Many Iowa school districts are wrestling with budget shortfalls and Mason City is the latest to make deep staffing cuts. Before an emotional, capacity crowd last night, the Mason City School Board voted not to cut two key administrative positions, on the heels of eliminating 18 full-time teaching positions.
Clint Thomas, a volunteer football coach in the district, questioned the ability of Superintendent Anita Micich to lead the school district into the future. “Responsibility starts with leadership and since I’ve moved to town, I’ve seen things go way downhill,” Thomas says. “Maybe we should do the right thing by the students and Dr. Micich should resign.”
High school freshman Jacie Wise stood up in support of teacher Matthew Kuhn, who she says helped her a great deal while she was at John Adams Middle School. “Cutting Kuhn is a mistake,” Wise says. “I feel like I would lose a lot of respect if he was cut because it almost seems like in a way, he’s a dollar sign, and he’s worth way more amount than he could ever be paid. I was truly heartbroken when I heard he might lose his job. It upsets me and it doesn’t even impact me.” She said she needed to speak to the school board since he always had her back and now she needs to help him.
Booster Club president John Danielson says it was shocking to suggest cutting the athletic and activities director position. “There’s a lot of emotion with people in this town about what’s going and I can’t believe that we would do this,” Danielson says. “I grew up in central Iowa, I have friends, I have family members, that feel sorry for us, feel sorry for Mason City. We all know that in Mason City it’s tough. Those are the haves, in central Iowa. We’re the have nots.”
Danielson called Fort Dodge and Marshalltown “have nots” as well, but said neither of those towns are looking at making similar cuts. Danielson has a son who will be starting 7th grade this fall. He questions why parents would want to move to Mason City and have their kids in the school district with the direction things are headed. “Why would I want my son to go to school here?” he asked, as applause broke out. “I’ve lived here since 1991, I want to stay here, but I want to know that you people in this room and that everybody is thinking ahead.”
The deadline has passed for eliminating any more teacher positions, so the school board now must make a decision on whether to cut another administrator or trim other places in the budget. Any administration cut must be decided by May 15th.
(Reporting by Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City)