Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Transportation supervisor position spared from budget cuts at Moose Lake School Board meeting


March 21, 2019

No decision was made to cut staff when the Moose Lake School Board approved several budget cuts at the meeting of the board on Monday, March 18.

The board meeting room was packed with people that were there to speak on several issues and support those positions that were on the list to be eliminated.

Jeff Olson, the Transportation Supervisor, read a long letter that he had written to tell of his experiences in making changes, such as recommending leasing buses, recommending that the leased buses be propane fueled instead of diesel fueled, which is less expensive and do not need engine heaters, to save the school district hundreds of thousands of dollars.

He also spoke about coordinating the buses. Three other drivers also spoke about how important Olson’s position was in coordinating the bus schedules and maintaining the buses.

“The duties that I am responsible for are done by several people in other school districts,” said Olson. “There isn’t enough time to get everything done as it is. I believe that I will be able to save the $25,000 that cutting my position will result in.”

Three parents spoke about the small cell towers that are going to be installed near the school building.

One parent asked if the income from the small cell towers was going to be used to supplement education costs.

Superintendent Robert Indihar replied that, in the contract with Verizon for the small cell towers, the school would only get funding for the electricity those towers would use.

“It’s not like the income from a large cell tower like they were going to build by the old school,” he said. “We would have gotten hundreds of dollars for that tower being on school land.”

Another parent reported that there is information that radiation from small cell towers, especially 5G towers, are a serious health concern for small children.

Indihar replied that the towers will be 30 feet in the air and emit no more radiation than a baby monitor, according to information from the FCC and American Cancer Society.

Kris Lyons, a former school board member, spoke to the board about the school being a community school and that there should be job descriptions for all of the staff members, not just the administrative staff. She also said that the reading curriculum should be changed because students in the lower grades cannot read.

“Please, do something with the reading program,” she said. “Those kids will not survive in this world if they cannot read. That’s on you, ‘Excellence for Life.’”

Due to the retirement of the current school nurse, Inidhar said that he had asked for information from Mercy Hospital about the salaries of several levels of nursing - RN, LPN and Certified Medical Assistant - to help the board in the decision about what combination of nursing staff to hire.

He had recommended that the nurse’s hours be cut from eight per day to six hours per day.

The board discussed the proposed budget cuts to save $150,000 in 2020.

One teaching position was on the list of positions to be cut, as well as reconfiguring the duties of the transportation supervisor. Losing a teacher would result in first grade being divided into two sections, instead of three, resulting in classes of 27 or 28 students, said Board Member Jamie Jungers.

“This is a great time to have a working board meeting to discuss those positions,” he said. “No one is retiring this year.”

The board passed a motion to hire an early childhood speech teacher, instead of contracting for that service, delay ordering elementary reading textbooks, and cut the nurse’s hours from eight to six per day.

The board also passed a motion to approve the proposals from the Art Club to paint murals on several walls and build the pergola and patio area outside of the school. However, Jungers recommended that the patio be relocated for security reasons. Relocating the patio will be discussed by the Facilities Committee, it was said.

Sandy Hoff of F. I. Salter, a real estate agency in Duluth, spoke to the board about the Small Land Plan on the large portion of the school district land that is slated for development.

“I recommend that the school district stay involved for a while,” he told the board. “I did an appraisal. I can talk to you about creating more revenue. The challenge we have is the cost of roads and infrastructure. There are opportunities to working in cooperation with the developer, the school district and the city.”

Indihar recommended that the board wait until next month before deciding to add days to the school calendar to make up for the two days when the school had to be closed.

A Liaison meeting with the Willow River School Board was set for March 27 at 6 p.m. at the Willow River School, a special meeting of the board was set for Tuesday, April 9, to discuss potential budget cuts, and the monthly meeting of the school board was set for Monday, April 15, at 6 p.m.


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