By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education had told teachers during negotiations on their contract that if the district had extra funds at the end of the year it will share the money with the teachers.
On May 22, the school board approved School Supt. Michael Van Tassel’s recommendation to divvy up $250,000 among all the teachers who were on duty the first day of the school year until Monday, April 22. It will be divided equally after taxes and other deductions are taken out, he said.
There are 296 teachers currently employed by the district, according to Shonta Langford-Green, Director of Human Resources. Since there are several parameters, no one at the Administration Building was willing to suggest a per-teacher number for the stipend on Tuesday morning.
Supt. Van Tassel told the board this was a one-time only stipend.
Teachers took the hardest hit in budget cuts, a total of 7% pay cut, he said.
He said giving them this stipend is, “… the right thing to do.” Van Tassel said two years from today the Governor wants to cut deeper, but this year the teachers can get something.
“In negotiations we said we would give back if we have any funds,” said Board Treasurer Sherry Frazier. “By doing this we show we will do what we say we’ll do.”
Frazier said it was too bad they can’t do it for all the employee groups.
“The state is beating up on us,” she explained.
“I applaud you for making that recommendation and I’m sure all the board members support that,” Frazier said to Van Tassel.
This discussion took place during the presentation by Finance Director Karen Moffitt on the Budget Amendments for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which the board approved. The general fund budget is $47,049,504.
The new fund balance is $1,005,694 and Board Vice President Martha Toth said while that is only 2.2% of the budget, just two years ago the district had to put together a deficit budget plan. She said the revenue is down 11% and spending is down 12%.
Toth said that people worked hard to get the budget in shape.
In other business at the May 22 meeting, the board:
• Heard a report from Paul Wills of Plante Moran CRESA on $1,579,440 in summer projects that will be paid for by the sinking fund. As soon as students are out of the buildings for the summer the projects will begin, he said. On the list of projects: new roof at Owen (approved low bid was Superior Services of Lansing for $293,330); upgrading ceilings and lights in four classrooms each at Owen and McBride; glass and glazing at McBride, Owen, Tyler and Savage; parking lot and nine new security entrances at McBride; 20 extra parking spaces at Edgemont and 30 at Rawsonville. The sinking fund was approved by voters in November 2008 and brings in up to $1.5 million per year to reduce the strain on the general fund for building repairs and the like;
• Heard an update from Special Services Supervisor Karen Johnston and Director of Instruction Diane Kullis on next fall’s use of Haggerty Elementary School for the Early Childhood Development Center and a Latchkey program (K.C. Childcare) for ECDC program participants. The board was told the Transition Program for special education students age 18 and older, also planned for the building, will be separated from the ECDC children by a door. All interior rooms will be used this year because the Fire Marshal said extra exits are needed for the outside rooms, if used. The big and small toilets will be switched around to be appropriate for the ECDC and adult users in the building. The current ECDC playground equipment will be brought over since what’s there is too large. A fence will be installed, “… so if there are any runners, we don’t have to chase them down Haggerty,” Kullis said. An open house will be held when everything is in place for Haggerty’s new use;
• Heard a presentation by Assistant Principal Andy Comb on the first year of the 7/8 model of education at McBride Middle School, ending up with, “I think McBride had a great first year” Frazier added, “Anyone sending their children to a charter school is making a mistake”;
• Heard a report by Director of Instruction Kullis on a recent Parent Survey of 664 participants that showed most parents are very satisfied with their children’s education and school. Kullis said she was surprised that parents indicated they would rather get their information in phone calls than by Facebook. Sixty-eight percent of BHS parents gave the school A’s and B’s and 73% at McBride gave those grades. The other schools graded by numbers, like those students are graded;
• Approved the requested terminations of BHS counselor Paul Smith after 40 years, for retirement; McBride teacher Ron Stokes after 25 years, retirement; Tim Ottewell from McBride after 24 years, retirement; and BHS teachers Angela Martin, after seven years, and Doris Birchmeier, after two years, both for relocation;
• Approved the requested terminations for support staff members: Ronald Small, custodial/maintenance, after 22 years, retirement as of July 12; Rose Griffin, food service worker, retirement after 15 years, as of April 16; McBride secretary Dorothy Peters, retirement after 13 years, as of May 1; and Constance Frank, food service worker, after two years for relocation as of May 1;
• Heard a parent announce that Owen school went into lockdown on Monday and the problem was resolved with no issues, but she didn’t get informed appropriately by the Edulink program now in use. The highly regarded Honeywell service had been severed. Van Tassel said Honeywell cost a lot of money and they are working at getting it back by fall, hoping RESA will help with funding;
• Heard Connie Testorelli give a report on events at BHS, including the musical Hairspray being put on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The Van Buren Education Foundation is holding a Mexican food fundraiser on Saturday at the school in conjunction with the musical; and
• Went into closed-door session to discuss contract negotiations.
The next regular meeting of the board will be May 13. The agenda will include sinking fund projects and the Wayne RESA budget approval.
By Rosemary K. Otzman