Duluth School Board approves freeze on compensatory education funding allocation

Schools with low-income students receive compensatory education funding based on how many of their kids are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, though a district can reallocate those funds to other schools in the district.


The Duluth School Board approved a one-year freeze on compensatory education funding allocation Tuesday night, as well as a balanced budget.

The resolution to freeze the compensatory education funding process passed by a vote of 5-1, with board member Sally Trnka voting no. Board member Alanna Oswald was absent from the vote due to technical difficulties.

Per School Board resolution last year, each individual building was expected to be allocated 90% of the compensatory education funding it generated in 2020-2021, a 5% increase over 2019-2020.

Duluth Public Schools CFO Cathy Erickson asked the School Board to freeze compensatory education funding at 85% for each individual school for one year due to budgetary constraints, plus a more than $150,000 in loss of overall compensatory education funding. Erickson said the freeze would allow all buildings to maintain funding for what they’ve been using compensatory education for.

Compensatory education funding is money generated by each individual school based on their number of free and reduced lunch students, though a district can reallocate those funds within the district.


Other cuts made included the termination of 10 probationary teachers, and the termination of three tenured teachers due to lack of students for their position. Names of terminated teachers were not immediately available Tuesday night. Tenured teachers can be rehired before the start of the school year as student numbers become more finalized.

Individual and group music lessons at Lincoln Park Middle School were also cut for the 2020-2021 school year for budgetary reasons and lack of participation, Erickson told the News Tribune last week.

Last meeting for Superintendent Bill Gronseth

Tuesday was the last Duluth School Board meeting Superintendent Bill Gronseth will attend. In 2019, Gronseth announced he would not seek a new contract with the Duluth Public Schools. Beginning July 1, he will take over as superintendent of St. Peter Public Schools in southern Minnesota.

Duluth School Board Chair Jill Lofald showed a plaque during the virtual meeting Tuesday, which will be given to Gronseth, for his 23 years of service in the Duluth school district.

“You can move out of the Northland but you can’t take the Northland out of the kid,” Lofald said.

Each board member said a few words in recognition of Gronseth and read messages sent to them from community members and former board members.

“We know that ISD 709 is foundational to who we are as people,” Trnka said, “You will always be a (Denfeld) Hunter, I will always be a (Central) Trojan, and you have indelibly and forever changed the fabric of this community through your leadership over the course of the last 47 years, so thank you.”


Board member Rosie Loeffler-Kemp said she has great respect for Gronseth’s leadership through the years.

“Bill really did inspire me to run for school board because of the vision and the path he was taking our district on,” she said. “I wanted to be a part of that vision so I have built respect for you (Bill) and I think your leadership shines in so many ways.”

Adelle Whitefoot is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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