The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • KayseInField
    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.carry.casket
    CARRYING—Riley Terry (blue jacket) and Mason Vaughn lead the way, carrying an empty casket outside to the hearse waiting at the curb. Morenci juniors and seniors visited Eagle Funeral Home last week to learn about the role of a funeral director and to understand the process of arranging for a funeral.
  • Front.lift
    MORENCI student Dalton McCowan puts everything into a dead lift attempt Saturday morning during the Wyseguy Push/Pull event. Lifters helped raise more than $1,600 for the family of the late Devin Wyse, a former Morenci power-lifter who graduated last year. Commemorative T-shirts are still available by contacting teacher Dan Hoffman.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.F.office
    NEW OFFICES—Fayette village administrator Steve Blue speaks with tax administrator Genna Biddix at the new front desk of the village office. Village council members voted to use budgeted renovation funds targeted for the old office and instead buy the vacant bank building on the corner of Main and Fayette streets. The old office was sold to Sherwood State Bank. When everything is put into place in the spacious new village office, an open house will be scheduled. Council member David Wheeler donated all of his time needed to make changes in the bank interior to fit the Village’s needs.

Morenci enrollment drops 2009.09.23

Written by David Green.

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.

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