Morenci school board 04.13.11

Written by David Green.


Layoff notices have gone to 13 Morenci Area School staff members as administrators prepare to deal with expected cuts in state aid.

Board members approved the layoffs of eight teachers, three paraprofessionals, one cook and one bus driver.

Notices of layoff must be given now, explained superintendent of schools Dr. Michael Osborne, even though a firm picture of next year’s finances is unknown.

“We’re still looking at other cuts and waiting to find out exactly what state aid we’re going to receive,” he told the board Monday. “There are a lot of variables that will continue to change.”

Osborne said he wants to make decisions as quickly as possible to determine which staff members will be recalled from layoff. He expects to know more Monday when Governor Rick Snyder presents his plans for school financing.

District finance director Erica Metcalf explained her projections for the next school year that could result in a loss of up to $340,000 from reduced state aid. Other cost increases and funding reductions could give the district reduced revenue of more than a million dollars.

She’s projecting a continuing drop in enrollment to 719 students, along with a $170 per pupil cut this year plus the governor’s call for an additional $300 cut.

Retirement costs are growing dramatically and could approach a million dollars in the 2012-13 school year. The increase equals a $280 per pupil drop in funding.

Retirement pay is a great benefit, Metcalf said, but one that school districts are no longer able to afford.

The district had a fund balance of $2.1 million in the 1997-98 school year (35 percent of its assets), but it fell to $523,000 in the current year.

“If we choose to do nothing, we’ll be a deficit district,” Metcalf said.

The district could up $597,000 in the hole, with all cash reserves depleted.

“This is by far the most difficult position  I’ve seen the district in,” she added.

Metcalf continues to be impressed with how the staff has worked together to help the district make it through tough times.

Osborne said that Metcalf’s report is not intended to scare people, but instead to give an idea of what lies ahead. It’s becoming an impossible situation for districts across the state.

Despite the cuts made in the past, Osborne said, more will be coming. Final decisions can’t be made until more is known about state support, staff concessions, enrollment, etc.

“But I want to make it very clear to the community  that we will make it through,” he said. “It won’t be easy. We’re dealing with people’s livelihoods here.”

CHANGES—Del Cochrane of the LISD told the board about changes from Lansing regarding teacher and principal evaluation and also about merit pay for teachers.

The legislation was signed into law before Gov. Snyder was elected, but Cochrane expects the new governor will have his own take on the issues.

The law contains a lot of vague wording, Cochrane said, and each district will have to define terms such as “relevant data,” “significant factor” and “additional compensation.”

Forty percent of a teacher’s evaluation will be tied to student growth. That won’t be the score on an achievement test, he said, but instead will rely on several assessments and other objective criteria.

Merit pay will be determined by an administrator. The amount of pay and the criteria for giving it will likely be different in every district, Cochrane said, however, he urged administrators to work with other districts in developing standards.

CONTRACT—Board member Carrie Dillon, representing Morenci’s shared services committee, recommended extending the contract of Dr. Osborne for three more years, with no changes in compensation. The Hudson school board also recommended the extension.

Board president Scott Merillat spoke favorably of the shared superintendent arrangement—noting a significant financial savings—and of the joint discussions with the Hudson board representatives.

Board members voted to approve the contract extension, with trustee Dwight Mansfield absent.

LEAVE—Maternity leaves were granted to Natalie Zuvers and Kay Holubik.

  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • 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.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.

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