Source: Sherman Publications

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School board holds off on open enrollment vote

by Phil Custodio

May 22, 2013

Open enrollment for Clarkston Schools is off the table for now school board President Cheryl McGinnis cancelled a vote at Monday's meeting.

"The reason I struck it from action items is I received feedback from a majority of board members saying they had a problem supporting it at this time," said McGinnis, who reclassified the limited open enrollment proposal as a "discussion" item at the May 20 meeting.

Trustee Craig Hamilton said he opposed open enrollment, while trustees Susan Boatman and Joan Patterson, and Secretary Rosalie Lieblang said they still had questions. The proposal would open enrollment to up to 100 students, Kindergarten through second grade.

"I'm not totally against this," Patterson said. "My concern is we don't know how much money we'll receive from the state I'd like to see that before making a decision."

Another concern is the potential impact on elementary schools by the additional out-of-district students, she said.

"I also think we could tighten up the budget," Patterson said.

"There are other areas we are still able to look at to get the same amount of money," Lieblang said. "If we decide to move forward with open enrollment, I want to be very clear about the revenue versus costs."

McGinnis said replacing open enrollment revenue with budget reductions would be just as bad.

"Cuts are not what we're going to want to do either," she said.

Superintendent Rod Rock said open enrollment is risky, but is needed.

"We are in a difficult time this is the time to make difficult decisions," Rock said. "It's better to grow than cut, in my opinion."

The window for open enrollment will close quickly as summer approaches and parents decide where to enroll their children, he said.

"I really feel open enrollment can be one way to get us through this downturn instead of making longterm decisions that will impact kids," Rock said.

Administration will prepare a list of additional cuts for the June 10 school board meeting, he said.

At the meeting, the school board approved a previously discussed list of budget reductions and transfers, totalling $2,833,000. The list includes $200,000 from Early Childhood Center fund balance, $250,000 At Risk offset, $750,000 from laying off 10 teachers, $60,000 from facilities and busing, $1.5 million from human resources, and $73,000 from a one-percent across-the-board cut. The board tabled a proposal to accept out-of-district students who pay tuition. Board members requested more information on tuition, which is regulated by the state. Deadline for budget approval is the end of June.