Mr. Cruz’ opinion piece printed Thursday, January 10 makes broad claims which should be addressed. Mr. Cruz states that ‘teachers have received a raise’ and may imply that the raises were negotiated after the levy was passed. The facts are that the teacher contract was settled in advance of the levy vote. As the most visible contract in the school district, it was the mutual desire of the school board and the teachers that the teacher’s contract was settled before the levy information and the levy questions were taken to the public. Teachers, principals, and all bargaining groups earned raises in the second year of their contracts. Additionally, all district labor contracts expire at the end of the 2012-13 school year. All groups will soon begin bargaining again; contract negotiations for school employee groups are negotiated for two year time periods.
During the 2011 referendum election period the district communicated that even if the levy were successful the district would continue to make budget reductions. We communicated that future reductions would be smaller if the referendum passed. That is what has happened. Reductions were made before the 2012-13 school year began, but the new referendum dollars increased our ability to target a few staff additions as well. Classroom teachers, for example, were added at both Riverside and Lowell elementary schools, keeping our overall elementary class sizes at 25 or less students. Special Education staff were also added to meet the needs of students with disabilities as required by law. Additionally, the district added career counseling hours at the high school (funded mostly by a Bremer Foundation grant) and a dean of students position at Forestview. After a good deal of discussion, we also made small reductions to extra-curricular participation fees. Mr. Cruz states ‘everyone has benefitted but the children/students’ and we disagree. Students are the primary beneficiaries of referendum funding which has reduced the level of necessary reductions and preserved opportunities for student success.
Brainerd Public Schools