By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnum cuts $200,000 from school budget


The Barnum School Board agreed to cut $200,000 from next school year’s budget, at the monthly meeting of the board on Tuesday, Feb. 21. That cut had been recommended by the Finance Committee.

“That will help keep us at the board goals and keep some in reserve,” said board Chair Paul Coughlin. “That will help us as things come up.”

Barbara Bernard, a board member of Saving Grace Village, spoke to the board about the program for girls ages 12–14 that is held twice a year during a weekend at the Audubon Center of the North Woods near Sandstone. Barnum school counselor Alycia Dammer is also involved with the program and works with the students and parents about attending.

“We’ve had eight retreats and 40 girls attend since 2014,” said Dammer. “There have always been participants from Barnum. There are also students from Chaska that attend but it is just for those students from those two schools.”

Lily, one of the participants, told the board more about the village.

“Saving Grace Village is a place for girls to go and explore who they are,” she said. “We do some sewing, make candles and make lip gloss. Meditation is a personal favorite of mine. There is a barn with three animals: a porcupine, a hawk and an owl. I liked it. It is a beautiful place on a lake.”

Bernard explained that the girls feel like a family after spending a weekend together.

“They love the food,” she added. “The only person that we pay is the chef.”

The program is operated by volunteers who do fundraising, according to information provided about the retreat. There is no cost for the girls.

“We empower the girls to explore their gifts in a creative environment and how they want us to respect them,” she added. “We also have personal safety training. They learn basic techniques from a black belt instructor. The next retreat is in April. We can have a maximum of 10 girls from the two schools.”

The school board approved a target class size chart for the elementary grades.

The target class sizes range from 17 or 18 students per section in kindergarten to 21 to 23 students in sixth grade.

“These are just targets,” said Superintendent Dave Bottem. “These give us options and flexibility. Those figures are from other schools our size or larger.”

“This is student-driven as well as staff-driven,” said Coughlin. “It helps us out as a board. We will try to keep the class sizes consistent with it.”

Board member Pat Poirier said the third grade has it tough.

“More is expected of them because of MCAs,” he said.

The limits on the number of students in the third grade were lower at 16 and 17 per section, where grades one and two could have up to 20 students in each section, according to the chart.

“These are not concrete numbers,” said Bottem. “They can be changed.”

The board turned its attention to consider reducing interim elementary principal Scott Anderson’s time from five days a week to three days a week. There would be a cost savings of $20,000, it was said.

The superintendent and high school principal could fill in when needed, but the board members did not see where the savings justified the principal not being at the school during the other two days of the week.

“In this case, the initiatives are not being planned for next year,” said Anderson. “The site team is doing a great job. Other things have dropped off but there are more kid issues. I would like to spend more time with my wife.”

When the vote was called, Coughlin was the only board member to vote yes. The others voted no. Anderson will continue to work five days a week.

It was reported that the investigation into the allegations about the elementary principal Tom Cawcutt is continuing.

In other business, the board passed the 2017-18 Indian Education Parent Committee Resolution, and adopted the 2018-2019 school calendar.

The next meeting of the Barnum School Board was set for Tuesday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. in the board room.


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