The Southerner

Budget changes affect ELL, social work, theater departments

Addie Welch, Staff Writer

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With another budget season come and gone, South can expect changes in class options and staff next fall. This year’s budget changes are minimal in comparison to other cycles, according to Principal Ray Aponte.
South’s annual budget is about 16 million dollars. The budget for the 2016-17 school year is $117,000 less than the current year. After he complied with mandatory district policies, like student-to-teacher ratios and positions like math and literacy specialists, Aponte decided where the rest of the money goes.
Some staff members expressed concern over not having input in the process, but Aponte commented, “my decisions are child-centered. Period.” To him, budget input is continual.
“I kinda look, all year long. I don’t sit in [my office] too often. And what am I doing every day? I’m evaluating this program,” Aponte said. He noted that after 26 years working for Minneapolis Public Schools, he has a degree of comfort with budget decisions if the changes aren’t substantial. However, Aponte stated he thinks he can get a better job with formal input next budget cycle.
“There’s never enough money. Everybody’s expensive,” Aponte laughed.

Counseling adds a half-time position to provide more services
Budget increases include the counseling department, which is adding a half time position for a staff of 5.5. Currently, each counselor works with between 350-400 students. Increasing the number of counselors will decrease each counselor’s caseload, “anywhere between 35 and 40 kids,” lead counselor Marie Hassell said.
Hassell is optimistic about the changes. Each counselor will be able to provide more one-on-one support to students, such as working with the increasing number of 504 plans.
“Right now, we unfortunately provide a lot more responsive services: students who come see us,” Hassell continued. With the budget increase, counselors will be able to meet with more students who don’t normally seek out their services.
Although Hassell is pleased with the budget increase, she said she had no formal input in the process. “We just have been advocating for more counselors,” she stated.
Hassell would like to see South with 7 counselors to meet the national ratio of 1:250. “The state would have to increase funding,” she said.

ELL adds another teacher as Newcomer program expands
The Newcomer program was a “big shift in dollars” according to Aponte. The number of students in the English Language Learning program has continued to grow, and a new teacher will join the department.
“[This] will allow us to offer more classes at every level, not only the newcomers, but with our students throughout the program,” ELL coordinator Sabrina Kim commented. “It allows teachers to be able to work a little bit more in their expertise. Right now everyone’s got kind of a heavy load teaching.”
Kim said a budget plan for ELL was requested by Aponte, but the decision was largely district-based. Along with co-coordinator Nicole Schneider, Kim asked for three ELL teachers, but was only granted one. “We’re gonna do the best that we can to meet the needs with what we’re given,” Kim said. “We’re gonna be creative.” Goals for the ELL department include expanding co-teaching to the Open program and increasing content credit options for ELL students.
New AP/PSEO/CIS Coordinator hopes to increase access to upper-level courses
South is adding an AP/PSEO/CIS coordinator position, which will be filled by current Spanish teacher Anne Marie Plante. Aponte said the position was required by the District.
“Among my goals are trying to ensure that students arriving from 9th and 10th grade into upper level courses, especially AP courses, are provided with the access and preparation they need to succeed,” Plante explained. One of her goals is also to celebrate student achievement and progress.
Social workers decrease despite buildup of student appointments
The number of social workers will reduce from 4.5 to 4. This will decrease the number of available mental health therapy appointments for students. According to social worker Katie Fritz, therapy appointments help students in need to be present, engaged, and focused in class. However, appointments have been full for most of second semester even with the current number of staff. “We’ll do our best to make sure the needs are met,” Fritz said.

English department affected by retirements, Writing Center closes
Two English teachers are retiring this year, with only one re-hire. In addition, the Writing Center may be forced to close. One English teacher, Sharon Rush, will have a .5 position as a literacy coordinator. She declined to comment about her new position.
Theater elective classes cut, concerns about equity in performing arts
South will not be offering any theater electives during the day next year, which causes concerns for some students and teachers.
“[Having theater classes during the day] is hugely important because not everyone can commit to that after school time,” dance teacher Erin Brown explained. “For instance, a lot of students have jobs and other responsibilities with their families that prohibit them from becoming involved.”
Theater student and freshman Henry Holcomb agreed. “[After school theater] is not as diverse as a lot of people would like. Having it as a class in school allows us to bring in the diversity that we see in South.”
“I’ve had a lot of language learners in my classes this year,” theater teacher Kirstine Rosenmeier said. “One of the things that I’ve been working on is to help those folks feel more comfortable with speaking publicly.” Her plan was to do a research project next year to see how much of a difference she was making. Ultimately, Rosenmeier said, the budget changes were up to administration. “I will miss [South] terribly,” she concluded.
“I met people that I wouldn’t normally meet in theater, and I feel like I’ve gained a lot from the experience,” Holcomb said. While some students will move to after school theater, Holcomb is not so lucky because of his commitment to sports.

French department affected by feeder school programs’ downsizing
The French department currently has two full-time teachers and one part-time teacher. Next year, the part-time position will be reduced from .6 to .5. This change was confusing for French teacher Melissa Davis, as a .5 position equates to a teacher instructing 2.5 classes.
“Maybe French could have a study hall, and that would be way to maintain that .1,” Davis explained, noting that no world language teachers currently oversee study halls. Overall, the number of students in upper-level French courses has been decreasing. Davis points to feeder middle school language programs being reduced. “Marcy Open has been cutting back on their French program for the past several years,” Davis stated. She calls the difference in early language programs across the city an “equity issue.”
Despite the change at South, Davis is glad the administration continues to support 8 different languages. “It is a testament to how important world languages are to creating global citizens, which is our district’s motto … urban education, global citizens,” she finished. As a teacher, Davis said she had no input in the budget changes.

POHI program gets smaller
According to Aponte, the Physical and Other Health Impairments department will be decreasing from three classes to one. POHI declined to comment due to a lack of information.
South looks ahead to the future
Despite the budget decreases and the frustration felt by staff members who had no formal input in the process, South will continue to offer programming that aligns with the school’s values of social justice, student leadership, and upper-level classes, according to Aponte.
“I want South High School to be the number one school in the United States, period. That’s my goal,” Aponte said. “There’s no question about where I want South to go.”

South’s annual budget is approximately 16 million dollars, with a $117,000 decrease compared to last year. Some staff members expressed concern over their lack of input in the budget change process. Principal Ray Aponte said that he thinks he can do a better job of formal input next cycle, but ultimately, his decisions are mostly controlled by the District and are “child-centered.” Graphic: Addie Welch

South’s annual budget is approximately 16 million dollars, with a $117,000 decrease compared to last year. Some staff members expressed concern over their lack of input in the budget change process. Principal Ray Aponte said that he thinks he can do a better job of formal input next cycle, but ultimately, his decisions are mostly controlled by the District and are “child-centered.” Graphic: Addie Welch

Theater teacher Kirstine Rosenmeier sits with her students during a class performance. South will not offer theater electives during the day next year due to a budget cut. This raised questions about equity in access to theater, as many students can’t stay for after school productions. “I will miss [South] terribly,” Rosenmeier said. Photo: Soline Van de Moortele

Theater teacher Kirstine Rosenmeier sits with her students during a class performance. South will not offer theater electives during the day next year due to a budget cut. This raised questions about equity in access to theater, as many students can’t stay for after school productions. “I will miss [South] terribly,” Rosenmeier said. Photo: Soline Van de Moortele

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About the Writer
Addie Welch, Staff Writer

Adele Rose Welch, better known as Addie, is a senior and first year journalist for the South High Southerner. Glad to be able to fit newspaper into her...

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Budget changes affect ELL, social work, theater departments