnehaha, William Kelley, and the bus garages are in progress. The bus garages will be demolished and rebuilt. At Minnehaha, ICS is working on purchasing a land permit and a portion of adjacent property to the school. The new cafeteria and new playground area are progressing. Upcom­ing for the “Minne,” is renovating the old cafete­ria area into a kindergar­ten suite. Changing two classrooms into flex areas, epoxy flooring, lockers, case work, egress doors, and more will be worked on this summer.

Brenda Wood was the next speak­er. Wood is the mother of a former Two Harbors High School gradu­ate, has a daughter in the 3’s room at Little Mariners daycare, and is the grandmother to a grandson in the 3’s room. Wood addressed the budget cuts and her concerns. “I am hearing that the admin for Commu­nity Ed in Silver Bay and addition­al para positions across the district will be cut. These are support posi­tions for our children in daily learn­ing and after school programming, as well as support for our general education teachers, early childhood development teachers, and our SpEd teachers. I know personally that the early childhood education and SpEd teachers are drowning in their current work loads. We are burning out these teachers and the passion that they carry for our chil­dren.”

Wood also addressed the com­munity education rumor. “No more community education admin positions in Silver Bay? As a parent, I ask my­self, What is going to happen to child care billing, drivers education, after school activities, etc.?” She spoke against cutting paraprofessionals “or anything from the SpEd bud­get”. “These are support positions for our children and teachers, espe­cifically our SpEd teachers, which in Silver Bay the caseloads are im­possible to meet — rumor that 50 to 60 children to two SpEd teachers.” Wood’s 3-year-old daughter and grandson fall into the group of those needing special education teachers. “Paras are there to support on many different levels, and if used for ser­vices that aren’t typically provid­ed by general education, or if the specialized service is outlined in an IEP, there is federal and state fund­ing that is provided for these posi­tions, allocated in accordance with IDEA, Minnesota’s Special Educa­tion Financial Department.”

Wood has personal experience with the understaffing of parapro­fessionals to meet IEP needs. “My grandson was being removed at 3-years-old from his school for manifestations of his dis­ability, but when we asked for a para we were told that the district wanted to create the least restrictive environment, the staff was not avail­able, and then blamed the daycare for lack of training. A para to sup­port him in the least restrictive op­tion compared to being sent home frequently. My daughter and I had to file a complaint with the state so that he could obtain para services and be provided with the free and appro­priate public education that he de­serves. This is something no parent wants to do. I have to go up against the people I work closest with in my child and grandson’s education, hindering our relationships moving forward. Again, from a parent perspective, the last thing we need is cuts in the SpEd budget. We need more fund­ing to go into our Special Educa­tion program.”

Brenda Wood closed her speech by saying, “There was a lot of talk about these 30 plus children that left the district. My thoughts on this are, did all actually leave, or are they being homeschooled? If we were to look at the demographic of the children that are still in the dis­trict but being taught from home… my assumptions would be that the children likely needed more ser­vices than they could obtain…and much like myself, the guardians or parents were met with ‘No, we can­not do that’, or, ‘I am sorry, we do not have the staff’. I also feel we will continue to see a trend of chil­dren leaving our district with after school offerings potentially taking a hit in Silver Bay, growing class sizes throughout the district, and lack of specialized support for our special needs children. It costs the district more to be reactive than proactive.”

After Brenda Wood spoke, the school board approved old business and heard from David Drown on a non-actionable item concerning a grant for families who build a new home in the district. Resignations and retirements were then accept­ed, discussion was had about hiring a school psychologist, board mem­bers were requested to attend grad­uation, and the custodial contract and strategic plan were approved. Superintendent Jay Belcastro, who held the position for four years, is one of the retirees. “In my 12 years in a variety of roles, I really enjoyed Lake Superior School District.” He adds that he real­ly appreciated the community support for the building proj­ects, especially the support of the school board. “Lake Supe­rior School District has a bright future ahead.”

The meeting then turned to the reason parents had turned out in droves – the budget re­ductions for fiscal year 2025. Despite fierce discussion, the reductions – for a total of $465,000 – were approved, much to the dismay of the par­ents in attendance. Reductions will include THHS 6th grade consolidation and reductions, WKHS transition to a five-pe­riod schedule to match THHS, Minnehaha partial 4th grade and specialists reduction, dis­trict Xerox reduction, district clerical consolidation, parapro­fessional reductions, accounts payable reduction, transpor­tation director reduction, and Two Harbors bus route consol­idation.

After this news that directly impacted the parents in atten­dance, the next item of busi­ness was discussion of wheth­er to fill a Superintendent Post-Employment Consultant Position. When asked about the approximate cost of such a position, a number anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 was named. This was met with shock by the parents, who had just heard that due to budget reasons, their children’s edu­cation would be impacted. It was decided that this position would not be filled.

Many parents left at this point, without staying to hear reports from Minnehaha Prin­cipal and Grant Writer Brett Archer, WKS Principal and Curriculum Director, Dan Johnson, THHS Principal Gina Kleive, Community Education Director Bruce Remme, and Superintendent Mr. Jay Belcas­tro. The meeting was then ad­journed. The next school board meeting will be held on June 11, 2024 at Two Harbors High School.

Haley Searls
Haley Searls
Hello! My name is Haley Searls. I’ve loved writing from an early age, though my nonfiction writing at five years old consisted mainly of weather and gardening reports. I still have some of those early articles: “It’s sunny.” “It’s still sunny.” “It’s raining.” I’m glad to say my writing has improved since then. I wrote a guest post for the Silver Bay Public Library blog, and was the writer/editor of the newsletter for my American Heritage Girls troop. I have been writing for the North Shore Journal since June 2022. Besides writing, I love reading, drawing, photography, music, and spending time with family and friends. Two books that have really influenced my writing are Reforming Journalism by Marvin Olasky and Writer to Writer by Bodie and Brock Thoene. As a journalist, I want to share positive community interactions and inspire people to make lasting connections. Article topics that interest me are ones which show community activities and involvement. Such articles include community events, youth accomplishments, library programming, small businesses, local history, local artists and authors, art programs, and cultural events such as theater and dance. If you have an article idea, email the North Shore Journal with my name in the subject line! I look forward to hearing from you!
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