District plans for staff reductions

ESCANABA – An organizational plan for Escanaba Area Public Schools’ 2013-14 school year has been approved by the Escanaba School Board. The plan specifically highlights areas affected by the reduction of approximately 30 positions district-wide, which was approved during a special board meeting last week.

Escanaba Superintendent Michele Lemire highlighted the organizational plan during the regular school board meeting Monday night.

Lemire said many have wondered why the school board did not make any reductions mid-year, adding that eliminating any position is a challenge, as personnel accounts for 85 percent of the district’s expenditures.

“I believe it would not be in our best interest as a school district to all of a sudden upset the apple cart in the middle of the school year and have parents wondering what was going on, have teachers wondering what was going on, and so on,” she said.

According to the 2013-14 organizational plan, the following positions will be reduced at the kindergarten through third grade levels: one core teacher, 3.5 program aides, 1.5 teachers who will split their time between special education and Title I, and one art and 1.2 technology teachers, as art and technology will be integrated into the classroom.

With these reductions, Webster, Soo Hill, and Lemmer elementary schools are projecting anywhere from 21 to 26.5 students in a class throughout grades K-3, with the exception of one section of kindergarten at Lemmer, which can have no more than 17 students to comply with a federally funded Class Size Reduction teacher requirement for that class.

Escanaba Upper Elementary School will experience the reduction of two core teachers, one special education teacher, three program aides, and one health care aide.

Though grades 4-6 will continue to run similarly to the 2012-13 school year, larger class sizes are expected, with an estimated 34 students in each class at each grade level.

Lemire said the main goals in mind when making reductions at these levels were: maintaining reasonable class sizes for core instruction for grades K-3, having grades 4-6 run similar to the 2012-13 school year though class sizes will be higher, allowing for the district’s contractual obligation to provide planning time for core teachers, ensuring electives are taught, and maintaining interventions for students who need extra help.

The organizational plan also highlights 10 positions will be cut at the junior/senior high school level, including the reduction of one physical education teacher, one special education teacher, one English teacher, one math teacher, one science teacher, one social studies teacher, one additional core or combination teacher of core/elective classes, one discipline officer position, and two health care aides who are not assigned to particular students.

Lemire said the main goals when discussing reductions at the junior/senior high school level were to maintain as many programs and offerings as possible; meet the demand for Michigan Merit Curriculum Courses and high student interest courses; provide Advanced Placement courses, dual enrollment, and accelerated opportunities; maintain interventions for students who need extra help; and use the Michigan Virtual University technology tool more strategically.

Class sizes at the junior/senior high school levels will depend on the type of class and student needs, with some class sizes in the mid to upper 30s, while many other classes can accommodate higher volumes of students, such as physical education, band, vocal music, and art.

According to Lemire, the board started having budget discussions in January, where they began to develop and launch a process to make a determination of where to make reductions.

“We had board workshops where we studied the figures. We looked at the information in a variety of ways. We looked at state requirements. We looked at state law and then we began to have discussions intently about how we could keep our programs as intact as possible given the budget challenges that we have,” said Lemire.

Some of the main areas the board and administration looked into were state and federal requirements and ensuring the district was in compliance with them.

“We certainly need a number of people to get the work done, but given the reductions that are imminent, we need to operate differently given that we’ll have fewer staff,” she said.

The board unanimously approved the 2013-14 organizational plan.

In other business, the board:

– adopted the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District 2013/14 budget for the DSISD’s general education fund to the constituent local districts. The general fund budget reflects revenues of $938,212 and expenditures of $1,188,068.

– adopted a mutual agreement with Holy Name Central Grade School to provide shared time services for the 2013-14 school year, which they have done for the past number of years. Stephenson Area Schools will serve as an additional provider of shared time services with Holy Name.

– approved Christa Erickson and Dena Fedell to fill the vacant positions of varsity volleyball coach and varsity girls’ basketball coach, respectively.