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Freeman School Board reduces custodial staff, saves music position

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Freeman School Board reduces custodial staff, saves music position

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Freeman Superintendent Kevin Kunz outlined his proposal that the Freeman School District eliminate both a custodial position and music position as a way to save money long-term, but school board members showed no interest in eliminating one of the three music teachers at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday night, Dec. 13.

However, board members voted to reduce the custodial staff from three to two after meeting in executive session to discuss "personnel" later on Wednesday. Kunz told the Courier after the meeting the motion did not specify who would be cut; only that it was "based on seniority." The vote was 4-0, with Kerry Hofer, Corey Gall, Mark Miller and Kyle Weier voting for the move. Laverne Diede abstained. 

Freeman Public employs Brian Furney, Gregg Uecker and Larry Wipf on its custodial staff. The district is required to give the reduced staff member 10 days notice.

Kunz said school officials will visit with the two remaining custodians about what this means for workload; custodians currently work 40 regular weekly hours, with 10 additional hours overtime. The overtime hours are spent primarily after the traditional workday — at athletic events, for example.

"There's going to be extra work," Kunz told the board. "That's a conversation we're going to have to have with them."

As for the music position, board member Laverne Diede spoke extensively in favor of keeping the music staff at three to maintain a strong program, as did board president Kerry Hofer. But it was board member Kyle Weier who best summarized the mood in the room: "If there's one thing somebody is going to come here for, it's not football, it's not our math program — and nothing against those — but it's our music program," he said. "Why be average when we're already exceptional?"

All three music teachers — Sonja Waltner (who is a 90 percent staff member, with 65 percent K-6 music and 25 percent computer), Mindee Birnstiehl (7-12 vocal) and Sheila Wipf (7-12 instrumental) — attended Wednesday night's meeting. Two of the three custodians — Furney and Wipf — were also in attendance.