Dropping two music teachers appears to be off the table as the Charles City school district looks for around $700,000 in budget cuts for the 2023-24 school year.
“After extensive communication with the public, Board members and staff, the senior leadership team is no longer in support of the reduction of two music teachers and will request this option be removed from the agenda on Jan. 23,” Superintendent Dr. Anne Lindquist said Monday at the Board of Education meeting. “The team is prepared to further discuss this topic at the board work session scheduled for Jan. 17.”
The Board will meet in a workshop session at 5 p.m. Jan. 17, in the high school library to discuss ways to cut expenses in the 2023-24 school budget. The goal is to have a proposal ready for the Board’s Jan. 23 regular meeting. The district is facing a funding shortfall of caused by falling enrollment.
“Finally, as a point of clarification, public comment is and has always been welcome at every board meeting,” Lundquist said at Monday’s meeting. “Work sessions on the other hand are opportunities for the board to plan, brainstorm or engage in thoughtful discussion. No action takes place during work sessions, thus public comment is not included as part of the agenda. The district policies on both of these practices align with Iowa code and guidance from the Iowa Association of School Boards.”
The School Board got an earful at its Dec. 12 meeting regarding proposed budget cuts, which included reducing the music teaching staff by two. There were 56 public comments made at the meeting, according to meeting minutes.
Lundquist posted a message four days later on the district website addressing the meeting and comments made. She wrote:
“I am grateful for the community input and proud of the thoughtful, articulate comments shared by students, parents, and stakeholders. I would like to clarify a few misunderstandings that surfaced at the board meeting on December 12th.
“The current recommendations:
- Do not cut the RISE program. It will continue to be supported by other at-risk staff, who also have great skills in developing relationships with students.
- Reduce only one at-risk position and adjust the salary and responsibilities of another, leaving 12 staff to support at-risk students (social worker, counselors, at-risk specialist), not to mention, a host of other sensitive, caring subject area teachers.
- Do not cut the music program. It reduces the number of staff by increasing student to staff ratios so that course loads and student numbers are more in line with the system.
- Maintain the current music programs (choir, general music, orchestra, and band).
“I believe the board was wise to delay their decision. It is common to table issues that need additional exploration and discussion. After hearing the public comments, they chose to exercise this option last Monday. The administrative team put a budget recommendation before the board. The board will decide if it is acceptable or they may ask for additional options.
“I have received feedback from some stakeholders stating they are no longer willing to sign the petition to bring the bond referendum to the public for a vote because of the potential staff reductions. I understand this frustration, however, if the community is not able to collect 500 signatures, the question cannot come before the public. This will prevent anyone from having a chance to decide whether or not they want to support the project and the investment in our community.
“To further clarify, the general fund budget is based upon the total certified enrollment. Bond referendum funding is an increase in property tax rates to generate revenue specifically to update and revitalize the High School and construct a new auditorium. The two funds are not related and cannot be commingled.
“I, and the Referendum Task Force decided to move toward a bond referendum because we believe safe, healthy, educationally appropriate buildings are necessary. Although our student enrollment is down slightly, please remember, we still have 1489 to educate well. This project enhances performing arts experiences not only for our our students, but also the community as a whole.
“As always, please feel free to contact me at email@example.com if you have questions or would like to talk more. I would be happy to visit with you.”