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.