Board would like districts to work together to reduce expenses
After a lengthy discussion, a divided Willow River school board decided on a careful reply to a letter sent by Moose Lake Superintendent Robert Indihar in August regarding their interest in discussing consolidation.
Indihar’s letter stated, “The Moose Lake School Board is initiating a discussion on whether the Barnum or Willow River School Districts would be interested in consolidating districts in the near future.”
The letter further states the Moose Lake district intends to build a facility out of the flood plain on County Road 10, and there may be a higher likelihood of state funding for the project if consolidation was involved.
“There’s all kinds of things that could come out of it,” stated school board Vice Chairwoman Tia Grutkoski, giving the possibility of offering additional classes as one reason to pursue the discussion.
“We need to build a relationship with surrounding districts, and to do that you need to open up a dialogue,” said school board member Lisa Prachar.
“I’m not interested in consolidating districts,” stated school board member Gerard Bennett.
“I think we should have the discussion,” Grutkoski said, adding that a third party facilitator would add value to the process to help avoid emotions controlling the discussion. She pointed out board members are obligated to taxpayers, and the discussion may lead the district to save money through efficiency by districts working together. Busing students across district lines was one example given in which districts are currently overlapping.
Board Chairman Roger Else was concerned about the portion of the letter referencing higher likelihood of funding.
The board directed Superintendent Scott Anderson to reply to Indihar stating there is not an interest in consolidation, but there is interest in increasing academic opportunities and sharing to reduce expenses. A letter will also be drafted to send to East Central.
The board approved a preliminary levy at the maximum amount, with the Truth in Taxation hearing to occur December 11 at the regular school board meeting. Grutkoski noted taxes will decrease approximately five percent.
Anderson also reported on the Multiple Measures Rating (MMR) for the district recently released by the state. Because the school graduated fewer than 40 students, Anderson reported the graduation rate was not included in the MMR, negatively impacting the district’s rating. Willow River’s MMR is 25.71 percent, and its Focus Rating (FR) is 69.35 percent, a secondary measurement of the MMR that reflects how a district succeeds at closing the achievement gap across various student subgroups. Graduation data for Willow River was not available on the Minnesota Department of Education website.
The board scheduled a meeting last Wednesday to set goals for the year.