Groups make their case to not get cut

$1.5 million question: Where does district carve its budget?

April 14, 2010

Menomonee Falls — Technology and business education supporters asked the School Board on Monday to save fourth-grade keyboarding, which is on the chopping block in next school year's budget.

The school district is struggling with a $1.5 million deficit. Last month, administrators presented a proposal that nearly balances the budget, but calls for cutting 13 full-time equivalent teachers, among other things.

Board members will have to set priorities in the budget as different advocacy groups, like those in support of fourth-grade keyboarding, come forward.

Before making an official presentation last month, there had been talk of cutting middle school sports. But after strong opposition, administrators came up with a new plan to raise fees and cut some coaching positions, transportation and clinic fees for coaches.

Music program supporters want administrators to reinstate some staff positions in the budget so lessons can continue. The music department would lose 2 FTEs districtwide - 0.5 at the elementary level and 1.5 at the middle and high school levels.

Plates getting full

Proponents called keyboarding a life-long skill.

Parent Marion Defnet has two daughters in high school. One of her daughters has taken all offerings available in the business department, has earned 15 college credits and was at the FBLA state competition, which was held Monday and Tuesday. FBLA is a business leadership organization for high-schoolers.

She said budget cuts are difficult, but business department classes offer life-long skills - starting with keyboarding in fourth grade. A teacher in Brookfield, Defnet said the district shouldn't put keyboarding on elementary school teachers' "plate," which teachers have jokingly said has grown to a "tray."

Jim Nitz, a keyboarding teacher at North Middle School, said he had received e-mail from supporters saying keyboarding needs to be taught by a certified teacher as opposed to some other online method.

An e-mail from a former student, he said, stated students are under pressure during timed high school English exams and other timed tests on computers. Students without keyboarding skills are at a disadvantage.

Former Village President Joe Greco asked the board members to find innovative ways to address deficits.

"Where does the cutting stop?" he asked, noting future projections show more than $1 million deficits in each of the next five years.

Administrators had noted that technology was somewhat of a priority in next year's budget, which prompted Greco to ask why fourth-grade keyboarding would be cut. He said the recommendation is a signal.

"We have gone beyond cutting the flesh," Greco said, adding the district is going deep to the bone for cuts.

He used Washington, D.C., as an example of innovative thinking. The school district there may use grants from private donors to fund teachers' salaries, he said.

"There are ways to do it," he said. "Find another way to fund education to supplement property taxes."

Looking at options

Board member Kathy Shurilla said administrators are trying to make recommendations that spread out the pain so no one area is completely eliminated.

Superintendent Keith Marty said administrators are looking at some alternatives for keyboarding, and he plans to attend a high school Band Bunch booster club meeting to discuss music options.

Administrators also are looking at elementary school class sizes as officials were projecting nine classrooms to exceed the district's guidelines. But those numbers change daily.

The board will vote on increasing athletic fees at its April 26 meeting. The Finance Committee recommended the board approve a $15 increase at the middle school level to $90, and a $35 increase at the high school level to $110.

Final layoff notices are due in May. The district issued about 40 preliminary layoff notices last month. The board will hold budget hearings prior to board meetings once a month starting in May up until the annual meeting in September.

Next step

WHAT: School Board vote on increasing athletic participation fees

WHEN: 7 p.m. April 26

WHERE: community center, N8645 Margaret Road

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