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District 88 approves online learning proposal

Program would help students be better prepared for college

December 10, 2010
By Kremena Spengler Staff Writer

NEW ULM - The District 88 School Board on Thursday gave the go-ahead to an online learning proposal outlined by High School Co-Principal Mark Bergmann.

The proposal envisions phasing in some online courses: starting with courses geared toward credit recovery and remediation and moving on to courses that would help prepare students for post-secondary options and maintain curriculum offerings despite declining enrollment.

Bergmann projects spending just under $7,700 during the initial year of preparation. These expenses are associated with training four teachers in the specific technology necessary to deliver an online course and also the work involved in course development. Teachers developing courses would be compensated at a rate commensurate with what they get paid for night school.

Bergmann explained potential funding sources for the program: basic state revenue and extra state funds available for students at risk (the potential users of remediation courses). State revenue is available only if students successfully complete a course, Bergmann pointed out.

Bergmann also outlined possibilities for using existing online learning programs: Socrates (which delivers online curriculums, including administrations) and Plato or Apex (curriculums that the district would administer on its own).

He listed the costs for these programs.

Bergmann pointed out that decisions on what curriculums to use - an existing one, ones developed by teachers -would become clearer after "we get our feet in this."

Bergmann and board members pointed out it is important to pursue online options beyond remediation - incorporating online learning and assessment tools as part of what is taught in the classroom daily. This would ensure students are better prepared to learn in college and later in life, officials pointed out.

Bergmann noted that about a dozen teachers have already expressed willingness to be part of online programs.

Truth in taxation

As part of a truth in taxation hearing at the start of the regular board meeting, Business Manager Myrna Meunier explained the mechanism of school taxation.

She recapped some provisions of the state truth in taxation law, noting that the state sets formulas to determine revenue and policy for schools.

Meunier also explained the difference between the city/county and the school levy cycle: the city/county budget year is the same as a calendar year, while the school budget year runs July 1 to June 30.

Meunier explained that changes in the local tax levy do not necessarily determine the changes in the school budget: some local levy increases, for example, are revenue neutral, offset by state aid reductions.

Meunier went on to recap some local budget numbers. A selection:

Last year, District 88 had total revenues of $23.1 million and expenditures of $23.9 million (all numbers here are rounded). The total fund balance was $5.9 million.

This year, revenues are projected at $22.7 million and expenditures at $23.6 million.

The total fund balance is projected at $5 million.

The 2010 local tax levy was $4.92 million; the proposed levy for 2011 is $4.96 million, or up 0.94 percent.

No members of the public were present for comments.

The board will certify the levy Dec. 20.



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