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Fenton School Board Approves Teacher Layoffs

Teachers speak out at Monday's meeting.

The faced a room packed with nearly 100 Fenton teachers and parents as it approved a motion that will lay off 15 certified staff members at Monday night's meeting.  

The layoffs are one of the ways that the board is responding to statewide budget cuts.

“We need to reduce our expenses or increase our revenue by $2.6 million,” said Doug Busch, Fenton Area Public Schools director of finance and personnel. “We're proposing online enrollment, reductions in ground and clerical workers and increased class sizes to help with that.”

These measures would be on top of the teacher layoffs, which would result in larger class sizes of 36-40 students—an additional 5-6 per room at the elementary school level.

“I'm horrified to think of 5 or 6 more children in a class,” said a teary-eyed Julie Kazmierski, a teacher at and parent of a Fenton student. “My daughter is struggling with reading and it's the teacher giving her that extra help that makes all the difference.”

Kazmierski was only one of many teachers speaking out at the meeting. Emotions ran high as teachers recounted their experiences before the board.

“I have $41 for school supplies next year,” said Katrina Weaver, another teacher from North Road. “That comes out to about $1.50 per student and with that I'm supposed to get crayons, paper, scissors, glue. This year I had to send a child across the hall for a band-aid because I ran out and there was no money left in the budget for more.”

Over a dozen parents and teachers alike voiced their hope that the board would look out for teachers and the arts, which often end up on the chopping block in times of economic stress. They asked the board to think outside of the box and find another way to save money, such as getting rid of the International Baccalaureate program.

Board member Richard DesJardins responded to the pleas.

“The biggest topic of our meetings is 'where can we cut now'? We don't take this lightly,” he said.

Busch said there were a lot of variables regarding the budget such as student enrollment, employee contracts, state mandates and something called Financial Best Practices, which are incentives for districts to earn an additional $350,000 in state funding.

“We're hoping to ask some or all of the staff back,” said Busch, in reference to the layoffs. “We've had to make cuts before and were able to then recall most of the teachers.”

Other motions that passed on Monday were membership in the Michigan High School Athletic Association, a leasing agreement with Konica-Minolta for copiers, levy millage on property for Sinking Fund and hearing bids for renovations to the middle school.

Barbara DeGayner June 07, 2011 at 06:05 PM
This is frustrating at best...many parents, taxpayers, and other community members voiced their concerns about the IB program. We were told it was a positive thing for our students and it would increase enrollment. It is valuable in theory, but too expensive and not practical for tough times. We also voiced our concerns about isolating one grade in a building, but were told there was no way to accommodate 6th grade at AGS. Two years later, there now seems to be a way to do that. It is unfortunate that it is the students, the children of our district, who will pay the biggest price for the personal agenda of adults.
Marilyn Daniels June 07, 2011 at 08:21 PM
I think we should all take a moment to thank our Governor for exacerbating a terrible economic situation. Aren't we all glad that the Governor was able to give $1.8 billion in tax breaks to big corporations while he cut $1 billion from our schools? Hmmmm, if our kids are to be so poorly educated, who will be qualified to work at those corporations? Marilyn Daniels
Don Rositano June 08, 2011 at 01:35 AM
Everybody says IB is too expensive. How Much?
Jennie Turner June 08, 2011 at 11:03 AM
I agree that this is a STATE funding issue!! My hope is that working at a local level, more families and tax payers will be educated about the cuts coming AGAIN to schools. Please fight back and contact your legislators and governor. Enough is enough! Our children and our future deserve more!
stephanie pytlowanyj June 08, 2011 at 08:42 PM
I think it is very easy to blame the current governor. Look at the mess he inherited from the former governor who promised to "blow us away". She surely did....8 years of it. Snyder making the cuts is going to force schools, etc., to find ways to cut the fat from their budgets. I believe the schools go after the teachers first to get the parents, teacher, and union up in arms so they will then go after the governor, legistlature, etc., instead of going after the real problem...and the real problem is school administrators that can't budget appropriately. I don't have children in the schools anymore but I don't agree with cutting services to children. Cutting the expensive IB program and all the waste that goes on in the schools needs to happen. A parent would be horrified if they followed some of the non-teachers around to see what they actually do, or more like don't do, in a day. Also at the admistrative level, why can't some of those jobs be combined? Why is a separate curricumlum director needed? Why do they have so many secretaries in the Admin building that appear to be doing little? Seriously, the waste by schools is what needs to be looked at!
watching you June 09, 2011 at 03:05 AM
looks like you are anotherone thats dead weight... keep up the good work you make us all look good.
stephanie pytlowanyj June 09, 2011 at 03:49 AM
Just curious as to why the union didn't try to negotiate some cut backs in benefits, etc., rather then seeing teachers laid off? The union did that in the Hartland school district.
Fentoniter June 13, 2011 at 02:44 PM
After a year in the IB program, I cant say enough about it. It builds a strong foundation for your child, not just a "do this because we say so" atmosphere. It's an education built with basis and purpose. I know my child is better for having been involved in it, and I would be extremely disappointed to see the program go.
stephanie pytlowanyj June 13, 2011 at 09:16 PM
OK, it's better to keep the expensive IB program and then have teachers laid off, and student-teacher ratio increased? Makes no sense to me.
Don Rositano June 14, 2011 at 01:41 AM
Again how much? From what I understand most of the costs are front loaded with training. Those expenses have already been paid. It could actually be a profitable program going forward based on the number of new students that are attending because of the program. I know a minimum of 15 Holly Academy Students that are going here because of the program. I have talked to some St. Johns parents who are sending their kids to Fenton instead of Powers because of the program. Does anyone know the real cost or are we all speculating and parroting what we have heard?
stephanie pytlowanyj June 14, 2011 at 12:32 PM
If that is true, regarding the training, won't it occur over and over again if a teacher retires, quits or is laid off? Perhaps you could do the research regarding the costs and present it to this forum. Finally, of course parents will place their child in the public schools if they can't afford Powers. An education at Powers is quite costly, and many, many parents after paying for a Catholic education at the elementary level then place their child in public high school believeing their child has the basics in not only their faith but also in their education.
Fentoniter June 14, 2011 at 12:35 PM
In other words, no, she doesnt know what the costs are.
stephanie pytlowanyj June 14, 2011 at 12:42 PM
LOL I recall reading, a few years back when Peggy Yegger (? spelling) was introducing the program, her stating it was expensive. I also trust the teachers that have indicated it is expensive. I just am not vested enough in this topic to do the research to present the facts and figures; in other words, my children are adults and not in Fenton schools. I, however, am a resident of Fenton, pay taxes and hate to see the waste that continues at the public schools, hence my interest in the subject.

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