"We have worked through a majority of the expenses and believe there are ways to reduce the cost of education without impacting the students at all," said Mabel-Canton School District Superintendent Jennifer Backer at the school board's monthly meeting on Tuesday evening, May 20.

Backer updated the board on the district's current financials in the absence of Business Manager Todd Lechtenberg.

Backer gave the board a run down of where the district is in it's 2013-14 budget along with a preview of the discussion on the 2014-15 budget that will be brought before the board next month.

The district is currently showing nearly $200,000 in deficit spending and is working to "clean it up."

Backer reported the current budget year continues to go along as planned and the district should be expecting an additional $25 per student in state funding due to recent legislation.

Along with those facts, year-to-date revenues are at $2.4 million, which is about $300,000 more compared to this time last year, due to an increase in general education revenue.

Year-to-date expenses are also lower compared to last year, mainly due to lower salaries because of early retirements, and lower maintenance and building repair costs compared to previous years.

Looking ahead to the next fiscal-year budget, Backer explained they are about 90 percent finished and the staff will present it to the board at the June 16 meeting, along with a number of proposed cuts and freezes.

"That (the budget) will be the majority of our school board meeting (next month)," Backer said. "Some of our ideas are that we are going move forward with freezes on curriculum, classroom supplies and athletic supplies.... We are also looking at ways to potentially increase fees (even if it is a small amount). We have to find that balance. We have to keep our district going but we also want to respect our stakeholders and taxpayers and not strap them either."

Backer added that while enrolment numbers continue to be a concern, there are a few students from North Winneshiek School that are planning to attend Mabel-Canton next year.

"We really want to keep those bills, those expenses...any of those cuts out of the students hands so that means that our teachers and our students will not be effected," Backer added. "We just want to protect our kids from this, but also really respect the money that our taxpayers are giving us and be very careful with that."

Principal's report

Principal Jeff Nolte took time to thank preschool teachers Amy Hoscheit and Lisa Halverson. "We don't often get to talk about them because they are at the beginning of the educational process. Last night they had a wonderful turnout for their preschool graduation," he said. "There were a lot of parents and grandparents there and that's a testament to the strong program downstairs."

"With graduation coming up soon, most of our seniors are doing very well in their normal progress," Nolte said.

He added there are a few seniors with whom they are concerned about. "It will come down to the last minute to determine if they will walk in their graduation stripes or not...we fully expect them to do what they need to do."

On a similar topic, Nolte said there are a few students at Mabel-Canton that have some truancy issues.

Nolte said the scheduling for the 2014-15 school year is going well. "Most of our students are scheduled for next year," he said.

"Our elementary staff has been working hard to put some new things in place for reading for next year," Nolte said. Training of the staff is under way for the new programs.

"We've (also) done some re-alignment in staff...there will be a few new teachers in new positions next year," Nolte said about the elementary school. "Out of the eight core teachers and a reading teacher - there are four teachers that will be in new positions next year." Nolte said the changes are being made to focus on reading achievement.

"We've had a long testing season," Nolte said. "We've really been focused on doing our best every day (on the testing)." Nolte commented the mandatory student testing has lasted about six weeks this year.

"We are looking for three North Winneshiek freshmen to come this way next year." Nolte also commented that freshmen orientation was recently held as they prepare eighth graders to adjust to the "9-12" years.

Superintendent report

Backer reported enrollment has stayed steady at 255 students.

In legislation, Backer said there will be additional funding through the federal government for students on Individual Learning Plans (IEP's).

She also said her role on the governor's cabinet on education in rural Minnesota has been a benefit to her and the districts she serves.

"It's a pretty neat grassroots effort from superintendents across Minnesota to knock down the doors of our legislators to talk about the dire need we have (in) outstate Minnesota - we cannot be forgotten."

Consent agenda

The board approved numerous routine items during the consent agenda portion of their meeting. This included a resolution for membership to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL), extension of the superintendents contract from 2015-2018, approval of the school board's 2014-15 meeting schedule, a resolution making Principal Jeff Nolte co-signer for the Student Activity Accounts, accepting the donation of a tree to be planted in the playground/ball field area and approval of the first reading of a district policy regarding transpiration of children to childcare locations.

Two items in the consent agenda involved more discussion. The first involved the Senior Final Day, which was set for May 27. No seniors initially showed up to the board meeting to request the early release, as is the tradition. Therefore, the board tabled the item unless a member of the senior class addressed the board.

Later in the meeting, senior Sarah Lund appeared before the board to request the extra few days off for the class of 2014, which was then approved. Seniors can take the day off as long as the senior class does not plan their own unofficial senior skip day.

Another item was the approval of a change to the 2014-15 school district calendar. The change involves moving the final day of school from May 29 to May 28 and the teacher workshop day from June 1 to May 29. Another change was to not have school on Jan. 2 and instead have a full day of school on Dec. 22 to give families two full weekends of winter break. The changes were approved unanimously.