Contents of this issue:


  • No contract yet at CMU, court ruling expires Wednesday
  • More districts eye social media policies
  • Pontiac district found to be $24 million in debt
  • Reading Corps planned in Taylor
  • Muskegon district seeks to turn over museum to foundation

No Contract yet at CMU, Strike Ban Expires Wednesday


MT. PLEASANT, Mich. — A judge's ruling prohibiting a strike by faculty at Central Michigan University expires on Wednesday, with no agreement yet between university administration and the faculty union on a new contract, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The union would not say last week whether it will go on strike again, as it did for one day at the beginning of the school year before a judge ordered professors back to work, the Free Press reported.

Both the administration and the union have rejected each other's final offer, according to the Free Press. The university's final offer was a three-year contract with no raise the first year, a 2.25 percent raise the second year and a 2.5 percent raise the third year, while the union has offered a one-year pay freeze during which time the sides would continue to negotiate a contract for future years, the Free Press reported.

A state fact-finder issued a report earlier this month that mostly favored the administration's offer, but those recommendations are not binding, the Free Press reported.

SOURCE:

Detroit Free Press, “Central Michigan faculty could strike next week over contract impasse,” Nov. 24, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “CMU Strike: Standing Firm is Not Bad Faith,” Aug. 22, 2011


More Districts Eye Social Media Policies


MUSKEGON, Mich. — Muskegon Public Schools employees could be suspended or fired for posting pictures at social media sites of people using alcohol or drugs, The Muskegon Chronicle reported. Other school districts are considering similar policies.

Muskegon's new policy says that because the district’s reputation could be damaged by employees' online activities, the district will investigate cases brought to its attention by parents, colleagues, news media, students or the public at large, according to The Chronicle.

“I think it's going to be statewide,” attorney Gary Britton told The Chronicle, referring to school district policies on social networking activity. Britton represents Muskegon and several other area districts.

Muskegon Superintendent Jon Felske told The Chronicle that the district will encourage employees to use social media sites in professional ways, such as to post homework assignments or communicate with students. However, the policy prohibits “fraternizing” with students as if “they were peers,” The Chronicle reported.

SOURCE:

The Muskegon Chronicle, “Personal drinking photos could get teachers fired in Muskegon,” Nov. 23, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Michigan Education Digest, “Principal sees potential in Facebook,” Aug. 30, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, “Teacher resigns in Facebook flap,” Jan. 23, 2009


Pontiac District Found to be $24 Million in Debt


PONTIAC, Mich. — Facing a budget deficit that has swelled to $24 million, the Pontiac School District is considering staffing reductions and health care changes, according to The Oakland Press. The district must submit a revised deficit elimination plan to the state by Dec. 6.

The district anticipated a deficit of about $10 million as of June 30, 2011, but the latest estimate is $24.5 million, The Detroit News reported separately.

While district revenue has declined, district spending has not, interim financial officer Paul Bryant said at a recent meeting, The Press reported. Bryant is employed with Plante Moran and has been assigned to the district since the spring of 2011, according to The Press.

For example, Bryant said that the district received $7 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to employ teachers in 2009 and 2010, but when those funds ran out, the district retained the teachers and paid them out of its general fund, The Press reported.

Now the district is considering privatizing, staff reductions and school closings, The News reported. Bryant said the school board also could consider asking voters for a sinking fund millage and making money-saving changes to employee health care plans, according to The Press.

The district plans to conduct a health insurance audit and a payroll audit to determine “whether people working in the district are the only ones getting paid,” The Press reported.

SOURCES:

The Detroit News, “Pontiac schools' interim superintendent resigns amid deficit controversy,” Nov. 23, 2011

Oakland Press, “Pontiac School board reviews deficit elimination,” Nov. 22, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Privatization Growth Spurs Savings,” Dec. 15, 2010


Reading Corps Planned in Taylor


TAYLOR, Mich. — A district judge is spearheading a volunteer Reading Corps in the Taylor School District, saying that helping children become better learners means he will see fewer of them across the bench, according to The (Southgate) News-Herald.

“There is a direct correlation between a person’s lack of education and the increased probability of becoming a defendant (in court),” Judge Geno Salomone told The News-Herald.

The nonprofit organization will train volunteers to work with preschoolers and kindergartners for 30 minutes a week to improve reading and learning skills, The News-Herald reported. Volunteers will be asked to make a four-year commitment.

This year, at least half of the 450 new kindergarteners need such assistance, The News-Herald reported.

SOURCE:

The (Southgate) News-Herald, “TAYLOR: Reading Corps reaching out to students and community,” Nov. 23, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Michigan Education Digest, “Hundreds volunteer to teach DPS students,” Dec. 15, 2009


Muskegon District Seeks to Turn Over Museum to Foundation


MUSKEGON, Mich. — Muskegon Public Schools plans to turn over ownership of the Muskegon Museum of Art to the museum foundation, according to The Muskegon Chronicle.

The district spends $100,000 annually in school operating funds on the museum, The Chronicle reported.

That would change if Attorney General Bill Schuette and the local probate judge agree to a joint petition from the district and foundation to transfer the museum building, art collection, a bequeathed trust and earnings from a second trust fund to the foundation, according to the report.

A trust bequeathed by philanthropist Charles H. Hackley to the Muskegon Board of Education began the collection, and that “picture fund” continues to pay for additions, according to The Chronicle. That fund would be transferred to the foundation, The Chronicle reported.

The district also will continue to give the museum the interest earnings from a separate trust fund as long as the museum continues to provide educational programs for students, according to The Chronicle.

Under the agreement, the museum would agree never to sell or transfer certain “legacy works,” including Edward Hopper's "New York Restaurant” and Winslow Homer's “Answering the Horn,” according to The Chronicle.

SOURCE:

The Muskegon Chronicle, “School district, Muskegon Museum of Art going to court over transfer agreement,” Nov. 23, 2011

FURTHER READING:

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “Art Needs No State Subsidies,” Oct. 30, 2009


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report, an online newspaper published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at med@educationreport.org

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