RAPS Sells St. Helen Building to Charter School-Task Force Presents Ideas

By Bev Luther

CHA Realtor Bonnie O’Dell and CHA Board Member

Dave Fultz stand by as CHA Board Secretary Richard

Wood signs the purchase agreement for the SHES

building as RAPS realtor Ruth Clemens oversees.

 

Proposal A ended district control of funding, and it was voted to give property tax relief along with homestead tax relief. These taxes plus 2% sales tax go to the school, with very little of the promised gambling taxes from casinos going to the schools.  Proposal A does not say its funding is limited to K-12 funding but for public schools, which allowed the state to send approximately $1 billion to state universities, failing to follow through on promises made in 1995. It was reiterated that the only way to correct the problem  is to make sure the people in Lansing get the message that this must be changed and they must make public education a priority or the problem will only get worse.

Declining school enrollments have caused the Board to look at several potential changes, such as closing one school, and incorporating all classes into two buildings and selling the vacant building.  It was the consensus of the board that this was only one idea and that they must also look at marketing the

school district to entice people to move to the area.  It was noted that we have state of the art classrooms, and have been named as one of the top school systems in Michigan.  Home schooling,

charter schools, and school of choice are now cutting into our student population.

It was stated that it is the intention of the School Board to hold off closing the elementary school at this time, and any closures or restructuring should be part of a strategic plan to be developed.

It was pointed out that one way we can compete is to enlarge our pre-school programs and other Title III programs  in this area, with pre-school and kindergarten classes added. Many students are being passed up from the third and fourth grades without sufficient reading and writing skills to succeed in their further studies and these early childhood classes are very important.

Rosczyk and others on the Task Force agreed that a good base of volunteers is needed to supplement the teaching staff and are hoping someone will come forth to act as a Volunteer Coordinator to get this going.

In discussing contract changes with school services such as buses and food service, it had been suggested that the Board look at outsourcing, which it has been doing.  While this might save some money, it takes away the personal connections, with the schools never being certain of having the same bus drivers or food personnel from day to day.  Under the current system bus drivers and passengers get to know each other and who is supposed to be on the bus, adding a level of security.  The same goes for maintenance and food services personnel. Shay Anderson stated she is collecting bids on privatizing ancillary programs such as bus drivers, food service, etc. and will report back on this.  She has bids from five companies, which represent a savings to the school of  up to $211,000 and a possible loss of $10,000. Hourly payments for personnel would run from $8 to $14 per hour, and no more than fifty percent of these people may be recruited from the current personnel.   Shay reiterated the statement that we must all look at the cost in staff morale if we go this route.

Various members of the Task Force spoke out on the necessity of developing a Strategic Plan, and that no changes be made in any of the programs until the 2013-2014 school year, and that next year things would stay the same as they now are except for lowering teaching staff through normal attrition. Chairman Hill said he does not view the Task Force as a part-time process but it should be ongoing and involve all the school board and other people working together to bring a full resolution of the problems.

The Board accepted the second reading of the new Federal Fund Board Policy, along with a third reading of the Anti-bullying policy and unanimously voted to adopt the Anti-bullying policy as presented.

The Board accepted the first reading of the Roscommon Area Public Schools Policy #5520 Revision Staff Reductions/Recalls as presented.

Other items on the agenda included approval of the COOR ISD contract to provide special Education services for the 2012-2013 school year, and the resignation of James Scott from the Board effective June 30, 2012.

The Board was asked to approve the COOR Budget as presented. Board member Kim Morley questioned the figures asking if COOR was making any concessions like other educational institutions around the state. In answer to Morley’s question on the COOR budget she was assured that they are making the same type of cuts as the other schools are.  At this point the COOR District is the lowest in the state in funding for the ISD, and the only way to keep it a success is to utilize volunteers such as retired teachers.

The Board unanimously voted to accept the offer from Charlton Heston Academy to purchase the St. Helen Elementary building at a price of $270,000 and it was a unanimous decision to authorize Superintendent Catherine Erickson to sign on behalf of the District to complete the sale of the SHES building. Regarding the price of the St. Helen school it was pointed out that the comparison prices were

about ten years old, that we have had a downslide in the real estate market and that the final price agreed on was quite reasonable.

Regarding the sale of the School Board building, it was suggested by Board member Kathy Jernigan

and supported by all members of the Board to remain using the current building, possibly putting it up for sale but not moving out until it was sold.  She said the cost of moving will be quite high and should not be undertaken until they were certain of the future of the building.

Plans for the new pathway/trail to the school from the Village are being completed, and Tom Gromek, former Village manager, promised the Village would handle maintenance of this pathway.  This is to be discussed at a special meeting of the Board on Monday, May 21 at 6 p.m.

Employees, Task Force Members, and charter school supporters made for large turnout at RAPS meeting last week

Reprinted with permission by The Roscommon County Weekly May 23, 2012 issue