Ypsilanti Citizen Education Sidetrack

Ypsilanti Schools accept transportation consolidation
By Adrienne Ziegler
Jun. 8, 2010   ·   3:07 p.m.

Connie Shelton, an East Middle School Teacher, speaks against the WISD transportation consolidation plan at Monday's special meeting of the Ypsilanti Board of Education. The board approved the motion to join the consolidation by a vote of 5 to 2.

"Shame on you" echoed through the audience Monday night after the Ypsilanti Public Schools Board of Education approved a plan to join a countywide consolidated...read more

Willow Run appoints new board member
By Adrienne Ziegler
Jun. 5, 2010   ·   8:16 a.m.

The Willow Run School Board looks on as Kristine Thomas, a district parent and previous board member, is sworn in as trustee on Thursday night. Thomas will take the position of Joi Jenson who resigned in early May.

The Willow Run School Board appointed a new, yet familiar trustee to the board of education during their regular meeting Thursday night.

Kristine Thomas, a Willow...read more

Willow Run approves county-wide transportation plan
By Adrienne Ziegler
May. 27, 2010   ·   2:09 p.m.

The Willow Run School District signed on to a countywide consolidated transportation plan at their regular board meeting last week.

The plan aims to save transportation...read more

Lincoln offers summer courses to area high-schoolers
By Mark Tower
May. 26, 2010   ·   7:49 p.m.

Students from Lincoln and other nearby districts are being invited to participate in Lincoln High School's Summer Academy this year, registration for which opened...read more

Willow Run terminates student services administrator
By Adrienne Ziegler
May. 26, 2010   ·   12:26 a.m.

Willow Run School Board President Sheri Washington said she didn't know if the district was going to press charges against former Student Services Administrator Laconda Hicks after the board fired Hicks during a special meeting Tuesday night.

The Willow Run Board of Education unanimously voted to terminate its contract with former Student Services Administrator Laconda Hicks Tuesday night during a special...read more

Ypsilanti Schools eye 40 teacher layoffs in four years

The room was packed Monday night, as more than 200 people attended the Ypsilanti Public Schools' Board of Education meeting to listen to a presentation and debate on the district's deficit elimination plan. Photo by Dan DuChene

The room was packed Monday night, as more than 200 people attended the Ypsilanti Public Schools' Board of Education meeting to listen to a presentation and debate on the district's deficit elimination plan.
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District submits budget plan to state, projects $6 million in cuts

By Dan DuChene
Dec. 15, 2009    ·    11:38 a.m.

There wasn’t enough room for the more than 200 people who attended the Ypsilanti Public Schools’ Board of Education meeting Monday night.

People were sitting on every available spot on the floor and lining all four walls of the room in Ypsilanti High School. Mostly staff wearing orange shirts, everyone was there to hear the district’s plan to eliminate its budget deficit.

Approved in a 5-2 vote, with trustees Andy Fanta and Kira Berman voting against, the plan is required by state law for districts who operate in a budget deficit. The deadline to submit the plan is today.

The district hopes to cut $538,500 from its spending next semester.

The board will likely consider six teacher and six support staff layoffs at its next meeting in January. Additionally, the administration plans to contribute to healthcare to save $12,500 and the district’s athletic department will have to find $50,000 to cut in its budget.

Before this plan, district support staff and administrators took a 3 percent reduction in pay to save $138,000.

These cuts are just for this fiscal year. The four-year plan highlights more than $6 million in cuts in total. Next year the district hopes to cut nearly $5 million from its spending. In all, the plan calls for a total of 41 teacher layoffs, a 3 percent reduction in pay for teachers, support staff and administration, healthcare contributions from all district employees and a building decommissioning among other cuts.

During her report to the board, Ypsilanti Education Association President Kelly Powers said the plan was made “on the backs of district teachers and district support staff.”

Powers pointed to the district’s willingness in the plan to investigate savings through privatizing transportation and other services. She said several trustees on the board ran on a campaign against such methods.

“If you vote to approve this plan, you have lied to the voters of this district,” Powers said.

Powers said she took issue with the number of teacher layoffs with none proposed from the district’s administration. She said the plan was “an absolute punch in the nose to your support-level and ground staff.”

Superintendent Dedrick Martin defended the plan’s focus on teacher layoffs by pointing out 82 percent of the district’s budget is already spent on teacher salaries and benefits. He said the most cuts would have to be from this area, as this is where most of the district’s money is spent.

Toward the end of the meeting, after the plan was approved by the board, Powers agreed teachers will have to be laid off to balance the budget, but suggested a retirement incentive program to allow the most tenured and higher paid teachers to leave the district. Martin said he would work on the idea with Powers.

The main argument of the plan was made against its formulation. Powers, Fanta and Berman all pointed to the speed in which the plan was created and the lack of input from the community and district staff.

“I think what we do, we ask for the needed and necessary extension,” Fanta said. “I think it’s time that we play hardball.”

Board President David Bates said there was a short amount of time to put together the plan because the board took so long to select Martin as its superintendent during the summer, thus postponing a search for a new district financial officer.

Martin agreed, and added David Houle, the person put in the CFO position, had three weeks to assess the district’s fiscal history, grasp the budget and formulate the plan.

Houle, who presented the plan, said the state could eventually withhold aid payments to the district if the plan is not submitted. However, he called the plan a “living document” and said it could be amended to allow changes the district saw fit, so long as the savings are made.

“I was looking for creative ways to achieve these ends in this plan,” Fanta said. “Not looking for a way to do it afterward. Once you adopt a plan, it’s a plan.”

Fanta said the district will likely “go to the same old well again” and pursue common savings through teacher layoffs and other means. Fanta suggested a total district-wide audit to see where savings could be realized in more structural areas.

Martin agreed a full audit would benefit the district, and said the district’s financial department had already had one. However, he said such measures are costly and time consuming and would not be complete by the time the state requires the plan.

“We are also putting ourselves in harm of having payless paydays real soon,” Martin said. “If the state does not approve this plan, are we going to have an emergency board meeting in the middle of the day to get this in? That is a position I am not willing to take as a superintendent.”

Bates suggested the plan be adopted and later amended after receiving input from the community. He suggested forums held on the matter and a way for district stake-holders to submit real recommendations for the administration to pursue.

Houle said the district has been heading to this situation for five years, as it spent more money than it took in every year since 2005. The district lost more than $1.5 million in 2006 and 2007, and more than $2.5 million the following two years. Combined, the district over-spent more than $9.2 million through to this year.

The only bright-spot in that time was $2.5 million it made from selling a building in 2008.

If no action was taken, Houle said the district would continue to over-spend, reaching a $3.3 million deficit this year and a $5.6 million deficit the next.

Houle pointed to stagnant funding from the state and declining enrollment since 2004 for the district’s fiscal situation.

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