By Rosemary K. Otzman
At Monday’s meeting (June 9) of the Van Buren Public Schools Board of Education, votes were taken for the layoffs of 11 instructional staff and six support staff.
The vote was 5-2 for each list, with Treasurer Sherry Frazier and Trustee Scott Russell voting against the layoffs both times.
The instructional staff being laid off are: Elizabeth Bull-Davie, Elizabeth Elster, and Danielle Haase, all 1-year teachers; Laurie Miller, 3 years; Tamara Hanaka, 6 years; Michelle Komaromi, 10 years; Genesha Frederick, Mark Gregor, Lisa J. Myers, and Christina Brasil, 14 years; and Jessica Kiser, 16 years.
The support staff laid off were 1-year cafeteria workers: Amy Osborne, Susan Kosikowski, Kathryn Etherington, Robin Bresett, Shannon Randell, and Lisa Bodenham.
Sandra Hutchins was approved hired as Food Service Coordinator as of June 23.
Although the layoff lists were a part of the board’s consent agenda, that is approved without comment, Trustee Russell requested the two personnel items be pulled off the consent agenda and discussed.
He said the board has been told that the large number of positions eliminated were because the federal money paying for them would not be available next school year.
As to the food-service workers, students aren’t eating the healthy lunches the federal government wants them to.
Financial director Karen Moffitt said the district no longer has universal breakfast, which cuts back on the number of workers needed.
And, the menu has to contain more whole grain and less sugar. Participation in lunches has gone down and in cookie sales alone, the district lost $40,000.
“We’re working on whole grain cookies,” Moffitt said.
Moffitt said the students will be helping themselves more now and will be able to put their own dressings on their salads, their lettuce and tomatoes on their hamburgers, and help themselves in other ways.
“Are we saying we can’t teach our kids to eat healthy?” Frazier asked.
Moffit said food costs are also going up and the cost of breakfast is going up from 6 to 12%.
Frazier asked how many students get free and reduced meals and Moffitt said 50%, and reimbursement for meals is not going up.
Russell asked if the theory is that if you give it a year or two, it’s possible the students will want to eat healthier food?
Moffitt said that’s the theory.
School Supt. Michael Van Tassel said as of July 1, they won’t be able to sell candy in the schools, which will put an end to a lot of fund drives.
“It’s a real interesting year coming up,” he said.
As to the educators that were laid off, they were not laid off by their seniority, since that is no longer allowed by state law.
Frazier pointed out six have ten or more years of experience. She asked how much warning did they get.
Human Resources Director Shonta Langford-Green said that anyone with an ineffective evaluation knows they could be in trouble if there are layoffs. She said there was a meeting in May on this. But, those laid off could be called back.
Van Tassel said the district lost 93 students last year and is expected to lose 100-135 a year over a five-year period, according to Plante Moran.
And Curriculum Director Diane Kullis said this year they sent six interventionists to BHS and had a hard time finding things for them to do.
She said they will now have two less social workers, although every school will have a social worker next year.
“I had no idea we were overstaffed,” Frazier said.
“A number of these are new teachers, but others were 14, 16 years,” Russell stated.
Green said it’s no longer seniority that determines how you lay off. It’s the evaluations.
“What have we been doing for 16 years? Tolerating ineffective teachers?” Russell asked.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Green replied. “We now need to lay off … according to evaluations…”
“I think we’re becoming a swinging-door school district,” Frazier said. “Come here for a few years and then, gone.”
“I think your opinion is unhelpful and inaccurate,” Vice President Toth said to Frazier.
Frazier said the principal should be responsible for the teachers.
Russell said he wanted to see if the board would want to send these decisions back for reevaluation, but only Frazier was in favor of doing so.
In other business at the June 9 meeting, the board:
• Approved hiring Robert Carlesso as Director of Finance with a two-year contract beginning July 1. He will be paid $104,000, plus fringe benefits. Carlesso, currently Chief Financial Officer of the Warren Consolidated Schools, will take over for Karen Moffitt who will leave June 30;
• Approved purchasing five special needs buses off of the MSBO/MAPT Bus Purchase Program (bid) for $398,370. Low bidder was Hoekstra of Grand Rapids;
• Approved Michigan Association of School Board membership for the 2014-15 school year for $7,284. Toth pointed out that one of the many benefits is the ability for members to participate in the SET-SEG insurance pools, which reduces workers’ compensation pool premium by $69,804;
• Approved the resolution for membership in the Michigan High School Athletic Association for the 2014-15 school year for Belleville High School and McBride Middle School;
• Approved the purchase of 25 Student Response Systems for Owen Intermediate School from SPI Innovations in the amount of $58,432.50. The hand-held devices give instant feedback to the teacher which shows if the students are learning what the teacher is teaching;
• Approved the purchase of 40 laptops off of the Midwestern Higher Educastion Compact contract bid for $30,760 from NETech Corporation, to replace the 8-10-year-old teacher laptops and desktops throughout the district, according to the Technology Plan;
• Approved a resolution supporting the district expenditure of the Wayne County Millage Funds if the six-year millage passes in the Aug. 5 election. The district plans to use the money by funding technology, and buses, and repairing and maintaining district building purposes, K-1 reduced class sizes, and textbook purchases, and not for unassigned general fund purposes;
• After much discussion, pproved the New Board Member and Candidate Orientation recommendation with no meet and greet with candidates as part of the program;
• Approved the Board Operating Procedures recommendation;
• Heard an Owen student play a ukulele with her teacher to show off the ukuleles purchased by the Civic Fund for the school. The school has 21 ukes now and will soon have 35;
• Recognized the retirements of Jean Curtis, 15 years; Ann Cyganski, 41 years; Walter “Butch” Maciejewski, 20 years; and Donna Roberts, 17 years, from the Transportation Department; Liz Martin from BHS; and Catherine Day from Food Service, 34 years; and
• Approved the use of school buses five times for the Boys & Girls Club Summer Camp Field Trips for the standard rate.
By Rosemary K. Otzman