FD school board faces $2M shortfall

The Fort Dodge Community School District board discussed reductions to meet a $2 million shortfall Monday after approving the 2013-2014 budget.

According to Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, if there is zero percent allowable growth this will cost the district an additional $250,000 in funds.

Possible staff reductions were suggested by district administrators, which could save the district roughly $1.3 million. Another $760,000 can be saved through grants, adjustments in funding formulas and reduced expenses.

Staff positions being considered for elimination include several paraeducators, teacher-librarians and nurses and a professional support reading coach.

“That would give us about $2,089,000,” Van Zyl said. “That does not figure into the cost of settlements and that does not figure in what could happen with the overall budget from the state.”

Van Zyl said making the reductions was not easy.

“We have nothing else left. There’s not a lot of fat,” he said. “There’s not anything in here that does not impact staff or students.”

Kirsten Williams, Feelhaver Elementary nurse, spoke against the proposed plan to only have one full-time nurse at Fort Dodge Senior High and the new middle school when it opens.

“We understand it’s natural when you’re putting these two buildings together to think you can reduce the staff by one, and one nurse can fully serve this building” Williams said. “It is our hope you will possibly look at sharing one nurse between those two large facilities.”

According to Williams, a school nurse sees one student every six minutes. Both buildings have special needs and Level 1 programs. Also, restorative nurse aides are not qualified to make assessments without a registered nurse present.

“The medical needs in these buildings are growing, it is not shrinking,” she said. “Just our cancer children alone have doubled.”

Janyce Krass, a teacher-librarian who is retiring from Butler Elementary after 27 years with the district, spoke against reducing librarians.

“A teacher-librarian collaborates to help students achieve their intellectual health,” Krass said. “The teacher-librarian is not the para who checks the books in and out, returns things to their shelves.”

Krass said a teacher-librarian prepares lessons that helps students develop needed skills.

“For years, the basics have been reading, writing and arithmetic. In this century, information management skills has to be the fourth basic,” she said. “Without these skills our students will be crippled and not intellectually healthy. They will not be able to make good decisions based on the information and technology surrounding them.”

A motion by board member Matt Wagner to approve the budget reductions minus the school nurses was defeated 3-4.

A second motion by board member Brian Forsythe to approve the reductions as presented passed unanimously.

According to Forsythe, the motion was based on the fact that allowable growth was undecided and that they were facing a $2 million shortfall.

“This is my fourth straight year of budget cuts,” he said. “And it never gets any easier.”

Van Zyl said he would provide to the board a list of funds that have become available so that items could be removed from the reductions list.