Morenci enrollment drops 2009.09.23

Written by David Green.


Where have all the children gone?

Montana, Tennessee, New York, Florida and Ohio. Adrian, Tecumseh, Onsted and Madison.

Nearly 60 students who attended school in Morenci last year are no longer enrolled here, and most of them have moved out of the district.

Only a few still live in the district and attend another nearby school. A few others returned to their home districts after attending Morenci  through the Schools of Choice option. The vast majority have simply moved away.

The fiscal year budget passed by the board of education in June projected a loss of 20 students, but as of last week, the decline stood at 58.

The 2009-10 budget included a deficit of a quarter million dollars—backed up by savings—but now there’s an additional $200,000 loss to deal with.

In actuality, Michigan school administrators don’t know what they’ll receive in state aid. They’re still awaiting a decision from Lansing.

Morenci superintendent Kyle Griffith has warned board members in the past that staff cuts were possible if enrollment fell. The current predicament didn’t come as a surprise, Griffith said, but he was shocked by the scope of the decrease.

“The numbers are low enough that we need to respond immediately,” he said. “I don’t think we’re in a position to wait until the end of the year.”

Lay-off notices were delivered last week to 21 staff members, including 10 teachers. Griffith doesn’t expect the board will lay off anywhere near that number of teachers, but adjustments in staffing will likely lead to some teacher layoffs.

“Although 10 teachers, five paraprofessionals, two secretaries and two bus drivers have been notified, when all is said and done, we will need to make enough adjustments to deal with the enrollment drop,” Griffith explained.

By issuing pink slips now, the board and administration will have the flexibility to consider a variety of options before the start of the second trimester in late November, when the layoffs take effect.

Staff reductions will be based on seniority and qualifications, with consideration given to No Child Left Behind requirements.

Some teachers with high seniority may be affected when those at the low end are laid off. A juggling of duties could result in some veteran teachers taking on teaching assignments they don’t normally handle.

“We’ve really fought hard to protect the classroom in recent years,” Griffith said. “We’re hoping to keep things intact as much as possible to maintain a quality education.”

Last year marked the first teacher cuts since 2004. Since then, savings have been realized through other methods, such as combining administrative duties.

Administrators decided in July to continue their pay freeze for the third year. For Griffith, this is the fifth consecutive year that he’s requested no increase. Teachers are starting the second year of a three-year contract.

 Griffith believes the district is making the right move to tackle staff reductions part-way through the school year rather than wait. Taking no action would lead to the elimination of the district’s fund equity savings.

It’s a simple business decision, he said. If you have fewer students, you have to adjust.

  • Front.cowboy
    A PERFORMER named Biligbaatar, a member of the AnDa Union troupe from Inner Mongolia, dances at Stair District Library last week during a visit to the Midwest. The nine-member group blends a variety of traditions from Inner and Outer Mongolia. The music is described as drawing from “all the Mongol tribes that Genghis Khan unified.” The group considers itself music gatherers whose goal is to preserve traditional sounds of Mongolia. Biligbaatar grew up among traditional herders who live in yurts. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.base Ball
    UMPIRE Thomas Henthorn tosses the bat between team captains Mikayla Price and Chuck Piskoti of Flint’s Lumber City Base Ball Club. Following the 1860 rules, after the bat was grabbed by the captains, captains’ hands advanced to the top of the bat—one hand on top of the other. The captain whose hand ended up on top decided who would bat first. Additional photos of Sunday’s game appear on page 12 of this week’s Observer. The contest was organized in conjunction with Stair District Library’s Hometown Teams exhibit that runs through Nov. 20.
    VALUE OF ATHLETICS—Morenci graduate John Bancroft (center) takes a turn at the microphone during a chat session at the opening of the Hometown Teams exhibit at Stair District Library. Clockwise to his left is John Dillon, Jed Hall, Jim Bauer, Joe Farquhar, George Hollstein, George Vereecke and Mike McDowell. Thomas Henthorn (at the podium) kicked off the conversation. Henthorn, a University of Michigan–Flint professor, will return to Morenci this Sunday to lead a game of vintage base ball at the school softball field.
  • Front.cross
    HUDSON RUNNER Jacob Morgan looks toward the top of the hill with dismay during the tough finish at Harrison Lake State Park. Fayette runner Jacob Garrow focuses on the summit, also, during the Eagle Invitational cross country run Saturday morning. Continuing rain and drizzle made the course even more challenging. Results of the race are in this week’s Observer.
  • Front.bear
    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.
  • Front.crossing
    Crossing over—Jim Heiney was given a U.S. flag to carry by George Vereecke (behind Jim in the hat), turning him into the leader of the parade. Bridge Walk participants cross over Bean Creek while, in the background, members of the Morenci Legion Riders cross the main traffic bridge on East Street South. Additional photos appear on the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.hose Testing
    HOSE safety—The FireCatt hose testing company from Troy put Morenci Fire Department hose to the test Monday morning when Mill Street was closed to traffic. The company also checks nozzles and ladders for wear in an effort to keep fire fighters safe while on calls.

Weekly newspaper serving SE Michigan and NW Ohio - State Line Observer ©2006-2016