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Goodrich:19 teachers pink slipped, Schools of Choice ramped up



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April 24, 2013 - Goodrich-When the Monday night board of education meeting finally ended at about 8:30 p.m. it was painfully clear—the district will change.

More than 100 residents, staff, and administrators packed the school board room as lay-off notices were issued to 19 teachers, reinstated Schools of Choice for grades seven through 12 and vowed to continue exploring privatizing of sectors of the services needed to operate the district.

The proposed cuts of more than $900,000 are necessary, say school officials, to stop a draining of the district's fund equity and keep the district on solid financial footing. Since 2007 the district has dipped into more than $2 million in fund equity, including more than $400,000 in the current budget. A combination of a lack of state funding, coupled with a decline in enrollment while operating costs increase, has prompted the financial issues in the district.

The board also voted 5-2 to undo a 2012 decsion that closed Schools of Choice from 7-12 grades and had limited enrollment to kindergarten through sixth grades due to large class sizes in the high school. Niki Wiederman, secretary, and Ryan Starski, trustee, voted no. The Schools of Choice students currently comprise about 13 percent of the district's enrollment, boosting the district's coffers by about $2 million each year.

"Like it or not, we are in competition with other school districts—they will take our kids," said Kramer. "Lake Fenton (School District) thanks us for closing Schools of Choice last year."

Wiederman continues to oppose the Schools of Choice.

"I've been fighting this forever," she said. "It's not just about small schools, but it's more about the systematic destruction of all public schools, which pits them against each other to survive in the name of funding, which in turn depletes community ownership and creates the 'haves and the have nots.' I want to see all students get the same opportunity to succeed in their own public school, no matter where they live."

Trustee Linda Jackson, who opposed the change last year, now supports the decision.

"Schools of Choice keeps our district a float," she said. "It's a go-to district, our gain is (another district's) loss. It's hard for me when the Schools of Choice creates winners and losers. There are better ways, but it is keeping Goodrich from cutting programs."

Following the Feb. 12 statewide count day, Goodrich has 2,099 students, 56 fewer than the 2,155 reported in February 2012. Based on per-pupil funding of about $6,800, the slide in enrollment equates to a roughly $380,800 loss.

The lay-off notices are based on seniority and which teacher is qualified to teach a specific subject. The employees, along with the Goodrich Education Association, were notified prior to the May 1 contract deadline. The district currently employs about 109 teachers.

"It's not easy reading these names," said David Kramer, board president. "But our hands are tied—this is the worst meeting of the year."

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