School board approves budget for referendum

The plan the board approved Tuesday will spend approximately $6.4 million of the expected $7.5 million from the November referendum.

The first administrative proposal will restore some teaching and counseling positions. Others will be replaced with elementary school “preventionists” and high school “content interventionists” to improve literacy rates.

This initial plan, originally presented at a public work session on Jan. 24, drew immediate criticism from both the school board and the public.

The co-chairpeople of the MCCSC Funding Referendum Committee addressed a letter to School Board President Jim Muehling stating their concerns with the proposal.

“We believe it is highly inappropriate to establish alternative programs in the absence of permanent executive leadership,” they said in the letter.

The letter also called for further restoration to foreign language programs, music instruction, art classes, school counselors and extracurricular activities.

And the school board listened.

Two amendments to the proposal were passed with two separate votes.

The first, proposed by board member Jeannine Butler, passed 5-0 and will allow principals the freedom to decide how best to spend the $1.2 million allocated to the new preventionist and content interventionist positions.

Principals must make their decisions with reform ideals in mind and are not permitted to spend the money to hire playground supervisors.

“This is the building decision in terms to maximize the impact for our kids and the literacy support program,” Muehling said. “They have to think about what’s the best way to do it.”

The amendment proposed by board member Sue Wanzer passed 3-2 and will spend an additional $222,000 to restore a full-time band director at Bloomington High School North, foreign language teachers in all the middle schools and counseling positions in all MCCSC schools.

The money for the additional positions will be paid for out of the corporation’s cash reserve. Wanzer said the restorations will only be guaranteed for the next year, as the board must vote on spending referendum dollars annually.

Michelle Woolbright, a mother of four, said her family moved from Denver to go to school in the MCCSC and participate in the band program.

Woolbright said she is not satisfied with Wanzer’s amendment because it did not restore the program to the state it was in prior to the budget cuts.

“I move according to music departments because usually these schools are very fine,” Woolbright said. “But I’ve been disappointed because we’re lost if we’re going to destroy programs like this.”

Bloomington resident Benjamin Robinson, on the other hand, said he was happy with the additional programs restored by the amendment.

Robinson started a petition to support foreign language education in MCCSC middle schools and secured 811 signatures as of noon Thursday.

“Our kids deserve to have the doors to a world of diverse cultures and opportunities opened for them at a moment when it makes the biggest differences in their lives,” Robinson said.

Wanzer’s amendment will staff world language classes for seventh graders at all three middle schools.

Board member Martha Street supported Wanzer’s amendment and said the restored positions will help the community accept the “bad pill” of higher property taxes caused by the referendum.

“Maybe this will soften the blow so that people will continue to support the referendum,” Street said.

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