Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



Grand Forks School Board OKs cuts, spares art program

The Grand Forks School Board spared a student art program from the chopping block Monday after approving about $1.02 million worth of cuts affecting everything from staff training to holiday parties.

Grand Forks Public Schools

The Grand Forks School Board spared a student art program from the chopping block Monday after approving about $1.02 million worth of cuts affecting everything from staff training to holiday parties.

"It was a big win for the kids," said Jeanne O'Neil, an artist who has taught for the program for more than decade. "It's a wonderful program and the kids look forward to it all week, every week."

The board approved a motion including reductions suggested by employees, staff and administration except for cuts in teaching hours worth $15,000 for the Artists in the Classroom program, which has artists provide instruction for elementary students. Board members Eric Lunn and Bill Palmiscno voted against the motion.

The board initially voted on a motion that would make $1.03 million in cuts, including teaching hours for the program. Only Lunn, Palmiscno and board member Matt Spivey agreed to the motion, which failed. Board Vice President Mike St. Onge was absent.

Last month, the board delayed voting on the deficit after supporters of the student art program said cuts to the program would be more harmful than as it was presented by district staff. The reduction would mean less pay for teachers and less art instruction for students, they said. Some board members were in favor of keeping the art program while others didn't want to spare one group from cuts.


Public spotlight on the district's financial struggles began in August, when the School Board proposed a 28.6 percent property tax increase, enough for a balanced general fund budget of $87.2 million. After public backlash over the size of the increase, it agreed to a 21.6 percent increase, which led to a deficit.

Divided board

Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson said the cuts, effective in January, would mean fewer art sessions at the elementary level but they're dividing the hours among the artists to minimize the effect on each individual, he said.

The district will also still meet state guidelines for art instruction without the hours, he said.

Board members' opinions were divided again that night over whether they should retain all of the teaching hours for the program, which costs the district a total $131,500. The district pays for 83 percent of the cost, while 17 percent is covered by the nonprofit Artwise, according to Assistant Superintendent Jody Thompson.

Board member Cynthia Shabb said she didn't want to make changes to the program and had thought about giving up her own compensation as a board member to help. Harold Gustafson, a longtime teacher, substitute and paraprofessional at Ben Franklin School, told the board how proud students were of their artwork and what an impact it made on their lives.

"It's a big deal to the kids and a big deal for the community," he said.

Hundreds of administrators, staff and employees had suggested cuts the district could make in a survey handed out a few months ago. Board members said in the future, if more cuts are needed, they might consider extracurricular activities because several people in the community had suggested it.


Call Johnson at (701) 787-6736, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1736 or send e-mail to jjohnson@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: EDUCATION
What To Read Next
Nonprofit hospitals are required to provide free or discounted care, also known as charity care; yet eligibility and application requirements vary across hospitals. Could you qualify? We found out.
Crisis pregnancy centers received almost $3 million in taxpayer funds in 2022. Soon, sharing only medically accurate information could be a prerequisite for funding.
The Grand Forks Blue Zones Project, which hopes to make Grand Forks not just a healthier city but a closer community, is hosting an event on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Empire Arts Center from 3-5 p.m.
A bill being considered by the North Dakota Legislature would require infertility treatment for public employees — a step that could lead to requiring private insurance for the costly treatments.