Contents of this issue:

  • Traverse City puts bargaining details online
  • Ypsilanti deficit trending upward
  • Saline to try again on bond issue
  • Students would pay more to play in Bloomfield Hills
  • District pilots ‘standards-based’ grading

Traverse City Puts Bargaining Details Online

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — In a move intended to increase transparency, Traverse City Public Schools will post online the proposals made by the district and its unionized employees during contract talks, according to the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

A proposal made by the Traverse City Transportation Association has already been posted, and the district's response was expected shortly after a negotiating session today, the Record-Eagle reported.

District officials said the move is intended to increase visibility, according to the Record-Eagle. Superintendent Steve Cousins said posting the proposals is the "next logical step" in informing the public how taxpayer dollars are spent, the Record-Eagle reported.

"We have nothing to hide," Mary McGee-Cullen, president of the Traverse City Education Association, told the Record-Eagle. "Our contracts are already posted online."

The transportation employees have proposed 2 percent wage increases in each of three years — two of them retroactively — as well as changes in retirement, severance and compensation for canceled school days, the Record-Eagle reported.

Traverse City Record Eagle, “TCAPS contract proposals made public,” Nov. 26, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, “Public Can’t See New Pact before Board Vote,” Nov. 20, 2010

Ypsilanti Deficit Trending Upward

YPSILANTI, Mich. — Ypsilanti Public School District could face a $14.6 million deficit by 2013 if current financial projections hold true, The Ypsilanti Courier reported.

This year the district will spend $4.6 million more than it takes in, and more debt will accumulate in future years unless there are significant changes, chief financial officer David Houle reported at a school board meeting, according to The Courier.

Houle said the projections of future deficits are based on both conservative and optimistic estimates, The Courier reported. The numbers anticipate further declining enrollment, but generally stable per-pupil state funding after 2011. They do not include any teacher or staff increases, according to The Courier.

Personnel costs currently account for 79 percent of the district budget, an audit showed, according to The Courier.

The district now must file a Deficit Elimination Plan with the state, and administrators said they are open to ideas from residents on how to cut spending, The Courier reported.

The Ypsilanti Courier, “YPSILANTI: Schools facing deficits over next five years,” Nov. 23, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, “Board votes for higher-priced union labor,” Jan. 14, 2009

Saline to Try Again on Bond Issue

SALINE, Mich. — Saline Area Schools residents will vote in February on a $22 million bond issue for capital improvements, after turning down a similar $25 million request in August, according to The Saline Reporter.

The money would be used for such projects as heating and cooling upgrades, security, bus purchases and technology upgrades, according to The Reporter.

Superintendent Scot Graden said that voters who turned down the August request said they wanted more specific information about how the money would be spent and also that they were concerned about the economy in general as well as the district's own financial status, according to The Reporter.

The district will host community forums to discuss the new proposal, Graden said, according to The Reporter.

The Saline Reporter, "SALINE: School district to return with scaled-back bond request," Nov. 25, 2010

Michigan Capitol Confidential, "School Advocacy in Bond Elections Questioned," Nov. 1, 2010

Students Would Pay More to Play in Bloomfield Hills

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. — A “deficit prevention plan” under consideration in Bloomfield Hills Public Schools would require students to pay 10 percent more to participate in sports and clubs, and also eliminate athletic transportation, according to The Oakland Press.

The plan is intended to make up for a projected $270-per-pupil reduction in revenue, Assistant Superintendent Tim Weeks told the school board, according to The Press.

High school and middle school athletes would pay a flat fee of $165 and $110, respectively, if the plan is adopted, The Press reported. Club participation would cost $55 for high schoolers and $33 at the middle school. Those fees, plus savings on transportation, would total $56,000, The Press reported.

Weeks also has proposed eliminating two “world language” teaching positions to reduce spending by about $151,000, according to The Press.

The district anticipates revenue of $79.2 million in 2011-2012, but $82.7 million in spending, The Press reported. To address the gap, the district also plans to use $1.2 million in “rainy-day” funding that originally was slated for use in 2010-2011, but “ended up as surplus money,” according to The Press.

The Oakland Press, “Bloomfield Hills students could pay more to play,” Nov. 26, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, “Bloomfield Hills district receives union concessions after seeking bids,” Dec. 4, 2009

District Pilots ‘Standards-Based’ Grading

BAY CITY, Mich. — “Standards-based” grading is being piloted in Bangor Township School District in Bay County, a system in which students are graded on topics within each academic subject, a researcher told The Bay City Times.

Some parents have questioned the system, The Times reported, while school officials have said it is intended to grade students on their ability to apply what they learn to real-world examples.

Superintendent Shawn Bishop said the school district is using research from Robert J. Marzano, education researcher and author of “Transforming Classroom Grading,” according to The Times.

In an interview, Marzano told The Times that the standards-based approach evaluates students on various topics within each subject, with the option of also assigning an overall grade. Marzano compared it to evaluating baseball players separately on hitting, fielding and home runs, rather than giving them a single rating.

He said that single grades can be deceptive because of varying approaches among teachers, such as how much weight to give homework or how much extra credit to allow, The Times reported.

Marzano said the system does require more record keeping by teachers, but that the extra data allows them to spot trends in student performance, according to The Times.

The Bay City Times, “Q&A: Standards-based grading expert Robert Marzano talks about Bangor Township Schools new grading system,” Nov. 23, 2010

Michigan Education Digest, “GR: ‘H’ plan didn’t turn around grades,” April 22, 2009

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

Contact Managing Editor Lorie Shane at mailto:med@educationreport.org

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