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Deficit forces school to eliminate positions

Town hall meeting on funding to be held Monday

by Judy Reed

Cuts in per pupil funding by the state of Michigan have forced Cedar Springs Public Schools to eliminate four support staff positions and five certified positions.

According to school superintendent Ron McDermed, they weathered the first cut of $167 per pupil due to a conservative budget plan, but an additional $127 cut was more than they could absorb.

“This resulted in an almost a $500,000 loss to the district,” he said. “Since that time, we’ve been working to thoughtfully balance that deficit.”

McDermed said that the support staff positions being eliminated include one with the Great Start Readiness program, two special education paraprofessionals, and one CBI paraprofessional. He said the state funding for the readiness program had been eliminated and they had been using carryover money for it. One of the special education positions will be taken over by someone else, and the CBI paraprofessional may be taken over by someone else as well.

McDermed said they are hopeful the certified positions will not involve layoffs. Instead those teachers will be moved into other open positions. One is the teacher for the readiness program. “She was moved into a kindergarten position,” he explained. A language arts teacher at the high school was moved into a coaching position, and the other positions have not yet been firmed up. “We’re looking at shifting some positions because a couple of teachers may be resigning mid-year,” he explained.

McDermed noted that the main thing is that they have tried to make the changes minimally disruptive to kids. “Some positions may be subbed out for the remainder of the year, and then be gone come June,” he said.

Frustration over the state of the education budget drove McDermed and many others to the state Capitol in Lansing a couple of weeks ago to voice their concern to our senators and representatives. Out of that came a town hall meeting scheduled for Monday, December 7, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Cedar Springs High School Auditorium.

“We were talking to Senator Mark Jansen and he got called back to the floor,” said McDermed. “I asked him if there was another time we could talk, and he said to call his office and set something up.” That’s what he did, and the Senator and several other politicians and educators agreed to be on hand for the event. The public is invited to attend the education forum and ask questions of the panel, which will include Jansen (28th District), Senator Ron Jelinek (21st District), Representative Tom Pearce (73rd District), Dr. Mike Shibler, Superintendent at Rockford, and several other educators and school board members.

The first part of the meeting will involve the panel answering some preplanned questions, and during the second half the panel will answer written questions from the audience.

McDermed said that the decisions that the school district is having to make right now are the toughest of his tenure so far. (He became the new superintendent July 1.) “I am angry that the State of Michigan has forced our hand, particularly at this time of year, when we should be celebrating the many great things that have happened in our district this past year,” said McDermed. “We need to get that message to our legislatures…mark December 7 on your calendar and let’s fill that auditorium!”

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