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Schools decide on $1.6 million

October 13, 2010 - School officials plan to use expected federal stimulus funds as a fire hose on their budget.

"We agreed we would look at the hot spots once we knew if we were getting the money," said Rosalie Lieblang, Clarkston School Board treasurer.

"Hot spots" include larger Kindergarten class sizes at Clarkston Elementary and Pine Knob Elementary, both at 28 students per class.

The district is set to receive $1.6 million in the one-time Education Job Fund payment from the federal government, through Michigan, to retain or create education jobs.

"The state is using it to fill what they cut from us," said Board President Steve Hyer. "This isn't new money we haven't had before."

At Monday's Board meeting, Human Resources Director Anita Banach and Deputy Superintendent Shawn Ryan wanted to know how the board planned on spending the money.

The board already approved approximately $674,000 for personnel in the last few months, knowing the job fund would help pay for it. They approved 8.5 additional teaching positions, $550,000; five full-time instructional aides, for $94,000; and $30,000 for secondary-school classes. The fund can be used all at once or over the next two years.

The board can focus on teaching position or other areas needing relief, such as media support, custodial staff, and additional teaching aides, Banach said.

"If you tell us to lower the ratio and positions, we will tell you add teachers," said Banach.

Adding teachers now would also split up classes already five weeks into the school year, students have already formed friendships and gotten used to the dynamic, she said.

An idea Banach and Ryan received from the schools was to share a teacher, who would help out part-time at different schools.

"We can give you lots of ideas," said Banach, "it just depends on your parameters."

Hyer wanted administration to bring recommendations on how the district could use the money long-term and get more out of it.

"I don't want to say we can do some great things for kids right now," he said. "But then next year or two years from now class sizes are 28 or 29 across the board."

Ryan agreed, especially if it meant adding a teacher then pulling them out because of budget cuts the next year.

"If you are solely looking at teachers, as a board, you set the parameter of 25:1," said Banach. "When you do budget for next year, we will be holding your feet to the fire right now."

She also pointed out they would be coming to the board to add another secondary teacher because when the trimester ends, they will need another teacher.

"We are trying to base it on a way we can add teachers but not lose them at the end of the year," said Ryan.

"I don't feel comfortable as a board to say kindergarten or third grade is more important," said Hyer. "I trust the administrators, bring us a plan the best way to spend this money."

Financial Director Bruce Beamer said the payments will start Oct. 20 and the changes will be reflected in the next budget amendment in January.

"We have enough information to make a recommendation at the next meeting," said Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock.

Wendi graduated from the University of Michigan-Flint with a degree in communications. She wrote for the Michigan Times college paper and Grand Blanc View before joining The Clarkston News in October 2007.
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