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School Board avoids most layoffs

The Lake Superior School District worked out a salary freeze deal with the teachers union to avoid significant layoffs.

A total of one and a half full-time special education teacher positions will be eliminated, rather than the original proposal which called for more sweeping cuts in most areas of the school district.

"It's a lot less painful than expected," said Superintendent Phil Minkkinen at a school board meeting this week.

Included in the negotiations for the salary freeze for area teachers are: No salary adjustments for the next two years for educators and a deal not to lay off additional teachers unless enrollment drops dramatically over the next few years.

Other departments had already agreed to a salary freeze prior to the meeting.

"The contract basically leaves our instructional people alone," Minkkinen said.

In other school board news:

- It was announced that William Kelley High School art teacher, Jan Martinson, is retiring this year after many years of service with the district.

- Another item discussed at the meeting was the price of meals provided by the schools. Meals are expected to increase by 25 cents. Activity fee prices were also discussed at the meeting. No changes have been proposed for 2009-10. Some board members thought the activity fee prices were already high enough. Principal Bob Nyberg recommended having a family-cap for fees.

- The board addressed a request from substitute teachers for a pay increase. Their current rate has not been adjusted since 2004. According to a letter sent to the district, "Substitute teachers lag severely behind the rate which is paid to substitute administrative assistants in the district." Some board members expressed concern that this was not a good time to ask for a rate increase because of the current financial situation the district is facing.

- The board also thanked many of the businesses that helped make the Silver Bay softball team trip to the state tournament possible.