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Bemidji School Board approves position cuts

The Bemidji School Board gave its unanimous approval Monday night to reduce licensed staff positions by about $813,000 for the upcoming school year.

The decision comes after recent board discussion on how to trim the school district's operating budget by about $692,000 for that year.

The school district is projecting an operating deficit of about $875,000 during the 2008-09 fiscal year and must reduce its operating budget by about $692,000 to remain within the school district's targeted general fund balance, according to Chris Leinen, director of business services.

Ann Long Voelkner, board chairwoman, said the need to adjust the budget stems from the state not fulfilling its obligation to fairly and equitably fund education, as well as rising costs of transportation, health care and other items.

Several of the position reductions approved Monday night will move the school district toward the $692,000 target, said Jordan Hickman, director of human resources.

However, he said not all reductions will factor in, including grant-funded positions that are reduced due to the loss of grant dollars.

To meet the $692,000 target, the board also plans to consider making reductions in non-licensed staff positions.

Hickman noted that the reductions proposed Monday night stemmed from scenarios including licensure issues, shifting enrollment, staff members returning from leaves of absence, grants that are ending and other anticipated funding reductions.

At Bemidji High School and Lumberjack High School, the reductions equal 1.20 Full Time Equivalent in English, 1.0 FTE in industrial technology, 0.63 FTE in math, 0.38 FTE in music, 0.50 FTE in science and 0.19 FTE in social studies.

At Bemidji Middle School, the reductions equal a 1.0 FTE reading specialist, a 1.0 FTE math specialist and a 1.0 FTE in the Plan for Academic Student Success alternative program.

At the elementary level, the reductions equal 2.0 FTE in elementary education, 0.17 FTE in elementary physical education, 0.29 FTE in elementary art and 0.10 FTE in elementary music.

Also, a reduction in Community Education equals a 0.05 FTE child educator.

Other reductions in the school district equal 0.75 FTE in English as a Second Language, 0.69 FTE in elementary education (Title I), a 0.40 FTE teacher on special assignment-Web manager, a 0.50 FTE social worker for the homeless program, a 0.50 FTE social worker for the Safe & Drug Free Schools program, a 1.0 FTE special education teacher at First City School, 0.50 in Adult Basic Education and 1.26 FTE in gifted and talented.

On Monday night, the board also approved two position additions at the middle school equaling 0.38 FTE in music and a 1.0 FTE media specialist.

The board removed two items proposed for reductions -- a 1.0 FTE assistant middle school principal and a 1.0 FTE early childhood special education due process coordinator. Both positions will become vacant due to retirements.

The board also removed two items proposed for additions -- a 0.50 FTE teacher on special assignment-activities at the middle school and a 0.50 FTE early childhood special education principal.