Budget cuts affect South’s Welcome Desk, counseling, and parent liaison positions


Pictured above is one of South’s parent liaisons Sharon White. South’s 16 million dollar budget has been cut by 2.5% for the 2017-18 school year. Due to the cuts, White has not been offered a position for the coming school year. Aponte decided to cut the welcome desk position and part-time counseling position among other things. The only department to receive a funding increase was the All Nations program.

Madeline Mahoney, Staff Writer

Going into the 2017-18 school year Minneapolis Public Schools have found a $28 million budget gap. The Superintendent’s solution has been to make a 10% reduction in funds to Central Services, and a 2.5% reduction to school allocations. Principals and site councils have some responsibility in deciding which programs of the school will receive cuts, “but class size and equity must continue to be prioritized” wrote Superintendent Ed Graff. All staff involved in deciding budget cuts seem to prioritize what goes on directly inside the classroom. For the most part, which programs at South received cuts was decided by Mr. Aponte. “Ultimately it’s my decision, that’s just the way it is. But I pride myself on not just making decisions that are in isolation of what’s best for the community… That’s why we need to make sure the cuts are away from the classroom.” Areas for cuts include the position at the welcome desk, the counseling department, and parent liaisons. The All Nations program received a funding increase.

One staff member who has not been offered a position for the 2017-18 school year is parent liaison Sharon White. For the past seventeen years White has served as a parent liaison for the families of the Minneapolis Public School District, and the past seven of those years were spent at South. White gives tours to families new to South and welcomes them into the South High community. “Anything parent involvement, Sharon’s there,” said fellow staff member Lynn Heldt. One parent liaison, Ahmed Ali will be returning to the classroom. The other two parent liaisons, Joe Gonzalez and Sharon White, were not offered positions for the next school year. However, Aponte is opening two parent liaison positions as contract employees (meaning the positions will have reduced hours and no benefits). Aponte stressed that the people who will be hired must be bilingual and able to communicate with South’s many non-English speaking families.

The counseling department also received a staffing cut, going from 5.5 counselors (five full-time and one part-time) to 5. Farah Abuqalbeen, the part-time counselor will be able to continue at South next year because one full time counselor is leaving. Abuqalbeen added, “we’re very disappointed… I think, in order to be able to support the students at South it would be helpful to have more counselors. Just because that means we would have smaller caseloads and more time.”

Additionally, there will no longer be literacy, math, and Special Ed. coaches at South in this coming school year. Those coaches will return to the classroom. Sharon Rush, the literacy coordinator wrote: “The Literacy Specialist position was mandated by the district last year, but with the tough budget decisions made this year based upon the deficit and the competing focus to keep class sizes low, many of the schools were not able to absorb the costs for these specialist positions. I really enjoyed working with students and teachers in this capacity this last year, but I still get to do what I love, which is to teach students.” Not all cuts were able to happen without layoffs.

The reception position at the Welcome Desk has also been eliminated. Brian Major has held this position for the last year at South and he has been working in the MPS district for around 30 years. “I’d rather stay here but they say they’re saving money. I’ve been told that it costs more to hire me than to hire a security person,” Major said. “I’ll miss a number of things about South… The several tough looking kids with amazingly soft, kind voices. A few students who provided a running commentary of their struggles through the year,” Major added. Aponte said that the Welcome Desk position will be absorbed by security.

The only budget increase went to the All Nations program who received a Special Education instructor to co-teach. The Special Ed. instructor, Gary Hoffert, has been working at South for several years and is now joining the All Nations program. “My goal is next year is that we’re going to reduce the number of Native American children that are failing,” Mr. Aponte said. All Nations teacher Vincent Patton added, “it’s always good to have another staff member. He’s going to be great, our kids will build a relationship with him and that’ll be good because our students need a relationship for them to feel comfortable.”

Aponte used teacher and South family evaluations to influence his decisions. According to the survey, top budget priorities were staffing and staffing related issues for teachers. The student and family survey asked participants what they valued about South, which programs they utilized and also a few questions seemingly not related to the budget cuts (Tiger Pride newsletter, robo calls and social media). Aponte made it clear that student choice, high level classes, music, art, and foreign languages are all important to South. “I was not going to reduce anything that affected children, period.” Keeping budget cuts from affecting students is certainly a difficult task in a school.