In other matters …
At their Aug. 13 meeting, the Vestaburg Community School Board of Education also:
• Approved the resignation of special education teacher Heather Dawe, who took a special education position at Fulton Elementary School.
• Approved the resignation of middle school teacher Lisa Zimmer, who took a position with Mount Pleasant Public Schools.
• Approved the resignation of English teacher Lori Avery, who was scheduled to return from a leave of absence this autumn, but chose to stay at Lansing Community College instead.
• Approved an art project involving tile patios. Carol Herman said most of the tiles have already been donated and she will look for more donations. The project will be done by students on the patio behind the art classroom.
• Approved an increase in prices for breakfasts and lunches for the upcoming school year. Diane Mitchell said the school is governed through the state to increase lunch prices to be within 50 cents of what the reimbursement rate for a free lunch currently is. Elementary school lunches will increase to $1.85. Breakfast for K-12 students will increase to $1.40. All other prices will remain the same.
VESTABURG — Vestaburg Community School students will not have the option of taking technology classes this autumn after the school board voted to eliminate multiple classes to help balance the budget.
At the Aug. 13 meeting, the board voted 4-1 to eliminate the intro to technology class, web design class, business communications class and advanced technology class. Trustee Mike Drumm cast the lone dissenting vote.
The school board also voted 5-0 to eliminate elective classes of child development and family consumer science, both of which were offered in high school.
According to Superintendent Jeff Beal, the board approved a budget last June based on an enrollment population of 650 students — representing a dip into the school’s fund equity of more than $600,000. The school board divided the cuts into Phase 1 ($240,000 in cuts, which were approved on Aug. 13) and Phase 2, which will not be recommended until Beal gets a better idea of this autumn’s enrollment numbers.
“If enrollment is not as dire as I have predicted, and now with the MPSERS reform being passed, a $90,0000 savings for Vestaburg, we could avoid Phase 2 cuts altogether,” Beal said. “I will know more next month, but after all the hard work we have done in recent years to maintain a balanced budget, it is frustrating to have to continue to cut in order to balance the budget because the state is not adequately funding public education. That being said we are working very hard and should be very close to a balanced budget for the 2012-2013 school year.”
The Michigan Public School Employee Retirement System (MPSERS) reform that Beal was referring to was a bill passed by Michigan lawmakers on Aug. 15. The bill caps the rate that school districts will have to fund to the retirement system. The bill also puts new school employees on a 401(k) system, instead of the state retirement system.
Concerns from staff, graduate
The school board received two letters about budget cuts.
Carissa Hanus teaches English, political science and publications and coaches Model U.N., technology and English as a second language at Vestaburg Community School. She is also the National Honor Society adviser for the class of 2014. She has worked at Vestaburg Community School for 12 years.
Hanus said she has “major apprehensions” about Beal’s proposal to cut up to three Middle School/High School teaching positions.
“The first concern … is the fact that the middle school classes will become self-contained,” Hanus stated. “Not only will the class sizes be large, but teachers who excel at teaching specific subject areas will now be forced to teach the subjects that they are not highly qualified in. I know very well that their certifications state that they can, but that does not mean that they should. In addition to that, the fact that we will not have a highly qualified English teacher in the middle school deeply concerns me. Our schools must meet assessment standards and make good grades, and without the proper staff in the middle school, I am concerned that this will be difficult to achieve. The ELA department has taken many hits in the last few years, and I feel that this is another one that we cannot afford. This will not benefit the students, or, in the long run, the district.”
Hanus said the elimination of health and technology positions will force students to join other classes, which will have a negative chain reaction.
“First, it eliminates at least five electives that students enjoy taking,” she stated. “It also eliminates the availability to take classes that are in a field they may be interested in. We are in the twenty-first century and technology is no longer a want, but is a need. In fact, as the Technology Team coach, I have seen our districts failings compared to other schools in the league.
“Second, the idea of having health offered only online to middle school students who are already uncomfortable with themselves and full of questions is not well thought out,” she stated. “I have no doubt that the MIVHS (Michigan Virtual School) program is an effective curriculum, but the presentation is not what eighth grade students need. They do need, however, interaction, interpersonal relationships and someone that they can trust to answer their awkward questions.
“Assuming that the health position is turned into an online class and Mrs. Murphy’s position is eliminated, that would require some staff shuffling,” she added. “Assuming then that Mr. Walderzak will become the Social Studies I teacher, where does that put the athletic director position. That position is already considered part-time and he is very busy with scheduling and meetings for our athletics. These responsibilities will have to fall somewhere, and I would hate to see substitute teachers in his classroom continuously.”
Donald Morin, a graduate of Vestaburg High School, also wrote a letter to the school board. He will be a senior at Alma College this autumn, where he is majoring in integrative physiology and health science with an emphasis in clinical exercise physiology. He hopes to work in the cardiac rehab field.
Morin said he took the introduction to technology class while a student at Vestaburg High School.
“Even though I am not in a technology field, these classes have benefitted me greatly,” he said. “For example, in my physics class, we covered a section on the lift forces in aerodynamics. In intro to tech there was a station in which we hypothesized and tested different objects’ aerodynamic capabilities and the lift forces that they generate. Having just this rudimentary knowledge gave me enough of background to go through the section with ease and even assist my classmates.
“Another key skill that I acquired in Coach Steele’s class was in the station where we had to program a robotic arm to perform certain tasks,” he stated. “The coordinates that we had to input into this machine had to be very exact and precise. If they were not correct, then the robotic arm would not perform the task correctly or efficiently. In my labs for my major, I have to work with equipment such as an isokinetic dynamometer, metabolic cart, or echocardiogram recording device. All of these devices have to be recalibrated to precise, minute levels in order to acquire accurate data. In order to recalibrate them, exact coordinates have to be entered for each individual participant. If any data point is incorrect, then data can be skewed and research results can become invalid and all time spent researching, testing, and writing proposals will be null and void.”
After the school board voted to cut the classes, Ben Steele, listed as the high school technology teacher on Vestaburg’s website, of Weidman went on record stating that he was “extremely disappointed” that the board cut the last technology class offered at the school.
The next school board meeting is scheduled to take place Sept. 10.