Superintendent furlough and race relations - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Selassie

Superintendent furlough and race relations


Rochester, MN (KTTC-DT) --

Some of the highest paid Rochester school district employees will take a temporary pay cut through furloughs. Superintendent Romain Dallemand and members of his cabinet will take the unpaid days off some time this school year.

The Rochester school board approved a furlough proposal that would end up reducing the overall budget deficit by roughly $25,000. The Rochester school board approved the proposal tonight with a unanimous vote. The cost-cutting measure was actually suggest by Superintendent Romain Dallemand in July. He will take 10 days of furlough some time this school year, while some members of his cabinet and extended cabinet will take 4 days off and the others will take 7 days. That adds up to a total of 50 days of unpaid time off.

"Some of those things address the idea of further concessions by employee groups. Now of course, we would have to negotiate any further concessions by employee groups, but I think this is where the Superintendent is coming from.. is saying, if we're going to ask others to do it, we should be doing it ourselves," says board chair Jim Pittenger.

Dallemand says he proposed the idea to lead by example.

While the furlough proposal was easily accepted, another issue from a previous board meeting was not accepted by many in attendance Tuesday night. Much of the public comment section of the meeting was taken up with people bringing up race issues and acceptance of those of color in the community.

The comments stem back from the public announcement of Century high school's new interim assistant principal Ron Simmons on September 7th. Instead of the usual welcoming applause, Simmons faced a debate of whether or not the board should freeze his position in light of budget problems. It was an unorthodox proposal presented by board member Sandra Soltis, one that some of the public called tonight, "appalling".

"What I witnessed at the school board meeting that evening was the complete opposite of welcoming. Mr. Simmons was treated as if he was on trial," exclaims Century Principal Christopher Fogarty.

"I'm here because I'm a little concerned on how you welcome faculties or, how should I say it, members of our school community that have been of color," says George Thompson, an active community member.

Ron Simmons was re-introduced to the school board Tuesday night with a standing ovation. Simmons previously was the principal of Bloomington Kennedy High School. He took a medical leave of absence last October, then resigned his position in November.

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