Contents of this issue:
  • National Spelling Bee on television Thursday night

  • District hires most qualified teacher, despite union outcry

  • Benefits key to Gull Lake labor dispute

  • School board members did not vote on defeated tax

  • Climax-Scotts could privatize principal's job

  • Ypsilanti could save $700,000 with competitive busing contract

  • Mackinac Center Debate Workshops to award scholarships again


NATIONAL SPELLING BEE ON TELEVISION THURSDAY NIGHT
WASHINGTON — The finals of the National Spelling Bee will be shown live from 8-10 p.m. Thursday on ABC, according to ABC News.

Some 275 students, ages 9 to 15, will complete. The winner will receive $30,000 in money and scholarships, ABC reported.

"I think we're ready for prime time and I think America is ready for spelling bees in prime time, too," Paige Kimball, the bee's director who also is the 1981 champion, told ABC.

For the past dozen years, sports channel ESPN has televised the second day of the bee. This year, ESPN will show final round coverage the afternoon of June 1, with ABC showing the championship rounds that evening.

Books, plays and movies about spelling bees have gained in popularity since the National Spelling Bee has been televised, ABC reported. Students from across the US, American Samoa, the Bahamas, Canada, Europe, Guam, Jamaica, New Zealand, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands qualified for this year's event.

There are 13 Michigan students competing this year, according to the Detroit Free Press. Forrest Brazeal of Clarkston, one of three home school students from Michigan in this year's bee, tied for 28th place at the 2005 event.

SOURCES:
ABC News, "ABC to show spelling bee in prime time," May 26, 2006
http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory?id=1917204

Detroit Free Press, "Spelling bee generating more buzz," May 30, 2006
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060530/NEWS01/605300376/1003

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "Phonics, Whole Language and Literacy: The Alphabet and American Education," Feb. 10, 2000
http://www.educationreport.org/2697

Michigan Education Report, "Teacher throws away the book on literacy," Nov. 1, 2000
http://www.educationreport.org/3124


DISTRICT HIRES MOST QUALIFIED TEACHER, DESPITE UNION OUTCRY
WYOMING, Mich. — The Godwin Heights Public Schools hired a retired teacher, who does not belong to the union, because he was the most qualified candidate, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

Tom Meyer, who teaches Advanced Placement biology, took a $30,000 buyout after the 2004-2005 school year, then signed an independent contract for $77,000 to return to the classroom this year, The Press reported.

"We did not have anyone who had taken AP training for biology," former Superintendent Patrick Murphy told The Press. "So I talked to him to see if he would come back for 2005-06. He agreed."

Current Superintendent Valdi Gailitis re-approved the contract when he was hired.

"For me, there were no red flags," Gailitis told The Press. "It helped the district and it helped Tom as well. We were concerned about losing him."

The teachers union filed a complaint, alleging the district illegally negotiated with Meyer, according to The Press. Murphy told the newspaper Meyer was not a member of the union after his retirement, so the district was within its rights.

"I'm sure that will be determined at the labor-practices hearing," Murphy told The Press.

SOURCE:
The Grand Rapids Press, "Godwin Heights teachers union protests illegal negotiations," May 21, 2006
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-29/114819417017470.xml?grpress?NEG&coll=6

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Time to Take Another Look at Teacher Certification," April 5, 2004
http://www.mackinac.org/6470

Michigan Education Report, "Labor contracts hurting Michigan teachers and schools, study says," Nov. 2, 1998
http://www.educationreport.org/771


BENEFITS KEY TO GULL LAKE LABOR DISPUTE
RICHLAND, Mich. — Salary and benefit disagreements have yet to be settled in the Gull Lake school district, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

Superintendent Rich Ramsey said the teachers union is demanding to keep its current health care coverage, which he calls "the Cadillac of insurance," the Gazette reported.

School board Trustee David Kreager said personnel costs account for more than 81 percent of the district's $24 million budget, and will increase next year by $1 million even if salaries remain the same, according to the Gazette.

The district and union have met nine times since last summer, and have scheduled a fourth meeting with a state mediator, the Gazette reported.

