Source: Sherman Publications

Schummer steps down as school board president

by Susan Bromley

July 13, 2011

Brandon Twp.- Debbie Schummer has resigned as school board president, citing conflict with Superintendent Lorrie McMahon.

Although she is relinquishing her post as president, Schummer will continue to serve on the board through her term that ends in 2012.

“I’m not leaving the board, I just can’t express support of the superintendent’s fiscal policies or lack thereof,” she said. “Our fiscal responsibilities are second only to student achievement. Two-and-a-half years of professional and emotional drama on topics like busing, balls (athletics), and entitlement are not what we need to focus on. It’s in the best interest of my supporters that I step away... The superintendent and board president relationship is vital to the district and I won’t jeopardize it.”

Schummer turned in her letter of resignation to the superintendent and school board on July 5, less than a week after the board approved the 2011-2012 budget by a 6-0 vote. That budget, approved just hours under the state’s deadline of July 1, has general fund revenues of $29,126,406 and expenses of $29,861,478. The resulting operating deficit of $735,072 will be made up from the district’s fund balance, drawing it down to an estimated 6.51 percent by the end of the 2012 fiscal year.

The district’s fund balance has decreased by half over the past four years. In 2007, the district had roughly $4 million in their fund equity account, or 13 percent.

Schummer said that since she joined the board in 2009, she has repeatedly expressed the need for a 10 percent fund balance. “We have to turn the responsibility back to who is responsible for getting us a budget,” she said. “It is not the fiscal director (Steve Lenar). He does not report to the board, he reports to the superintendent.”

Schummer said the full board approved McMahon’s personnel evaluation this spring.

“In terms of how the public system evaluates leadership, it was a good evaluation,” she said. “In terms of professional things that I felt she needed to be evaluated and held accountable for, those became absent in the end. I still supported it, because I do really want to get along.”

McMahon declined to comment on Schummer’s criticisms of her and the fund balance, but said she appreciated everything Schummer had done as board president.

“She has worked very hard for the students of Brandon School District,” she said.

McMahon has continued frustration over loss of funding and state-mandated increases in retirement costs, which districts have no control over.

“Just like everyone else, our operating expenses have gone up and our income has gone down,” she said. “We make student education our priority and that can come in conflict with what is perceived to be a healthy fund balance. We’d all like to get back to the days of a 15 percent fund balance, but that is not going to happen for a long time. I have no idea how long it will take to get to that point. If the funding continues to be reduced and we have to put out the same product, you can only cut so far.”

An increase in the fund balance, she adds, is unlikely. At this point, she just hopes to maintain the fund balance. To do that, McMahon said the district will pursue different options for employee insurance coverage, will consider outsourcing technology and will discuss again privatization of busing and custodial services. Closing a school remains a possibility, although she doesn’t believe the amount of empty rooms in each building is sufficient yet to do this.

The next school board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m., July 18, at the central district office, 1025 S. Ortonville Road. The finance committee next meets at 6 p.m., Aug. 2, at the central district office.