Weather Forecast


Willmar, two area school districts near deal to share services of nutrition director

WILLMAR -- The Willmar, Montevideo and New London-Spicer school districts are close to an agreement to share the services of Willmar's nutrition director among the three districts.

Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard told the School Board about the plan at Monday's board meeting. The agreement is likely to go into effect for the next school year.

Willmar's food service director, Annette Derouin, is a registered dietitian and would supervise staff and develop common menus for the three districts, according to Kjergaard.

The two smaller districts will pay about 30 percent of Derouin's salary, he added. Willmar has about 4,000 students.

Montevideo has about 1,350 students, and NLS has about 1,460 students.

"This is at least a start" in working together, Kjergaard said.

The agreement has grown out of a regional study of ways west central Minnesota schools could work cooperatively.

"We'll work with suppliers to get the cheapest price for all three of us," he said, and each district will have a food service manager on site.

Other districts involved in the regional study were offered the chance to join in the agreement but they declined, Kjergaard said.

The board also adopted a resolution calling for the administration to make recommendations for budget cuts.

"I'm asking that the board approve this, because we don't know what's going to happen with the Legislature," Kjergaard said.

The district has about 60 positions, some part-time and some full-time, that are funded by one-time federal money. The funding was approved by Congress last summer and made available for just one year. Willmar received about $900,000.

"We wanted to do the most we could in that year for our students," he said.

The employees in those positions were hired with the knowledge that the funding for their jobs would end after this school year, Kjergaard said.

It's possible the district will not have to make large budget cuts this spring aside from the federally funded jobs, he said.

Still, that will depend on the Legislature. There has been some talk of cutting $1 billion from the two-year education budget. Kjergaard said that is roughly equal to $500 less per student for each of the next two years.

Kjergaard shared a letter he received Monday that the district's Garfield School has been recommended for the list of 10 most endangered historic places in Minnesota. The list is issued each year by the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota and is intended to draw attention to the state's historic resources.

The letter says Garfield was nominated because it is in danger of closing and possible demolition. Garfield -- located at 512 Eighth St. S.W. -- currently houses the district's alternative high school. The district also has two empty buildings.

Kjergaard has said he would like to sell two of the buildings and move the Area Learning Center into the one that remains. The city of Willmar has expressed an interest in the Garfield building in the past.

The district has one week to comment on the property. Kjergaard said he does not want Garfield on that list, "because it may hamper our ability to sell the building."

In other business, the board:

- Welcomed Liz Fischer, the district's new director of human resources. Fischer succeeds Bill Busta, who retired at the end of January.

- Delayed setting a day for making up a recent snow day. Kjergaard said he wanted to wait to see if there are more snow days before deciding how to make them up.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340