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Bemidji School Board: Staff reduction decided

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The library paraprofessionals at the Bemidji School District's six elementary schools are on track to keeping their jobs for the next school year.


The Bemidji School Board decided at a work session Tuesday night to direct administration to make several non-licensed staff reductions for the 2008-09 school year throughout the school district -- excluding the elementary library paraprofessionals.

Chairwoman Ann Long Voelkner said the board decided to retain the elementary library paraprofessionals because accessing reading materials is increasingly important.

The elementary school libraries are currently staffed by both a media specialist and a library paraprofessional. While the media specialists primarily focus on teaching and technology support for their schools, the library paraprofessionals primarily focus on tasks including checking books in and out.

"I think we need to have those paras left in place," board member Carol L. Johnson said.

"Reading is one of the most important things in education," board member Steven Johnson added.

The proposal to eliminate the elementary library paraprofessionals was part of a larger proposal to reach the board's goal of reducing the school district's general fund by $692,000 for the next fiscal year.

Chris Leinen, director of business services, projected earlier this year that the school district is facing an operating deficit of about $875,000 for the 2008-09 fiscal year due to the state's "underfunding" of K-12 education that year.

To remain at an 8 percent general fund balance, the board began to consider reducing the general fund by $692,000. A school district policy calls for a general fund balance of about 8-10 percent of the fiscal year budget.

Moving toward goal

In April, the board reduced several licensed staff positions, reaching about $550,000 of its goal of reducing the general fund by $692,000.

The board agreed Tuesday night to direct administration to reduce several non-licensed staff positions, adding about $112,600 more toward the goal. Non-licensed staffing adjustments do not require official action by the board.

The reductions impacting the board's goal of reducing the general fund by $692,000 include the following:

-- Reducing paraprofessional positions at Horace May Elementary School and First City School from 7.5 hours a day to 7 hours a day.

-- Reducing a walk attendant position at Central Elementary School from 4.75 hours a day to 4 hours a day. The walk attendant walks with students between Central and St. Philip's School. These students are St. Philip's students who receive special education and Title services at Central.

-- Eliminating a fifth-grade instructional paraprofessional position at Central Elementary School.

-- Eliminating the library paraprofessional position at Bemidji Middle School. The current BMS library paraprofessional is resigning. The board had approved in April adding a full-time media specialist at BMS.

-- Eliminating the one-hour-a-day overtime for the Bemidji High School activities secretary.

-- Reducing a Level 1 secretary position at BHS from 8 hours a day to 7 hours a day. The current employee in this position is retiring.

-- Reducing two multiple handicapped paraprofessional positions at Central Elementary School from 7 hours a day to 6 hours a day.

-- Eliminating a special education paraprofessional position in kindergarten and a special education paraprofessional position in fifth grade at J.W. Smith Elementary School.

-- Eliminating a special education paraprofessional position in fifth grade at Central Elementary School.

The board also decided to direct administration to reduce non-licensed staff positions impacting other funds. Although they will not impact the board's goal of reducing the general fund by $692,000, the reductions total about $37,000.

They include the following:

-- Eliminating a food service worker position at BHS. The current employee in the position is retiring.

-- Reducing Indian Education Program staff from 8 hours a day to 7 hours a day.

-- Eliminating an instructional paraprofessional position with Early Childhood Family Education.

The board also discussed replacing one of the assistant principal positions at BMS with a teacher on special assignment who will serve as a dean of students. The current employee in this assistant principal position is retiring.

Jordan Hickman, director of human resources, said the school district could reduce the general fund by about $32,000 by having a dean of students in place of the second assistant principal. Along with the other reductions, the board would exceed its $692,000 goal by about $2,000 through this move.

The move requires official board action, which the board cannot do at a work session.

One-time funding

The board discussed Tuesday night using one-time funding approved by the state Legislature toward its goal to reduce the general fund.

The state will provide school districts with $51 per pupil as one-time funding for the 2008-09 school year, which equates to an estimated $255,000 for the Bemidji School District.

Leinen, however, said the extra revenue would not even cover the rising costs of diesel fuel and natural gas that the school district is experiencing.