Willmar begins cutting teachers

WILLMAR -- After approving nearly $2 million in budget cuts Monday, the Willmar School Board began the formal process of laying off or reducing the hours of staff members before the next school year.

Board announces plan
The Willmar School Board hears from students Monday during a meeting in WIllmar where the board discussed its budget cuts. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR -- After approving nearly $2 million in budget cuts Monday, the Willmar School Board began the formal process of laying off or reducing the hours of staff members before the next school year.

The board voted to cut $1.75 million from the 2010-11 budget. The cuts include a variety of increased fees, layoffs and cuts in expenses in the district's $40 million general fund budget.

A year ago, the district cut $2.8 million from its spending. The cuts are needed to handle rising costs, falling enrollment and flat funding levels from the state.

The board adopted two resolutions Monday laying off tenured and non-tenured staff members. The resolutions set a legal timetable in motion for tenured employees, who have the right to request hearings before the job cuts go into effect.

Nine tenured employees will still have full-time jobs with the district but will have some days cut from their extended-year contracts. Two teachers face full-time layoffs -- music teacher Bryan Mara and foreign language teacher Christena Svoboda Ojeda. Music teacher Lisa Zeller faces a half-time layoff.


Staff members having days cut from their contracts include media specialist Joel Brenckman, 20 days; agriculture teacher David Damhof, social worker Mike Fischer, agriculture teacher Neil Pearson, 10 days each; social worker Cheryl Hansen, 5 days; and guidance counselors Kristy Maher, Leah Rosendahl, Sharon Tollefson and Jeff Winter, 3 days each.

In addition, a list of 38 non-tenured teachers will be notified that their contracts will be terminated at the end of the school year. That is a customary resolution, and many of the people on the list could return in the fall, depending on the district's needs.

A number of employees in clerical, paraprofessional or custodial positions will also see their jobs or work hours cut when the budget cuts go into effect.

The board also approved the revenue report for the 2010-11 school year from the West Central Integration Collaborative.

The collaborative receives integration aid from the state as well as property tax levy funding from the eight school districts who are members. The collaborative uses the funding to encourage understanding between cultures and to encourage all students to stay in school and graduate.

Among its programs are Foreign Language in the Elementary Schools to teach Spanish in many area elementary schools and providing school success coordinators to area high schools. It also provides interpreters where needed and provides services for newcomers to the district.

The state funding is available because Willmar has a significant minority population while adjoining districts do not.

The overall budget for the collaborative is $1.26 million. Of that, nearly $600,000 is to be spent in Willmar.


Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said there is talk in the Legislature of ending funding for integration collaboratives. "It would be bad for the district, because they provide a number of services to students in need," he said.

The board adopted the school calendar for 2010-11. School is set to start on Sept. 7, the day after Labor Day. Spring break is scheduled for March 28 through April 1. The last day of school is June 3, and graduation will be June 5.

Board members discussed a plan to construct a driveway and bus turnaround off 15th Avenue behind Roosevelt Elementary School.

The plan would separate car and bus traffic at the school, which Kjergaard called "the Indianapolis 500" before and after school. The bus turnaround area could also be used as parking space during events at the school, he said.

Buses would turn west only when leaving the new driveway, he said.

The city of Willmar would construct the turnaround as part of its summer public improvements projects. The school district would be assessed about $307,000, to be paid in installments over 10 years, Kjergaard said.

If the board adopts a resolution to go ahead with the project, it could be done before school starts in the fall.

In 42 years in the newspaper industry, Linda Vanderwerf has worked at several daily newspapers in Minnesota, including the Mesabi Daily News, now called the Mesabi Tribune in Virginia. Previously, she worked for the Las Cruces Sun-News in New Mexico and the Rapid City Journal in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has been a reporter at the West Central Tribune for nearly 27 years.

Vanderwerf can be reached at email: or phone 320-214-4340
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