M-P Board delays budget cutting

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)
Posted 5/13/99

No action on possible Mid-Prairie School District budget cuts to cover an estimated $195,000 shortage will come before the May 24 meeting.

The board, during its Monday meeting, agreed with …

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M-P Board delays budget cutting


No action on possible Mid-Prairie School District budget cuts to cover an estimated $195,000 shortage will come before the May 24 meeting.

The board, during its Monday meeting, agreed with President Tracy Anderson that time should be allocated at the start of the session. As a result, the meeting will start at 7 p.m.

The budget cuts, virtually the final item on the agenda, were not reached Monday until after 10 p.m., and Anderson noted that it was not a time at which thinking would be at its best.

He also stressed that the board also does not have all the costs for fiscal 1999-2000 since contracts with support staff and faculty have not been settled. He added that the board has yet to discuss maintenance, busses and co-curricular programs.

At its April 26 meeting, the board agreed it would take a serious look at combining a possible across the board percentage cut with specific cuts.


The board discussed a communication plan to be implemented in cooperation with the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

Kay Graber of Grant Wood explained the plan that would lead to the creation of internal and external focus groups to determine the effectiveness of communications within the district. The second goal would be to improve communications with an eye to creating a campaign for another Instructional Support Levy vote.

The last vote, in March, was defeated by a near two-to-one margin. Had it passed, it would have provided an estimated $467,000 for the district, easing the budget cut situation.

Graber noted that the focus group (committees) would be selected by “a random process” and suggested that the groups work best if there are not more than 10-12 members.

The groups would meet in probably 45-minute sessions, Graber explained, adding that she would make recommendations to the board based on the date that develops from the groups.

The timeline for the entire process would be to have data and recommendations by mid-September.

Graber said she has worked on a similar plan for five other school districts.

The three-phase plan originally was presented to the board at its April 12 meeting and clearly stated it was a response to the Levy defeat. In fact, the proposal stated:

“Superintendent Gordon Cook wishes to embark on a planned communication effort that will assess the public’s needs for information to promote understanding about the district’s financial situation and educational needs. He also wishes to demonstrate that the board and the administration want to involve citizens in school decisions and to listen to their concerns. This proposal responds to his request for assistance.”

Block scheduling

There was a lengthy presentation about block scheduling, which the district initiated last fall, including comments from students and staff.

For the most part, the consensus is that the plan is working and that criticism is more about the number of course offerings.

Asked about actual comments made as part of a survey, Beeler stressed that while it may be appropriate for the board, he had reservations about them coming to the media. He noted that he believed that what came to the board also was public.

There also was a discussion of how the scheduling would affect West Campus, the district’s alternative high school, since the graduation units are now 42, up from 40. Indications are that the requirements for West Campus also will change.

In other business, the board:

•had a brief violin solo by Tiffany Curtis who recent played in Japan and is the district’s first student to be selected for All-State music for four consecutive years.

•had a request from architect Steve Knierim of OPN to close out the construction project. However, a number of unresolved problems were raised, including humidity in the Middle School library, doors that lock on their own at the high school, omitted stage lights and other items. As a result, the board voted to delay close out for another six weeks to see how the issues are addressed. Knierim also presented the board with a dedication plaque for the new construction at the high school.

•approved the Phase III plan, which is a continuation of the fully revised one put in place last year. The state funded program helps improvement of educational programs for school districts.

•learned that Williamsburg has petitioned to join the conference, a request that may well be granted.