|2/17/2023 2:32:00 PM|
Despite looming cuts, deadlock vote means no early retirement
incentives in CL District
by JEFF NORTONThere was a tie vote during the Chisago Lakes School Board meeting on Thursday, February 9 in regards to the district offering early retirement incentives to a portion of staff this year.
It’s not something they offered last year, but it has been offered in the past when the district is facing budget cuts like this year.
Superintendent Dean Jennissen stated there is a bit of a diminishing return on it, because there’s been staffing issues across the state and it can be an unknown as to who would replace the outgoing staff and what the cost may be. Board member Cory Spencer thought it’d be “dangerous” to offer the incentive with staffing shortages across the state. Board member Brenda Carlson agreed, calling it “unnerving”.
In the past, the criteria for staff to be able to take the incentive was that the teacher was required to be in the district for 15 years and over the age of 55 or if they had been in the district 30 years or more, regardless of age.
Board member Jeff Lindeman, who said he was a recipient of early retirement from the district, said, “I look at it as a win-win. There’s a financial thing to consider, and it can help the teachers along to make a decision.”
Board member Lori Berg and Carlson didn’t agree the district should be focused on this. “I don’t know if it’s the role of the school board to decide when to help teachers to move on. That's’ a personal decision and I don’t think that's our job to influence that,” Berg said. “And to me, it’s not a clear financial win.”
Carlson added, “It’s hard to separate sometimes, but our role at this point is financial. We care about the teachers and want to do what's best, but we also have to look at finances. The last time when seven teachers retired, it was really close to not being a win-win. It’s perceived that it’s always going to be a win-win, but it’s not. I’m reluctant, especially with the financial picture we have right now.”
Lindeman made a motion to provide an early retirement incentive and board member Jen Penzenstadler seconded it. Those two, along with board member Josh Soderlund voted to provide the incentive while Berg, Carlson and Spencer voted not to. Without a majority, the motion failed and the district will not be offering early retirement incentives to teachers.
CL’s Community Education Director Dan McGonigle laid out a proposal to increase rates for the Little Wildcat Program and Kid’s Club for the 2023-24 school year. There are three levels of the program, including Monday through Friday, which would increase from $267 to $274 per month. The second level, which is Monday-Wednesday-Friday, would increase by $4 from $160 to $164 and the Tuesday-Thursday option would go from $107 to $110. “The bulk of this request is based on the [union] wage increases,” McGonigle said. “We feel comfortable with the 2.5 percent increase.”
McGonigle said that even with the increase, the district is still well below rates for similar programs in North Branch, Forest Lake and Stillwater.
Kid’s Club would also go from $8 per day to $12 per day. The before and after preschool numbers would go from $12 per day to $16 per day. “We didn’t come to this decision lightly, but it’s been multiple years since we raised rates. This proposal made sense with the costs that we have to bear within the program,” McGonigle said. The board unanimously voted to approve the rate increases.
Jennissen discussed e-learning options for times of inclement weather. The district would still have three traditional snow days with no school or academic expectations, but the district would implement e-learning days as needed beyond those three. The cancellation would have to be weather-related. The decision would still be made by 5 a.m. Teachers would have a choice to work from home or the school building, and students would be given a choice on how to learn, as there would be options for students without access to computers at home. The board approved the plan unanimously.
“We’ve got quite a bit of winter left to navigate so we’ve got some tools in our arsenal now to try to help going later into June with education, which is problematic,” Jennissen said.
The school board reauthorized their partnership with Trio Wolf Creek. Their enrollment has continued to grow, and they had 231 students in 2022, which Director Tracy Quarnstrom said is at capacity. Sixty one of the 231 students live within the Chisago Lakes District.
The board finalized committees assignments and appointments. This process is typically finalized in January, but with three new members, the existing members wanted to make sure everyone knew what their roles would be on certain committees.
Berg, Carlson and Penzenstadler were named to the Certified Personnel Negotiations team. Lindeman, Soderlund and Spencer are on the Non-Certified Personnel Negotiations team.
Other assignments were as follows:
Brenda Carlson (T.F. School Rep): MSHSL, Community Ed.,Transportation, Finance
Jeff Lindeman (Middle School School Rep): SEE/Legislative Advocacy, Health & Safety, Insurance, Finance, Meet and Confer (non-certified)
Lori Berg (CLEC Rep): Meet & Confer, Staff Development, SEE/Legislative Advocacy, Finance
Jen Penzenstadler (Primary/Early Childhood Rep): SCRED, World’s Best Workforce, Facilities, Insurance
Cory Spencer (Lakeside Elementary Rep): Transportation, Facilities, Policy
Josh Soderlund (High School Rep.): SCRED, Gifted & Talented, ECMECC/Cable, Policy
The board set a special meeting for budget cut reactions Monday, March 20.
“We don’t think this year’s cuts will be in the ballpark they have been, but we still do have adjustments,” Jennissen said. He stated that at the March 16 board meeting, a list of proposed reductions would be produced. The follow up special meeting was on March 20 is at 6 p.m. for public feedback on the proposed cuts.
The board also set a work session for Thursday, March 2 at 2 p.m. to continue work on the superintendent search, including MSBA helping with the potential interview process. The deadline for applicants for the position is Tuesday, March 7, with the first round of interviews scheduled for March 21 and 22, and final interviews on March 28.
The board also set a working session for Thursday, April 13 at noon.