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      Students react to Gwinn Schools proposed cuts

      The Gwinn School Board faced a packed room that was full of emotion on Monday night, as they're looking to cut their upcoming budget.

      Faculty, students, and parents voiced their concerns about the possibility of staff and program reductions.

      Gwinn schools, like many area districts, is facing a budget deficit which officials are projecting to be around $900,000--an amount that no matter how it's dealt with, will most likely be painful.

      "It's our feeling that Mr. Maino does not believe we understand the situation, we as a district face," stated one student. "Let us assure you, we do understand. We understand our school district is losing money and students."

      And it's that reason why the school board must consider a variety of ways to save money, which includes: cutting staff, equipment, and some minor sports for the next school year.

      "All I'm doing is laying this out for you," says superintendent Michael Maino. "This is where you are and these are the things that you're going to face. You can debate any one of these, but no one can debate the fact that we're going to be $900,000 in debt."

      On Friday, students held a silent protest and at Monday's work session, many were wearing t-shirts that oppose district's proposed cuts. The students were relentless in their arguments against funding cuts for extracurricular activities.

      "Please realize just how many people these cuts will affect," stated another student. "It's in programs like choral, which requires an audition and performing in band that I learned the self-confidence I needed to speak before you now."

      According to school board president Walter Maki, a pay freeze and buyout of faculty would help solve the deficit. Eighty-seven percent of the district's budget goes to paying salary and benefits.

      "I get two choices: I either cut people or make pay cuts across the board," said Maki. "Our administrators, teamsters, and faculty have all decided on a pay freeze for next year."

      Members of the school board tried to reassure the crowd that all money-saving possibilities have been discussed, although the school board did not make a decision Monday on the proposed budget cuts.

      In other action, they did approve a recommendation to put on the August 4 ballot to move seventh and eighth graders to Gwinn High School and close the district's middle school.