Despite cuts, board hopes district will stay positive

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Stacy Vogel
May 13, 2008
— The special education department at Edgerton High School decided last summer to overhaul its structure.

It planned to integrate more special education students into general education classes and focus on teaching self-sufficiency skills.

So specialists were dismayed to learn in December that the district would have to cut $500,000 in staff, including $200,000 at the high school level, said Lori VanHimbergen, director of pupil services.

“We’re trying to make something better, and now we’re being asked to do more with less?” she said, describing the department’s reaction.

Even though the department will probably lose one of its six teachers in two years, it has decided to push ahead with plans to improve special education offerings at Edgerton High School, VanHimbergen said.

That’s the attitude the school board hopes the whole district will take when it comes to staff cuts, board member Jim Raymond said at Monday’s school board meeting.

“We’re on track to get a little more lean and mean, and I think there’s a positive spin to that,” he said.

Principal Jim Halberg recommended Monday that the district cut one English teacher and one special education teacher in 2009-10 to help the high school reach $200,000 in cuts in 2009-10.

But more cuts are probably coming in future years. The school might have to cut three positions in 2010-11 and seven positions in 2011-12 if enrollment drops as projected from 616 to 500.

The cuts could limit class options, reduce graduation requirements and teacher prep time and introduce study halls into the high school curriculum.

It also could wreak havoc with the high school’s block schedule system, composed of four 88-minute periods a day instead of seven or eight shorter ones. The high school will probably introduce a “modified block schedule” that integrates block periods with shorter periods and study halls, Halberg said.

With fewer class options, students might not always get their preferred schedules, staff said.

Edgerton High School has always required students to list alternate options when they list schedule choices, but students are used to getting their first choices. That will probably change in coming years, Associate Principal Clark Bretthauer said.

“Now as the scheduling gets more and more refined, there’s going to be more of an emphasis on ‘Hey, you have to take your alternative choices seriously,’” he said.

The school’s scheduling team, made up of Halberg, Bretthauer and the school’s two counselors, will meet over the summer to discuss specific ways a reduced staff will affect the high school’s curriculum. It plans to present those changes to the board in August.

Edgerton’s woes are common in Wisconsin as districts struggle to maintain funding, Superintendent Norm Fjelstad said.

“It’s not a matter of what’s good for kids anymore,” he said. “It’s a matter of what you can afford.”


The issue: Edgerton School District will have to cut $700,000 from its budget over the next two years because of dropping enrollment and changes to the state funding structure, Superintendent Norm Fjelstad announced in December. It has already decided to cut $150,000 in maintenance and $50,000 in high school staff next year.

What’s new: Jim Halberg, Edgerton High School principal, recommend the district cut one English teacher and one special education teacher at the high school to help it achieve $200,000 in staff cuts in 2009-10. The high school will probably also cut two support staff positions that year.

The high school might have to cut three teaching positions in 2010-11 and seven in 2011-12. The cuts could affect the high school’s block schedule system, graduation requirements, teacher prep time and course offerings.

What’s next: Halberg will speak at the next school board meeting about Advanced Placement classes and how cuts could affect them. In August, he and his scheduling team will tell the board about projected changes in high school curriculum and requirements in the coming years.

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