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Retiring employees will help Park Rapids Schools balance budget

Park Rapids Schools superintendent Glenn Chiodo unveiled the proposed $510,000 in budget "adjustments" Monday, recommending five retiring employees not be replaced, at a cost savings of $371,000.

Chiodo is recommending the current assistant principal at Century, Jeff Johnson, become the high school principal.

Principal Al Judson is retiring at year's end.

Additional retiring teachers who won't be replaced are first and fourth grade instructors and high school special education and middle school health teachers.

Johnson's position will be eliminated. His testing duties will be assumed by Shelli Walsh, who will become the K-12 testing coordinator.

"We will be moving teachers to follow the larger classes," Chiodo explained.

High school special ed will be handled by current staff with the middle school special ed teacher as case manager.

The middle school health curriculum will be absorbed by science classes.

Four paraprofessional positions at Century School will be eliminated at a cost savings of $79,000.

The district is anticipating four sections in kindergarten, first, second and third grades and five sections in fourth grade. Kindergarten could be a five-section class, like this year, depending on enrollment.

Four sections are expected in each of the middle school grades.

Staff development reserves will be reduced by $20,000, Chiodo noting each building will continue to have staff activities. "We're eliminating reserves."

The 3/7 Spanish teacher position from Nevis will be eliminated at a savings of $18,000, as will the bus monitor position, $15,000.

John Schumacher's time as assistant principal will now be split between high school and middle school. He will continue as activities director.

Chiodo will "inherit" curriculum duties and evaluation of non-tenured staff members, which is required three times annually.

The middle school activity fee will be will be raised from $50 to $60 and senior citizens, 62 and up, will pay $4 for school events (currently free), raising an estimated $7,000.

"This is nothing new; we've done this before," Chiodo reminded the board. He said the administration "brainstormed" to determine what would have "the least impact on the classroom.

"I have no idea what they will do in the Legislature; reports change daily and weekly," he said. But he indicated the district has taken a conservative approach.

"The good news is a minimum number of people have been impacted," Chiodo said. "This is not an easy process. We're putting more on people's plates. But the state is telling us this is not going away," he said of budget tightening.

"Education won't go away. The duties won't stop," he said. "This is the best scenario right now. A lot of districts are faced with more difficult situations," Chiodo said, noting the latest K-12 enrollment figure is 1,544, up from the school year's initial 1,541.

But he indicated concern for the future. "We're running out of staff eligible to retire. And there's no question we will have to make reductions next year."

The board is expected to approve final budget adjustments at the April 5 meeting.