By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
Six Albion Public Schools teachers are out of jobs and plans to create two other positions are being scrapped after the school board learned its federal-funding budget is short by about $495,000.
Four of the layoffs are the result of the district having spent more Title 1 funding during the 2009-10 school than anticipated and being left short nearly a half million dollars for next school year.
Director of Administrative Service Mark Deschaine said the district “was planning for closer to 1.7 million dollars” of Title funding, but will have to balance its budget at roughly 1.3 million because of less carryover than expected.
He said the district used an AARA stimulus grant totaling $553,933 to subsidize Title-funded programs last year —a two-year grant that Albion was given all of up front — and the district continued to add programs from the new unallocated funds.
He said federal funding doesn’t officially start coming in until Oct. 1 and district budgets are due July 1, so it’s hard to predict how much federal and state aid will be available.
One of the effects of the newfound shortfall is the district will no longer be hiring a “director of achievement and accountability” which the board created on July 8. The purpose of the position was to bring in a highly qualified individual to oversee the district’s curriculum and as Superintendent Frederick Clarke put it, “to provide leadership and training that leads to more cohesive teaching plans and academic improvement.”
It would have cost the district an estimated $75,000-$85,000 per year plus benefits.
On Tuesday the board rescinded the approval of the position and then with a 5-2 vote it rejected the creation of a “Title I Student Achievement Coaching Specialist,” which Clarke said was a revamped definition of the same position after sending his original proposal to the state.
Board member Shawnette Spicer voted against the proposal, saying she feels “like the community looks at us as people who are just looking at data” and board member Kirk Lee said he’d rather use the budgeted Title funds to call back some of the teachers who recently lost their jobs.
Clarke said he supports the board’s decision, but he’s also disappointed because he thinks a curriculum-focused specialist could have provided the support teachers need to be able to close achievement gaps.
“To put a teacher in place would not be as good a use of funds because then you’d be focusing on just one particular area. This Title Coaching Specialist would have focused on all areas, which you know, we need help in math and reading,” he said.
“All my research tells me this is the right thing to do, it’s the right approach to take when you’re trying to close achievement gaps and you’re trying to move forward, moving schools off of AYP (failure). In my last district we had 18 schools and we moved 13 off the “No AYP list” because of an initiative like this.”
An initiative Clarke is excited about though is the board’s decision to hire a social worker to be an “outreach worker” following a 5-2 vote, where only Kirk and Ruth Valdes voted in opposition.
At the July 8 meeting the board agreed to hire three “outreach workers” but the state told Clarke that the new positions needed to be more “social work oriented” or else they would not meet Title-funding requirements. So instead of being able to hire three new employees for approximately $115,000 the district will likely hire a new union-represented social worker for around $100,000, benefits and all.
The new employee will bridge the gap between school workers and families, by making home visits and keeping in regular contact with them throughout the year. Deschaine said the district will first look to three former APS social workers who were laid off “probably about five years ago”, noting that one has already expressed interest.
Board member James Arnett said this new position should be a vital cog in mending some relationships.
“I’m going to support it because one of the things we haven’t done well, especially at the Sr. High, is let parents know what is going on,” he said. “When a kid is out of line their parents want help and they want to talk about what teachers are doing or not doing. You need this position.”