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Grand Rapids and Bigfork Superintendent Matt Grose On Student Walk Out Due to Budget and Staff Cuts

Last Friday students at GRHS walked out of classes to protest staff cuts after news that the ISD 318 School Board passed two resolutions that would layoff teachers

Matt Grose, Superintendent of ISD 318 that includes all Grand Rapids and Bigfork schools, reached out to us about the story we did last week about a protest by students concerning teacher layoffs due to budget cuts. In an interview, Grose discussed the student walk-out, explained more about the rationale for the budget cuts, and shared what district administration is doing to avoid cuts like this in the future.

Overall, Grose was impressed with the student-led protest, calling it one of bigger ones he had seen. "Our students did a good job carrying themselves," Grose said. "It's important that their voices are heard, and doing that in a respectful way, in a way that's safe, is important. And our students did that." Students at Grand Rapids High School walked out of school on Friday, March 25th in a show of support for those teachers who were slated to be laid off.

Grose also added clarity to the issues that fueled the student walk out. One of the main grievances cited by students was the fact that so many probationary teachers were being laid off; precisely the teachers with whom students connected. "[The students' concern] has to do with education; it has to do with people they know care about them and who they care a great deal about" Grose said.

According to Grose, however, the district didn't have much of a say in who was laid off. "There are statutes and contracts that really drive the process about who ends up not coming back. The students had some strong feelings about that, but that's out of our hands. It's really laid out in contracts and statutes, so we need to make sure we're doing that right," Grose said.

Grose went on to address what the district administration is working on moving forward, and how the Grand Rapids community can get involved to support the district's staff. One project is to get an operating referendum on an upcoming ballot. "70 percent of school districts in Minnesota depend on their communities to supplement state revenue; the Grand Rapids school district does not receive extra revenue from the community," Grose said. "We're anticipating a campaign to get an operating referendum on the ballot."

With an unprecedented surplus in the State of Minnesota budget, Grose also encouraged citizens to take action of their own. "I feel confident in saying that schools in Minnesota are underfunded," Grose said. "Talking to legislators and making sure they understand the need [for public school funding] is important. Let them know our schools are underfunded. What we're going through now is hard and disheartening. Folks have worked really really hard and I'm proud of them, and I'm sad we're going through this. But it's something we'll have to do if we're going to be healthy."

Heidi Holtan is KAXE's Director of Content and Public Affairs where she manages producers and is the local host of Morning Edition from NPR. Heidi is a regional correspondent for WDSE/WRPT's Duluth Public Television’s Almanac North.