District 911 nixes charter school concept

By Rachel Kytonen

The Cambridge-Isanti School Board has decided against pursing a charter school at this time.

During the regular school board meeting Thursday, April 21, the board heard a detailed presentation from Dale Birkeland and Bob Meyer with Midwest Management Resources regarding a charter school concept.

The board contracted with MMR to take an in-depth look and analyze whether a charter school concept has potential to work in the Cambridge-Isanti School District, and make recommendations to confirm or deny the value of the district becoming an authorizing agency for a charter school.

MMR worked with a steering committee to explore and research the potential of the district to apply and becoming the authorizing agent for a fine arts and/or world language charter school.

Following the presentation by MMR, Meyer recommended the district proceed with a charter school and recommended the district apply for an authorizer role.

However, after board discussion, a motion to have the district apply to become a Minnesota Department of Education recognized authorizer for the charter school unanimously failed.

Board members voiced concerns that no one from the charter school steering committee was present.

“I’m not sure if we have enthusiasm for this,” said Board Member Anne Nelson. “We already have a lot of work ahead of us to maintain and keep what we have already. I like the option, and am not dismissing this, but the fact we have no one here from the steering committee is telling me a really big story.”

Board Member Mark Becker said he feels a charter school seems like a gamble.

“With the uncertainty of funding and the duplication of some things … I feel we already have an excellent staff and facilities in place and need to fine tune how to get that back into the system,” Becker said.

Nelson felt it was valuable to look into the charter school concept.

“We are searching for ways to be competitive and offer people choices,” Nelson said. “I don’t think the premise was misguided, and I think we did obtain some real valuable information. We may look back at this at a later date, but it’s hard to move forward with this at this time.”

Capital budget expenditures

Director of Finance Robyn Vosberg-Torgerson, and Director of Buildings and Grounds Mark Eisenbacher, presented information on the proposed Capital Budget for Equipment, Facilities and Health and Safety for 2011-2012.

The operating capital equipment budget totaled $738,000. District-wide projects relating to technology improvements, such as network management, bus radios, telephone upgrades, replacement computers, and equipment, totaled $510,000.

Activity purchases included $65,000 to Daktronics for an outdoor scoreboard, which the district plans on selling advertising on; $6,964 to All-American Elite Carpet for gymnastics; and $16,363 to Minnesota Mat Refinishing Co. for wrestling mats. There were other smaller purchases made throughout the schools.

The operating capital – facilities budget summary totals $1,048.788.

The biggest portion of the budget is $405,000 for tennis court reconstruction, which is paid out of capital funds. There is also $224,570 in fixed costs for the district that includes building leases, Johnson Arena lease, golf course rental and district-wide contingency. The district will also spend $170,000 for the bus garage Phase II parking lot.

Other projects are also being done throughout the schools that include resurfacing of gym courts and other miscellaneous projects.

Vosberg-Torgerson and Eisenbacher also presented the health and safety budget totalling $373,900 that consists of safety improvements.

The board approved all three budgets following the presentations.

In other action the Board:

• Approved the revised 2010-2011 budget of total revenue for all funds of $59,845,390; a 2.8 percent increase from the original budget primarily due to increases in general education funding. Total general fund revenue is now at $41,660,891, an increase of 3.83 percent from the original budget. Vosberg-Torgerson explained $600,000 of the $1,535,551 increase was due to an increase in enrollment and resulting in more general education aid. Total expenses of all funds is now $59,823,650; an increase of .78 percent from the original budget and total general fund expenses are now at $41,863,782, an increase of 2.27 percent from the original budget.

• Heard an update on nutritional food service changes and implementations.

• Heard a presentation on IIS/SFAS Odyssey of the Mind Team. Last year was the first year the school had a team and they competed at the State level. The team competed at the State level again this year.