STANTON — It took a little shuffling and some creative financing, but Central Montcalm Public School’s popular band director Matthew Reed will be back at the helm again when school begins this fall.
Reed was among five teachers who were laid off in a spate of budget cuts earlier this year. At that time, retiring superintendent Jake Helm cited declining enrollment as the impetus for the cuts. Helms noted the district had lost 10 to 24 students each year for four years in a row and said he expected similar, or even greater enrollment drops for the upcoming school year.
The cuts voted into place by the Central Montcalm school board totaled nearly $1.5 million.
“Obviously we’re cutting to try to build back a portion of the fund balance and stay in compliance with state law,” Helms said. “Obviously we can’t run a deficit budget.”
Helms intended to replace Reed with one of two other music instructors the school had on staff and eliminate the middle school choir program.
Members of the board, which by a vote of 4-3 approved the cuts, were not entirely surprised by the public outcry over Reed’s dismissal.
When new Superintendent Kristi Teall came on board July 1, one of her first tasks was to find a way to retain Reed’s services. The route toward accomplishing this detail was somewhat convoluted, but the end result produced the funds needed to keep Reed on the job.
By opting to participate in the Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP), the school district received enough state funds to pay for another teacher. Instead of hiring someone new to fill the position, Teall moved an existing teacher into the position.
“That allowed us to call back a staff member to fill another position,” Teall explained. “There was one teacher ahead of Matt (Reed), but she took another job and declined to come back. That allowed us to offer the position to Matt.
“It’s unfortunate the teacher who took another job will not be able to come back, but I understand she needed to do what she needed to do,” she added.
Teall said it was not so much a matter of “finagling” the finances as it was a matter of the “stars aligning.”
“At the last board meeting we decided to fill the GSRP position, which allowed us to bring back some of the staff that were on layoff,” Teall said. “I just wish we had enough positions that we could bring back all of our staff on layoff.”
As to the future of the school system, Teall remains cautiously optimistic, saying that she believes things are turning around, though slowly.
“I’ve been in education for 22 years and one thing I’ve noticed,” Teall said. “When the economy goes bad, education is the last thing hit, but it’s also the last to recover. It’s going to take a bit of time for economic improvement to funnel to education.”
Reed could not be reached for comment.