SOURCE:
Kalamazoo Gazette, "Gull Lake teachers air contract concerns," May 22, 2006
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-0/1148318545289080.xml?kzgazette?HTEN&coll=7

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Report, "School districts wrestle high health care costs," March 7, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7611

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "MESSA Reference Page," March 10, 2006
http://www.mackinac.org/7643


SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS DID NOT VOTE ON DEFEATED TAX
BIRCH RUN, Mich. — Two Birch Run school board members did not vote May 2, a day that saw a $1 million non-homestead tax issue in their district lose by nearly 80 votes, according to The Saginaw News.

Rodney McNalley, president, and Michael Braun, treasurer, did not vote, The News reported. The ballot measure was defeated 231-153. The 18-mill levy on commercial property, second homes and some agricultural land will be given a second chance in the August election.

McNalley told The News a "family issue" kept him from voting. The newspaper could not reach Braun for comment.

If the millage fails again in August, the district could cut four administrator positions, reduce busing and implement pay-to-play fees for athletics, The News reported.

SOURCE:
The Saginaw News, "Two board members did not vote," May 19, 2006
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-19/1148044947254890.xml?sanews?NECN&coll=9

FURTHER READING:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Secret Ballot?" May 22, 2006
http://www.mackinac.org/7708

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "A Voter's Checklist for School Elections," April 28, 2006
http://www.mackinac.org/7688


CLIMAX-SCOTTS COULD PRIVATIZE PRINCIPAL'S JOB
CLIMAX, Mich. — The Climax-Scotts Community Schools could sign a competitive contract with an intermediate school principal as part of an overall cost-saving plan, according to the Kalamazoo Gazette.

The district is anticipating a $234,000 deficit next year, and could save $20,000 on benefit and retirement costs by contracting for the position, the Gazette reported. The district also is considering cutting four positions for a savings of $146,000, reducing custodial hours, which could save $19,500, and moving the fourth grade class to the elementary building, thereby eliminating one bus run and saving $8,000, according to the Gazette.

SOURCE:
Kalamazoo Gazette, "Climax-Scotts school board looks for $234,000 in cuts," May 22, 2006
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-0/1148318465289080.xml?kzgazette?HTEN&coll=7

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Ypsilanti could privatize top administrators," Jan. 17, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7551

Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Survey: School Outsourcing Grows," Aug. 1, 2005
http://www.mackinac.org/7212


YPSILANTI COULD SAVE $700,000 WITH COMPETITIVE BUSING CONTRACT
YPSILANTI, Mich. — Ypsilanti Public Schools could save $700,000 if it signs a competitive contract with a private busing company, according to The Ann Arbor News.

Ypsilanti, Willow Run and Lincoln schools are considering a joint privatization of busing services, since all three are located in Washtenaw County. Ypsilanti is looking to erase a $4.6 million budget deficit, The News reported.

Ypsilanti Superintendent James Hawkins said the savings could be realized through lower salary and maintenance costs, according to The News.

SOURCE:
The Ann Arbor News, "Pooling of school bus service proposed," May 23, 2006
http://www.mlive.com/search/index.ssf?/base/news-3/114839525632760.xml?aanews?NEY&coll=2

FURTHER READING:
Michigan Education Digest, "Districts consider busing contracts," March 21, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7653

Michigan Education Digest, "Muskegon ISD looking to privatize busing," March 7, 2006
http://www.educationreport.org/7639

Michigan Education Digest, "GRPS private busing gets positive reviews," Sept. 6, 2005
http://www.educationreport.org/7344


MACKINAC CENTER DEBATE WORKSHOPS TO AWARD SCHOLARSHIPS AGAIN
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy will again award four $1,000 college scholarships to the winners of an essay contest following this year's High School Debate Workshops.

Workshops are scheduled for Sept. 25-28 in Livonia, Jackson, Grand Rapids and Traverse City. Essays will be judged by a panel, and authors of the winning essays will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Students must attend a workshop to apply. For further details please call (989) 631-0900.


MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (http://www.educationreport.org), a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of nearly 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (http://www.mackinac.org), a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at
mailto:med@educationreport.org

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