By Rosemary K. Otzman
At Monday’s meeting, Reg Ion of Van Buren Township asked the School Board to sell items from Elwell Elementary School which it is demolishing rather than trashing everything like it did when Belleville High School was demolished last summer.
Ion, who retired from the district as head custodian, said when the high school was being torn down he was among others who had seen all the furniture that was a part of the rubble.
Ion said he and others would like the district to sell the furniture and other items from Elwell before it is torn down.
School Supt. Michael Van Tassel said Building and Grounds Director James Williams is almost done pulling out the furniture from Elwell for an on-line sale.
On Tuesday, Williams explained that the furniture has been stored at Haggerty School and other places. He said he planned an online auction to sell school-type items like desks and chairs. He said he would alert the Independent when that has been set up so people can visit the site.
Williams said he also plans a sale in the spring, once the weather breaks, where everything can be in one place for people to see. He said it will take a lot to get it organized and sorted.
As long as he had the floor at the meeting, Ion mentioned that the new flag pole in front of Belleville High School’s main entrance is crooked and, “It’s either been put in wrong or backed into.”
Speaking of flags, Ion said a few years ago he petitioned the district to have Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flags at all the schools and the veterans provided them.
“A lot of people died for us,” Ion said, adding, “I’d like them hung back up at the school. If you lost it, we can get another one.”
Another person to speak under public comment was Michael Gentz of Van Buren Township who said he would like to have exit interviews for employees leaving the district.
He said there has been a lot of turnover in the schools and he and others believe there is something fundamentally wrong in the district. Exit interviews could identify the problem, he said.
“Currently, we do not do it,” said Human Resources Director Shonta Langford-Green, adding sometimes when people leave they provide a long letter.
She said some employees have been called back to their old districts and pay is a concern, since sometimes their former pay is higher.
Gentz asked if Green could sit down with the employees who have resigned and talk to them and Green said that time is an issue and sometimes the employee just resigns and is gone.
Gentz said the turnover has been so much that he and his friends are concerned.
“I hate to lose any of those good teachers,” he said.
“I, too, am concerned,” said Board Treasurer Sherry Frazier. “We lost nine administrators this year and too many quality teachers.
“That is a concern… We have to look at staff morale and build up a feeling of belonging and loyalty … They need to feel appreciated,” Frazier said, noting she has brought this up many times at the meetings.
She said constructive information could be gathered at exit interviews so improvements could be made.
In other business at Monday’s meeting, the board:
• Approved Financial Director Karen Moffitt’s proposal to apply for a line of credit through the state for up to $3.5 million from March through September so funds could be withdrawn as needed instead of borrowing all of it at once with a note, as has been done in the past. Money is borrowed from the state each year to provide cash flow for operations in the months when the state aid funds aren’t immediately at hand. Moffitt said she estimated saving $10,000 by using the line of credit (with interest of 1.12%) over the state aid note (with interest of 1.14%) with “a total interest savings from the prior year of approximately $35,000.” Moffitt said the line of credit is a variable rate, but the bank doesn’t think it will go up;
• Heard a presentation on Watch D.O.G.’s, a program instituted at Tyler Elementary School using father volunteers to stay at the school during class time, presented by Principal Aleisa Pitt, parent Brian Roberson, and social worker Rachel Hacker. Fathers are asked to volunteer one day a year and only 25 days for the whole school year are not signed up for. A recent meeting for fathers drew 181, when only 20 were expected. The dads ate 60 pizzas;
• Heard a presentation on the $445,116 Carnegie Math program approved by the board last March 15, presented by Carnegie Math consultant Nicole Crockett. When asked if student math scores would be better this year, she said no because the state tests have changed, but they will be better next year and better the year after that. Computers are a big part of the program and Frazier asked, as she has asked in the past, if they knew how many of the students had access to computers at home. She was told there was no estimate;
• Approved the employment of Jessica Phillips as a mathematics teacher at BHS as of Jan. 22; Charla Ross as a social worker at McBride as of Feb. 4; and Scott McMillan as a science teacher at McBride as of Feb. 4;
• Approved the employer termination of Transportation Supervisor John Bojanowski after five months of service as of Jan. 11, and the requested termination of Tamarra Getty after 1.5 years as a food service worker as of Feb. 5 for other employment;
• Received certificates of appreciation from State Rep. Diane Slavens and School Supt. Van Tassel to mark the annual School Board Recognition Month;
• Heard Van Tassel announce that board Vice President Martha Toth has asked him to write a letter nominating her for the Region 8 Michigan Association of School Boards Board of Directors and, “I think she’d make a wonderful representative.” He said the letter has to be signed by all the board members. Toth said an MASB board member is resigning and there has to be an appointment and she thinks she could help develop priorities for the schools to take to the legislature; and
• Heard Frazier remark that at the Jan. 14 meeting representatives from the Transportation Department invited board members to ride a bus, to get a feeling of what they are doing, and they invited Van Tassel to speak to the Transportation Department. They felt they were not supported by the board in general. She asked if any board members rode a bus or if Van Tassel met with them. No members had ridden a bus and Van Tassel said the interim transportation director would like everything to go through her and give her a chance to get control. “I feel we’ve been trying to address the needs” of the Transportation Department, he said.
By Rosemary K. Otzman