CROSBY -- Emotions ran high during the public comment session at the Crosby-Ironton School Board meeting Tuesday.
Bruce Femling, junior high band director, who was proposed to be placed on .6 full-time equivalent unrequested leave of absence, in March had concerns about his position and wanted answers. Femling will work two days a week instead of five days next school year.
Femling said he had verbal agreements with the school district in May that if he received a degree related to reading education at Bemidji State University that he would recover his current full-time status back for the 2003-04 school year. He said that somehow this agreement was corrupted.
"I need some answers," he said. "I need to teach two more years and I cannot go to another school district because I am part time.
"I want to work with your kids."
Femling has 31 years of experience in directing band. Of those 31 years, 13 have been in the Crosby-Ironton School District. Femling said the other choir directors and general music education people have more seniority and that is why his hours were reduced.
The school district has made its reductions in positions based on seniority.
Femling said the decision to reduce his hours will affect his retirement. If he would continue full time he could retire in 2 1/2 years, but now with the reduction he will not be able to retire for six years.
School board Chair Barb Anderson said Education Minnesota for Crosby-Ironton, the teacher's union, asked the school board and Femling to settle the position without going through the public hearing process. She said the union asked Femling to stay on a .6 FTE unrequested leave of absence and the school board would agree to pay the cost of Femling's health insurance. She said the board agreed with these terms.
C-I Superintendent Linda Lawrie said after the meeting that, "It's a tragic situation for him (Femling). Sometimes we need to have someone to blame.
"The teacher's association specifically wanted to settle the issue the way it was settled."
Lawrie said two other C-I teachers whose hours were reduced were reinstated through agreements. David Niemi, high school social studies teacher, and Mary Roberts, elementary art teacher, were placed on .2 FTE unrequested leave of absence in March and now have been reinstated.
Teacher Stan Nagorski, co-president of the teacher's union, also spoke to the school board about the cuts it has made this past year.
"The cuts are unnecessarily deep and rapid," he said. "We have cuts deeper than any district in the state. The cuts were based on a premature budget before an actual budget was in place in April.
"The cuts seem to be personal and are affecting staff morale and physical health."
Nagorski said the district needs a more open discussion and better communication between the staff and community.
School board member Mike Domin, who walked out while Nagorski was talking and later returned, said the school board has never had a closed meeting on any issue and is up front with the public on issues.
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