In a work session that followed the board’s regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 25, Grand Forks School Board members and district administrators worked on a process to align the budget with the needs and challenges of the school district.

The group focused on distilling information on the district’s finances, facilities and the proposed career academy, presented at a work session last week, and defining categories of concern that must be addressed to put the district on firmer financial footing.

The board and district administrators will study and work to prioritize these realities in a work session that will follow the next board meeting, Nov. 8. At that work session, the group also will work to come up with a plan and next steps on how to address those priorities, said Superintendent Terry Brenner.

On Monday, in small groups and using a Guiding Change Document, board members and district administrators discussed and assessed “current realities,” then ranked them, and finally came to consensus on various common areas of greatest importance.

Among them are:

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  • concerns about ADA compliance and meeting other federal requirements in facilities;
  • building the district’s reserve fund;
  • lack of knowledge of teaching and learning principles in the community;
  • the general fund balance is at a minimum level needed to operate and is not sustainable;
  • an excess number of buildings;
  • salaries are not competitive with other similar-sized districts;
  • taxpayers here pay less for the school district than similar districts;
  • substantial academic access and opportunity gaps along racial and socio-economic status;
  • and special education students are being served in a subpar learning environment.

In other action Monday, Scott Berge, district business manager, told the board that, for this school year, the district has budgeted for a 27.5% increase in natural gas costs, but that cost could be as high as 35 to 40%.

Berge also noted that utilities costs have increased 10.7%; the district has budgeted for a 9.9% increase.

The board also heard a report from member Jeff Manley, speaking for the Superintendent’s Evaluation Committee. Manley said the committee has included a non-ranking question on the superintendent’s leadership during the pandemic in the evaluation survey, which was distributed to board members Oct. 20. Survey responses are due Friday, Oct. 29, and the committee will meet Nov. 1 to review the responses and distribute their report to the full board Nov. 8.

The board also:

  • Voted to send a bullying policy back to its Policy Review Committee for further discussion, including possibly changing language that refers to “victim” and “perpetrator”;

  • Voted to accept a policy regarding students carrying weapons on school property, but also sent it back to the Policy Review Committee for further discussion and clarification with North Dakota School Board Association lawyers;

  • Approved the issuance of a contract for Molly Sand Eichten to fill a new position as an English Language Learner program teacher at Discovery Elementary School, at a salary of $38,442, and

  • Accepted the resignation of Tami Hillebrand, a kindergarten teacher at Kelly Elementary School, effective June 3.