Contents of this issue:
Pinckney teachers voluntarily abandon MESSA
Schools get names of employees with criminal backgrounds
Holland discusses closing schools
Tawas questions student drug testing
Ottawa ISD will establish charter school
Katrina evacuees still attending Michigan schools
Professor Jay Greene to speak at Lansing luncheon
PINCKNEY TEACHERS VOLUNTARILY ABANDON MESSA
PINCKNEY, Mich. — Teachers in the Pinckney Community Schools have
agreed to a less expensive health insurance plan in hopes of
cutting costs and saving jobs, according to The Ann Arbor News.
The 280 members of the Pinckney teachers union voted 97 percent
in favor of abandoning the Michigan Education Special Services
Association, a third-party insurance administrator affiliated
with the Michigan Education Association, The News reported.
"We are the first teachers in the area to do this," Gloria Sanch,
chief negotiator for the Pinckney Education Association, told The
News. "That was tough for some of our members, but we understand
the great need to save money. Most of our teachers thought this
Under the new, two-year contract, teachers will get a 1.2 percent
pay increase this year, and 2.8 percent next year, The News
reported. Deductibles for the new Blue Cross Blue Shield Flexible
Blue PPO insurance will be $35 a month, up from the $10 a month
teachers paid under MESSA. The district will reduce costs enough,
however, that teachers will be reimbursed for deductibles,
Assistant Superintendent Brian Higgins told The News.
The union is the latest group in Pinckney Community Schools to
give up MESSA, The News reported. Other bargaining units,
including support staff, custodians and administrators, switched
to Care Choices HMO last year. The change away from MESSA will
help reduce costs in the district by about $800,000, The News
reported, which should be enough to keep staffing at current
levels for the 2006-2007 school year.
The Ann Arbor News, "Pinckney schools may avoid cutbacks,"
Feb. 3, 2006
Michigan Education Report, "Growing number of districts seek
solutions to costly health insurance," Dec. 15, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Earning High Marks for
Privatization in Pinckney," Sept. 1, 1997
SCHOOLS GET NAMES OF EMPLOYEES WITH CRIMINAL BACKGROUNDS
LANSING, Mich. — School districts last week began receiving names
of employees who State Police say match people with criminal
backgrounds in its database, according to the Detroit Free Press
and The Detroit News.
The State Police last month used the names, dates of birth, race,
gender and Social Security numbers of more than 200,000 school
employees to search its database, the Detroit Free Press
reported. Matches with people convicted of crimes were found,
identifying 2,200 felonies and more than 4,600 offenses overall.
The release of the information to individual districts was done
to comply with a new law that requires schools to remove sex
offenders, the Free Press reported.
The largest teachers union in the state, the Michigan Education
Association, asked a judge to block the information from being
released to the media, arguing that fingerprint searches are more
reliable, The Detroit News reported. A Feb. 10 hearing in Lansing
will determine if the judge's temporary order should be made
School districts began getting the information from the
Department of Education late last week. Some districts and many
local teachers unions said they received information that
erroneously accuses employees of having criminal records, the
Free Press reported. Tim Bolles of the State Police told the
newspaper that "false-positives" are possible in such a check,
possibly due to a criminal giving police a fake Social Security
number that ends up matching that of a school employee.
State Superintendent Mike Flanagan on Friday told school
districts to ask local police to conduct a background check on
the names of school employees who dispute their presence on the
list, The News reported.
The Detroit News, "New guidelines help teachers against false
criminal records," Feb. 3, 2006
Detroit Free Press, "Teacher crime records mislead," Feb. 4, 2006
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Parents Still Have an Option
to Check Kids' Safety," Feb. 2, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Court seals data on school employees
with criminal backgrounds," Jan. 31, 2006
, "2005 House Bill 4928 (School Safety package)"
HOLLAND DISCUSSES CLOSING SCHOOLS
HOLLAND, Mich. — Holland Public Schools is considering closing at
least three of its 11 buildings in order to balance its budget,
according to The Grand Rapids Press.
About 100 people on Jan. 30 attended the first of six meetings to
learn more about the proposals. Superintendent Frank Garcia
discussed five different scenarios that could reduce costs $1.4
million to $2.1 million, The Press reported. Garcia's
presentation focused on the number of buildings that could close,
along with the grades and number of students at each school,
rather than specific schools. A final decision could come as
early as Feb. 20.
Garcia said the district has lost about 1,000 students in the
past decade, The Press reported.
The Press said some attendees were not satisfied with the
"There was a lot of jargon and charts without a lot of substance
to the plans," parent Andy Dailey told The Press after the
meeting. "I would have liked to see the choices for closing
schools spelled out in detail. They didn't look very well
The Grand Rapids Press, "First school-closing forum gets mixed
reviews: Holland parents want more details," Jan. 31, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Union e-mail targets community
panel," Jan. 31, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Holland declares second impasse,
teachers get free insurance," Jan. 17, 2006
TAWAS QUESTIONS STUDENT DRUG TESTING
TAWAS, Mich. — School board members in one Iosco County district
are questioning the usefulness of a student drug testing plan,
according to The Bay City Times.
