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District pink slips 21 teachers

April 28, 2010 - More than 100 student, parents, teachers and staff jammed the Goodrich community room on Monday night during the regular meeting to speak out on a host of proposed cuts to balance a budget estimated to be $2.2 million in the red.

The turnout was in part sparked after the district distributed 21 pink slips to teachers on April 19 as part of the contractional deadlines with the teachers union. The cuts will be contingent on many factors.

"We have not finished our restructuring," added John Fazer, district superintendent. "The number (of pink slips) is based on how much we have to reduce to help balance the budget."

On May 10 the school board will conduct a special meeting at the Goodrich High School community room to discuss a host of options to contend with the deficit for the 2010-11 school year. The proposed budget of $18 million with an estimated $16 million budget is being considered and must be finalized by July 1.

Fazer said there will be a school board workshop in the high school community room at 6 p.m. May 3 and a community forum in the middle school cafeteria at 7 p.m., May 5. The meetings are all open to the public.

"Everything is under scrutiny our books are open—all is welcome to look at the numbers. Keep in mind that many of the reductions are based on a number of 'unknowns' right now—contracts with staff are one of those factors, state promoted retirements, state funding dollars, and school enrollment all will play a big role in the budget."

In February, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm proposed a 1.6 percent multiplier to encourage nearly 40,000 veteran teachers into retirement to eliminate their higher salaries from the state's 2011 budget. While other state retirement plans have been recommended by lawmakers, no final plan has been approved.

However, depending on how many teachers may take the state offering, a savings of as much as $500,000 could be realized by the district, said Fazer.

"Anywhere from 82 to 85 percent of our school budget are wages and benefits," said Fazer. "If our people took another insurance carrier besides MESSA (Michigan Education Special Services Association) it would save the district $500,000," he said. Other factors include the amount of per-pupil funding which is still under debate in Lansing, school officials say it could dip by as much as $433 per student in the worst case scenario. Also the change in enrollment for next year which dropped by 20 students (costing the district about $140,000) in the February count could also impact the budget. In addition, teachers insurance is going up by 16.7 percent from the last school year, costing the district an additional $260,000.

"The school board has not made any decisions. We are still looking at everything," added Fazer.

Other options may include changing the current block scheduling to standard scheduling for students. Fazer explained that while it would be a large undertaking and would mean rescheduling 750 students and creating a new master schedule. Moving back to a 6 or 7 hour day would mean a reduction of 4 to 6 high school teachers and an approximate savings of $350,000 a year.

Educators suggest that when a student has longer class periods with block scheduling, he or she has a better opportunity to learn the material, as well as more time to ask questions and to clarify things that he or she doesn't understand. Currently students are in class for 90 minutes per day.

School Board Trustee Jim Bertrand emphasized keeping the block scheduling, along with a strong athletics department in the school is critical.

"We have to remain different from Grand Blanc, Davison or Brandon schools," he said. "The block scheduling makes us different than other schools in our area and given the State's Schools of Choice program, you have to have product to keep and attract students to Goodrich. If you cut or get rid of athletics watch the kids leave the district. My suggestion, keep all our teachers employed and ask instead for a 10 percent pay cut, or 5 percent, or 8 percent," he said.

Bertrand suggested, give the money back to staff if the Schools of Choice attracts enrollment and the numbers of students increase.

Not everyone at the meeting were convinced that all the information was presented correctly to the public.

Karen Lovell, president of the Goodrich CMPT, (Custodial, Maintenance, Parapro and Transportation union) and bus driver for more than nine years, said the school board was not disclosing all the options.

"This budget deficit did not show up last night," said Lovell. "Shame on the school board. They knew these lawsuits have been looming like a dark cloud, since 2005. Every time there's a budget issue it's always a threat to farm us drivers out. It's not just about the teachers, it's about the parapros, too. Watch our community go down the toilet and watch the kids go with them. I'm not going to slash any more programs, leave the kids alone, and figure out where this is going to be."

"I don't accuse the board of hiding anything—they just need to present the numbers correctly so the public understands. The school has other accounts to draw funds from rather than the general fund. These kids come first and the paycheck should come second."

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