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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

ECR reports funding cuts to board

Catie Clark
Posted 5/15/24

ELY- The nonprofit Ely Community Resource shared unhappy news with the Ely School Board on Monday evening. The group, which runs several tutoring, mentoring, afterschool, and summer programs for …

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ECR reports funding cuts to board


ELY- The nonprofit Ely Community Resource shared unhappy news with the Ely School Board on Monday evening. The group, which runs several tutoring, mentoring, afterschool, and summer programs for school-aged children and youth, has lost close to $150,000 in funding for next year.
“So, for summer, I think we’re going to make it but we’re unsure about the school year,” ECR executive director Julie Hignell told the board. “I wanted to come and make sure that you knew that because we feel very connected to the school. ECR exists to support the school and our kids.”
The ECR had a $120,000 three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education which was not renewed. The organization also had had a Youth Intervention Grant from the Department of Public Safety’s Office of Justice for over 20 years which was drastically cut.
“They hinted that the reason we were cut from $150,000 in a biennium to $44,000 in a biennium is that our type of programs will be moved to the new Department of Children, Youth and Families, which doesn’t exist yet,” said Hignell. In the meantime, ECR’s funding fell through the cracks.
After the school board meeting, Hignell told the Timberjay that she is hopeful that the funding situation is temporary. “We have grants from the Northland Foundation and other groups in the pipeline.” If the funding isn’t replaced before the 2024-25 school year, ECR may need to cut programming or staff, Hignell said.
Ely Community Resource was founded in 1978 by community members concerned for Ely’s students. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit employs five full-time and two part-time staff and offers twelve different programs, including four programs with afterschool activities, two in-school homework help programs, family out-reach services, reading programs, and summer activities.
In other business, the school board:
• Heard the report of music teacher Karl Kubiak to organize a band trip with Mesabi East High School to Orlando for spring 2026.
• Approved the Memorial Middle and High School and Washington Elementary School schedules for the 2024-2025 school year.
• Approved the financial report, including $1,030,626 in receipts, and $397,487 in disbursements for the month of April.
• Hired Nick Bates as a full-time social studies teacher.
• Hired Jennifer Kerntz as a teacher for the summer.
• Hired LeaRae Richards and Jacki Tolbert as paraprofessionals for the summer.
• Approved the request from Megan Anderson for an extended leave of absence for three years.
• Accepted the resignation of Donna Kari as head speech coach effective immediately.
• Put into place several of the specific cost-cutting measures approved at the previous board’s special meeting on April 22. These included the elimination of the high school/middle school principal position and the reassignment of Jeff Carey to preK-12 assistant principal and Anne Oelke to preK-12 principal with superintendent duties. The specific cuts also reduced Kathy Champa’s school nurse position from eight hours/day to five hours/day, Michele Milton’s cafeteria aide position from 3.75 hours/day to 2.75 hours/day, and reduced two school secretary positions from 210 days/year to 200 days/year. The board also reduced all paraprofessional hours from 32.5 hours/week to 31.5 hours/week effective with the 2024-2025 school year. The board also cut the paraprofessional staff members Anna-Lena Forsman, Trenton Flegel, and Joseph Elliott.
• Heard a report from Oelke that the installation of windows may intrude into the upcoming school year. The district will set up a dedicated classroom that classes can use when their regular classrooms have their windows replaced.
• Reviewed the job description of the newly created assistant principal position.
• Approved the extension of the district’s contract with Teachers on Call effective July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2026. Teachers on Call provides substitute teachers.
• Accepted $500 donations from the Ely Educational Foundation and the Ely Rod and Gun Club for the eighth grade trip to the Capital. Accepted a $300 donation from Fall Lake for the sixth-grade trip to Wolf Ridge.
• Canceled the May 27 study session on Memorial Day.
Emergency board meeting
On the advice of its legal counsel, the ISD 696 school board called a short emergency meeting on Tuesday to fix an error in the teachers’ contract for next year.
The contract was approved with an amendment on Monday during the regular school board meeting to correct the inclusion of the dance coach stipend under the wrong category. The inclusion was no longer necessary because school board voted last year to cover the dance stipend “at the district level.” To satisfy legal requirements, the amended contract from Monday was rescinded and the original approved on Tuesday.
In both contract votes, Tom Omerza abstained and Rochelle Sjoberg was absent.