The Osseo Area School Board approved its 2018 Achievement and Integration for Minnesota budget and plan at its April 4 special meeting.
The plan and budget, which account for $4.4 million in district spending, were approved in a 4-2 vote, with Boardmembers Jessica Craig and Stephanie Fortner casting dissenting votes.
The decision comes after the board did not approve this plan and budget at its March 21 meeting. The district received two deadline extensions from the state, as these materials were originally due back to the state’s Department of Education by March 15.
The budget primarily supports the district’s magnet schools, equity staff, a culturally responsive summer literacy program, staff professional development and direct services to students.
The approved budget is identical to the one that was not approved at the board’s March 21 meeting. The budget was amended before the March 21 meeting, and the amended version reduced funding for the racial equity consulting firm Pacific Educational Group from $73,100 to $48,250, and increased spending on Freedom School support, bilingual assistant service and equity teacher service. At the end of the 2017-2018 school year, the district will end its contracted services with Pacific. The district will work to bring equity training in-house.
Boardmembers Robert Gerhart, Heather Douglass and Mike Ostaffe said they would continue to support the budget, and they want to bring equity training in-house at the district, rather than continue working with Pacific.
Craig and Fortner said they wanted to immediately do away with funding for Pacific’s programming, which included certain diversity training for staff in the district. Craig said she had issues with other budget items as well, such as travel fees and staff convention fees.
While budget approval was expected on March 21, Boardmember Jim Burgett – who had originally expressed support for the amended budget during the meeting – cast a dissenting vote, bringing the total vote count to 3-3. As a result, the board met for a work session before its special meeting April 4 to discuss potential amendments or compromises that could be made.
Ultimately, the board did not decide to amend the budget further for the April 4 meeting.
Burgett said part of what made him decide to vote against the budget was a staff survey data indicating support for Pacific’s training. It’s clear that the training has had an impact on some staff members, he said, adding that community feedback also played a role.
Burgett asked the board to consider extending funding for Pacific for two school years rather than one, giving staff more time to develop an in-house equity program. This would also give current staff members a longer opportunity to attend the training if they have not yet, he said. Phasing the training out over two years instead of one would result in a smoother transition, Burgett said.
“I’m here to support what the community wants, as a whole, which includes as many people as possible in our democracy … as I was gathering data from people, learning different perspectives, with the backdrop of having been through Beyond Diversity training, I came to realize that I must do all I can to try to support our team and our staff,” Burgett said.
Other board members did not accept Burgett’s proposed changes.
“It sounds like there’s a 15-month option, a zero-month option. There’s no two-year option,” Ostaffe said.
“As long as I’ve been on this board I’ve been told we’re internalizing this, we’re building up our own internal capacity to do this ourselves. We’ve been doing this for five years, $800,000, and we still only have half of our staff trained? That’s unacceptable,” Gerhart said.
“In the long run, we need to get something done here that’s practical so we can move this forward,” Gerhart added. He said he has been opposed to funding Pacific’s equity training for years, and his support for the proposed budget was already a compromise.
Gerhart, who is the board’s chair, said if Burgett voted against this budget, he would move to eliminate all of Pacific’s funding from the budget, in hopes that Craig and Fortner would support it.
“When we go into the official meeting, if we get in that meeting and you switch again … the first thing I am going to do, is I’m going to make a motion to reconsider … I’m going to make a motion to amend, and that motion to amend is going to be to eliminate PEG funding from the budget, pick up our other two votes,” Gerhart said.
Burgett said he would support the budget, rather than have all of Pacific’s funding removed.
Contact Kevin Miller at [email protected]