By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Amid declining enrollment and uncertainties regarding future state funding, the Albion School Board passed a resolution Tuesday that allows it to lay off up to nine full-time teachers.
The district has until August to provide teachers layoff notices, but board member James Arnett said it is a fluid situation that could change in the coming months.
“I would reinforce the idea that this is a resolution that allows the contractual demands so that we can lay off if we need to,” he said. “If something changes between this date and the end of the school year, if somehow funding is adjusted … this doesn’t mean nine people will be laid off, this allows the administration to lay off up that number of people.”
The district had 1,022 students enrolled as of February, down 101 students from the previous February. The district’s state funding level will be determined by a blended count, taking 25 percent of the February count and 75 percent of the count the following fall.
Based on current state funding levels, a loss of 100 students equals about $700,000 in lost state revenue.
Superintendent Frederick Clarke said the district needs to save $600,000 to $700,000 for the 2010-11 school year budget and cutting programs is not an option.
“Right now we’re trying to save positions and be creative and still maintain the rigor we want to make sure our students have,” he said. “We’ve put down nine positions and we’re looking at maybe seven positions, but again, that’s depending on title funding.
“Through some (stimulus) funding that’s going to pass over to next year that will enable us to hopefully bring some of those people back.”
The board was originally seeking a resolution that would allow it to lay off up to 11 full-time teachers but determined no more than nine could be cut if the district wanted to keep the same academic rigors at the high school level.
Clarke, who said he has already spoken to teachers who are most likely to be affected, said predicting future funding from Lansing is like “trying to lob water balloons into a go-cart that is going by.”
Clarke noted that several teachers in the district are contemplating retirement, and those decisions will play a role in the number of jobs lost.
Several citizens and Michigan Education Uniserv Director Tara Wilbur spoke Tuesday of their concern about the direction of the school district, but none made specific statements regarding layoffs.
Clarke said he and the board will continue to look at other ways to save money with the community’s help, but hard decisions have to be made.
“It is by far the worst part of being superintendent — having to sit down with very highly qualified individuals and tell them due to finances we have to let you go,” he said. “It impacts the children, and I keep the Kleenex nearby because it’s not a pleasant experience.”