ISD 196 plans to cut 30 teachers, 2 nurses

      School District 196 administrators tested their pitch for budget cuts on parents last week, hosting a series of focus groups seeking comments about its plan to cut teachers and nurses from schools. The district is proposing to cut about $7 million of its $535 million budget.
      Using the euphemism “budget adjustments” rather than the term “budget cuts”, school administrators presented a proposal to cut about 30 teachers and two nurses from its rosters for the 2019-20 school year. The district would also take $2.3 million from the trust fund for retirees and increase student activity fees by 10 percent.
      District 196 administrators, many of whom are paid 2-4 times a teacher or nurse’s salary, would take few hits in the budget cutting proposal. The only cuts proposed at the administration level were to leave an unfilled position vacant and eliminate half an administrative position at a few schools, for a total cut of about $349,000. The school district’s clerical workers would take a larger hit, with 12 positions eliminated at a savings of about $465,000.     
      There was no mention of the district’s total budget during the presentation, which tops out at over a half billion dollars. The administration continued to blame “inadequate” state funding and special education mandates on the shortfall. The figures were presented to parents by the district’s new superintendent, Mary Kreger, who was selected by the school board without the usual search process and received a $41,000 bonus and retroactive pay raise this year.
      The district has identified $25 million in budget cuts,  but will only recommend $7 million for the 2019-20 school year. In its presentation to parents last week, the district warned it could be cutting more teachers, cutting transportation to require students to walk two miles to school, and restructuring high school schedules to six periods per day.
      There are no plans to cut janitorial workers, on the theory they are already stretched by the building, expansion, and renovation of schools throughout the district. Nor was there any mention of cutting the school district’s communication staff whose contribution to the presentation, according to comments made at a parent meeting, was to add a photo of a child to the slideshow shown to parents.
      Administrators also raised the possibility of seeking additional funding by requesting voters approve an additional property tax levy. Dakota County property owners were hit with a 13 percent tax increase this year. District 196’s strategy would put items –classroom and nurse staffing -- likely to be objectionable on the chopping block, making voters more likely to approve a tax levy. The district’s last levy referendum, approved by fewer than 10,000 voters at a special election in 2015, was phrased as a way to protect student safety by building security entrances at schools, although $6 million of that money was spent on a speculative land purchase.
      Two school board members who have been promoting their own additions to school curricula attended the presentation and popped in during parent discussion groups: Art Coulson, who has been promoting Native American education and programs, and Craig Angrimson, who has been advocating a shift from college preparatory classes to vocational education, which would require the district to purchase machinery and equipment and hire staff. Coulson’s daughter was hired as an elementary school teacher in the district following his election and spends much of the class year conducting lessons about the Ojibwe tribe.
      The timing of the presentation coincides with a projected $1.5 billion state budget surplus. As part of last week’s presentation, District 196 administrators urged parents to contact their state legislators to request more funding for schools.

Three men charged with theft

The Iron Horse

Tyler Rogers
Shaun Harrison
Marco Valento
EAGAN, MN – Three men are facing felony theft charges for allegedly wheeling out more than $1,000 worth of products from a local grocery store without paying.
   Eagan police were called to the unnamed grocery store shortly before 9 p.m. Dec. 19 on a report of three men committing theft, according to a Dakota County criminal complaint. Police allegedly spotted a dark blue Volkswagen fitting the description of the car in which the alleged thieves left near the store. Police stopped the suspect car and allegedly saw “a large quantity of new unbagged grocery items in the back seat of the vehicle,” according to court records.
   The three suspects were identified as Tyler Rogers, 29, of 1113 Hawthorne Court, Northfield; Shaun Harrison, 39, of 4263 170th St. E., Rosemount; and Marco Valento, 40, of 1200 5th St. E., St. Paul; according to criminal complaints. The three suspects were being held in the Dakota County jail.
Your tax dollars at work -- Eagan's latest public art installation, called Wind Horse,  near the intersection of Pilot Knob and Yankee Doodle roads. City officials have not released information about the final cost of the project, which was budgeted at $18,000.

More iTheft: three men accused of stealing phones from local wireless store

Anthony Trambles
Derron Pugh
Dangelo Smith
EAGAN, MN – Three men are facing felony charges for allegedly stealing iPhones from a local cellular telephone store.
   Derron Pugh, 25, of 422 Concord St. #28, St. Paul; Dangelo Smith, 25, of 211 4th St. E., St. Paul;  and Anthony Trambles, 33, of 348 Maria Ave. #24, St. Paul, were all charged with felony theft and ordered held at the Dakota County jail in lieu of $15,000 bail, according to court records. The three were arrested after Eagan police were called to a Cricket Wireless store for a reported theft on Dec. 13.
   According to police, a man reported he had chased two men after they had allegedly stolen three iPhones from the store. Officers arrived to find two men running about a third of a mile from the store. The men then entered a car in the parking lot, according to criminal complaints. Police then “conducted a stop of the vehicle and all occupants were removed from the vehicle,” according to court records.
   Police reported finding two iPhones in the suspect vehicle and a third on Smith, according to the complaint. The three phones were valued at about $2,400.
   Police allege Trambles distracted store employees so the other two men could steal phones. Trambles told police he had gone to the store to buy a new phone, according to court records.

ISD 196 approves its share of county property tax bills

The District 196 school board Monday approved a $95 million tax levy for property tax payers’ share of the school district’s budget. The levy will contribute to a property tax increase of about 13 percent in Dakota County. District property owners will pay an average of about $1,400 in school taxes this year, according to the school district. The levy is a fraction of the school district’s budget, about 60 percent of which comes from the state. The district plans to seek a higher level of funding from the state when the legislature convenes in 2019.