Tawas St. Joseph Health System received a $525,000 grant from the
U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Drug-Free
Schools, The Times reported. The money was provided to establish
a voluntary, random drug and alcohol testing program in Tawas,
Whittemore-Prescott, Hale and Oscoda high schools. Each school
board will have to adopt its own policy in order to participate,
The Times reported.
"If we could apply this money to extracurricular activities and
sports, we'd probably keep more kids off drugs," Tawas Trustee
John Freel told The Times.
Another Tawas board member, Tim Kolnitys, pointed out that
students who are using drugs and alcohol are unlikely to submit
to testing, according to The Times. Kolnitys also said that
students who do not participate could be labeled as drug users.
Toni Lehr, director of St. Joseph's Occupational Health Services,
told school board members the program could be of great use to
students who may not be using drugs and alcohol, but are having
difficulties with peer pressure, The Times reported.
Participation requires student and parental consent, according to
The Times. Positive test results would be known only by the
student, their parents and health officials. No punishment would
be involved, but counseling would be recommended.
The grant is the only one awarded in Michigan, and one of 55
nationally, the newspaper said.
The Bay City Times, "Tawas school board members question new
drug-testing plan," Jan. 25, 2006
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Dare to Privatize DARE,"
Sept. 1, 1998
Michigan Education Digest, "U.S. Supreme Court to consider school
drug testing policies," March 19, 2002
OTTAWA ISD WILL ESTABLISH CHARTER SCHOOL
HOLLAND, Mich. — The Ottawa Area Intermediate School District
will charter a public school academy focused on alternative
education with a vocational emphasis, according to The Grand
West Ottawa Public Schools and Zeeland Public Schools closed
their alternative high schools last year, incorporating elements
of those programs into their conventional high schools. In
addition, Holland Public Schools plans to close its alternative
school, The Press reported.
Ottawa ISD Superintendent Karen McPhee told The Press that the
ISD proposed a countywide alternative high school four years ago,
but there was not enough interest among local districts. Area
superintendents brought the issue back to life eight months ago,
and all member districts have approved the idea.
The Press reported that parents and students say alternative high
schools are more effective if they are run separately from
conventional high schools. The new program will probably have 120
to 150 students, McPhee said.
The Grand Rapids Press, "OAISD to charter alternative high
school," Jan. 23, 2006
Michigan Education Report, "What Are Intermediate School
Districts?" Feb. 10, 2000
Michigan Education Digest, "ISD officials criticize recent
legislation at press conference," Jan. 4, 2005
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Eliminate Intermediate School
Districts," Aug. 21, 2003
KATRINA EVACUEES STILL ATTENDING MICHIGAN SCHOOLS
LANSING, Mich. — About 500 students whose families left New
Orleans after Hurricane Katrina are still attending school in
Michigan, according to Booth Newspapers.
About 100 districts across Michigan, including some in the Upper
Peninsula, agreed to take in displaced students, Booth reported.
The largest concentration, 70, is in Detroit.
Meg Casperson, director of communications for the Louisiana
Department of Education, told Booth that more than 70,000
Louisiana students are spread across 46 states. The majority of
them are in Texas, which has 44,000.
As part of the federal hurricane disaster relief, schools will
get $6,000 for each general education student they took in and
$7,500 for each special education student, Booth reported. The
money is available to both public and independent schools.
Rose Clark, 32, and her husband Leland Showers, 35, moved with
their family of four children to Grand Ledge after a church there
offered the use of a vacant parsonage for one year, Booth
reported. Both say they would like to stay in Michigan.
"If I could find housing here, I would stay," Clark told Booth.
"The environment is calmer, as opposed to a big city like New
Showers added that he thinks his children are getting a better
education than in New Orleans.
Booth Newspapers, "Michigan schools harbor Katrina evacuees,"
Jan. 25, 2006
Michigan Education Digest, "Schools can count Katrina evacuees
for funding," Sept. 20, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Michigan schools take in hurricane
evacuees," Sept. 13, 2005
Michigan Education Digest, "Lansing schools offer help to Katrina
evacuees," Sept. 6, 2005
PROFESSOR JAY GREENE TO SPEAK AT LANSING LUNCHEON
MIDLAND, Mich. — Noted author and researcher Jay Greene will be
the keynote speaker for a Feb. 9 Issues & Ideas luncheon in
Lansing, hosted by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Greene received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is chair of
the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas,
as well as a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He will
speak about his book, "Education Myths," which details 18
commonly held misconceptions about education reform, including
the impact of class size, teacher pay and certification.
Lunch is free with reservation. The event runs from noon to 1
p.m. in the Mackinac Room on the fifth floor of the Anderson
House Office Building, 124 North Capitol. Call (989) 631-0900 for
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, "Issues & Ideas Luncheon"
Manhattan Institute, "Education Myths"
MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education
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