TOWER - The St. Louis County School District is searching for a new Tower-Soudan Community Education coordinator after Leone Graf announced her resignation as of Friday, Nov. 15.Graf told the …
TOWER - The St. Louis County School District is searching for a new Tower-Soudan Community Education coordinator after Leone Graf announced her resignation as of Friday, Nov. 15.
Graf told the Timberjay she had hoped to continue her work as coordinator but felt she was “pushing the ball uphill and would never get ahead of it.”
Graf’s departure comes shortly after she spoke to the Timberjay regarding concerns she had about the community education program and its future viability in Tower given a recent administrative directive that abolishes the ability of local coordinators to waive fees for students attending community education events. The Tower-Soudan Elementary School has one of the highest percentages of low-income students in the state, and that is one reason why local coordinators have typically waived fees in the community. According to data from the Minnesota Department of Education, a total of 88 percent of T-S students qualify for free and reduced lunches based on income. The other schools in ISD 2142 average half that rate.
Graf had told the Timberjay late last month that participation in community education programming dropped sharply when she tried to implement fees to help pay the cost.
Top school district administrators had temporarily suspended the T-S community education program in the wake of the Timberjay story, ostensibly over concerns about the financial management of the program. Graf had served in the position for just over two years.
While the school district is now advertising the vacancy on the district website, the district has cut the number of hours in half, from about 13.5 hours per week to just seven. The Timberjay reached out to Community Education Director Denise Parson and Superintendent Reggie Engebritson to see if other coordinators in the district were having their hours reduced as well. As of press time, district officials had not responded.
Graf says the district had previously threatened to cut her hours if certain changes weren’t made to the programming. She also says the district had threatened to eliminate the before and after school enrichment program, since they did not believe there were enough children in the program to make it viable. For now, that program remains intact.
Graf is concerned the district will have a difficult time filling her position, especially with the cut in hours. The list of new requirements she received from the district prior to her resignation was also a concern, since anyone taking the job would end up having to work well over seven hours in order to complete all of the required paperwork and attend each event, which was not required in the past, she said. According to Graf, programs put on by Jim “Chimpy” Tuominen, including the massively popular Family Fun Night, are already being pulled from the community education roster. Tuominen hopes to still run his events but will do so outside the community education program in order to keep them free and open to all.