Morenci school board 04.13.11

Written by David Green.

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.

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