Education

3:31 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

Activist to crawl on hands and knees to Albion High School

Lead in text: 
49 schools districts in Michigan are in the red. Albion is not one of them. To avoid the red numbers, the district cut their high school.
Community activist Bobby Holley plans to leave Battle Creek Central High School at 10 a.m. May 28 and crawl on hands and knees to Albion High School to protest that school's closure and rally community support for the school. Holley said it could take him two days to crawl from Battle Creek, through Marshall, and to Albion.
Education
1:28 pm
Wed May 22, 2013

77 percent of students return to troubled Buena Vista school district

Sarah Alvarez Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista School District reopened on Monday after closing for two weeks due to a financial crisis. 

Of the 400 students that attended the school district before the closure, 77.5 percent have returned, according to Lindsay Knake at MLive:

Superintendent Deborah Hunter-Harvill said the there are 339 students back in school this week, including 151 students at Doerr Child Development Center, 97 students at Phoenix Science & Technology Center and 91 students at the high school.

"We have to keep working to receive high school students back," she said. 

The high school had about 160 students prior to the school closings, and is missing 40 to 50 students including the 25 graduating seniors, Hunter-Harvill said. There are 29 students missing at Doerr and 10 missing at Phoenix.

"Come back to us," Hunter-Harvill asked students at a community meeting on Tuesday, May 21. "Believe in us."

Knake also reports that five employees who were laid off were recalled:

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Education
10:29 am
Wed May 22, 2013

New student safety hotline aims to stop school violence before it happens

user BES Photos Flickr

State officials say students need new and better ways to report threats of school violence. Officials plan to create a new anonymous tip-line that would include a mobile app for tech-savvy teens.

The program would let students send in tips by phone, text message, email, or the mobile app - which accepts photos and videos.

They call “OK-2-SAY”.

Michigan State Police Director Kriste Etue says it’s crucial to remove as many barriers as possible for teens with possibly life-saving information.

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Stateside
4:44 pm
Tue May 21, 2013

New unified school district superintendent in Ypsilanti speaks

Scott Menzel
annarbor.com

An interview with Scott Menzel, superintendent of the new unified district Ypsilanti Community Schools.

The litany of school districts in serious money trouble is long and growing longer: Buena Vista, Benton Harbor, Detroit, Pontiac, Albion.

Now we hear that Hazel Park schools are broke, according to the Superintendent, who blames an "unexpected drop" in student enrollment.

Close to fifty public school districts across our state are facing deep deficits. Buena Vista actually closed down for two weeks while scrambling to find enough money to keep things running.

Other districts have implemented layoffs and program cuts.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. And some say Michigan has too many school districts, and that consolidating some of these districts is a prudent choice.

Last year, the state encouraged Ypsilanti and nearby Willow Run schools to consolidate.

After tough decisions regarding layoffs, staff restructuring and closing buildings, the consolidation will happen July 1.

Scott Menzel is the superintendent of the Washtenaw Intermediate School District and, come July 1, he will be the superintendent of the new unified district: Ypsilanti Community Schools.

He joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Stateside
5:00 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Consolidation is a viable option for some Michigan school districts, but not all

Is consolidation something that will work for struggling school districts?
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

An interview with Eric Scoresone, an economist at Michigan State University, and Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing.

Michigan schools have been in headlines for a while now: For many, the mention of Buena Vista schools instantly calls up an image of a closed public school.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Eric Scoresone, an economist at Michigan State University, and Michelle Richard, a senior consultant at Public Sector Consultants in Lansing.

One of the biggest problems for schools is receiving funding based on a per student basis, Richard said.

"There were 1,000 students at Buena Vista in 2009-2010, and now there are only 400. You can only cut so quickly and if you don't have kids in seats then you are forced to make challenging decisions."

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Stateside
4:58 pm
Mon May 20, 2013

Current Buena Vista teacher and former student is hopeful for the district

Tory Jackson is the men's basketball coach at Buena Vista high school.
Twitter

An interview with Tory Jackson on the future of Buena Vista.

In the Buena Vista school district, teachers are back in the business of teaching and students are back in the business of learning for the first time in two weeks.

It has been two weeks since the Buena Vista school board laid off all but three staff members and closed down the schools, because there was just no money to keep things running.

It took a new deficit-elimination plan and the state releasing three months of state aid that had been withheld to recoup funding for a program for incarcerated youth. The district had stopped running the program, but had not notified Lansing.

It's convoluted and confusing, but in all of these news stories and headlines there is one crystal-clear reality: students are suffering.

So are their teachers, who actually offered to work without pay.

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Education
10:58 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Buena Vista schools reopen, but financial future uncertain

Buena Vista's website announcing school opens today.

Students and teachers in the Buena Vista School District are back in the classroom today.

After a two-week closure of the Saginaw County district, all three schools in the district opened their doors Monday morning. To make up for lost instruction time, the school year will now end on June 21, instead of the scheduled June 13, MLive reported.

The district shut down after the state pulled some $400,000 in misappropriated funding.

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Education
1:22 pm
Fri May 17, 2013

The 15 Michigan schools running the biggest deficits

Carstens Elementary-Middle School in Detroit.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Bake sales, magazine subscriptions and car washes ... it seems school systems are perennially low on money.

But with one Michigan school system closing its doors before the school year ends, others consolidating to save money, and still another giving up on its high school; Michigan schools seem to be in an especially bad spot.

Blame gets spread around.

It's the economy - mismanagement - declining enrollment - excessive funding cuts - high retiree costs - or cumbersome union contracts.

Pick whatever reason you like best, it doesn't change the fact that many Michigan schools are in trouble.

The State's Deputy Superintendent of Schools wrote this in a recent memo to local school officials:

"... we have seen a marked increase in the number of districts that have experienced a deficit fund balance. The magnitude of some of these districts seems almost insurmountable."

Let's give it a little perspective.

Over the last decade, here are the number of schools that ran a deficit in a given school year.

Michigan had 742 school districts in 2002-2003. Today, the state has 805 districts.

Of the 805 districts today, as the chart shows, 49 are running deficits.

Here are the fifteen schools in Michigan with the biggest projected budget deficits as a percentage of their expected overall revenue. It should be noted that these numbers could change as the school year advances.

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Education
12:52 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Michigan high school bans baby bump photos from yearbook

A pregnant couple.
mich.gov Michigan Government

Two teens were banned from showing their pregnant bellies in yearbook photos, the Associated Press reported:

A Michigan school district has barred two pregnant students from showing their baby bumps in the high school yearbook — a decision made to keep with the state's abstinence-based approach to sex education, according to the superintendent.

Deonna Harris says she was pulled aside this week by a yearbook staff member and told her photo would have to be re-taken because the previous shot displayed Harris' pregnant belly.

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Education
12:15 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

'Massive' teacher layoffs planned in Pontiac, Flint

A school in Flint, Mich.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The Flint School District is planning over one hundred layoffs, the Flint Journal reported.

139 teachers and faculty in Flint will receive pink slips, with the staff cuts going into effect the day after school gets out on June 10.

While the interim superintendent emphasized the possible rehiring of many of these teachers at the end of June, the school district’s deficit reduction plan calls for firing 150 teachers over the next three years.

The Flint School District has three years to chop away at a $15.6-million deficit. If the deficit isn’t eliminated by their 2015 deadline, the district could lose state funding.

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11:04 am
Thu May 16, 2013

Former President George W. Bush helps to raise $400,000 for GR school

Lead in text: 
Former President George W. Bush spoke Wednesday to a crowd of roughly 900 during the second annual Leaders of Tomorrow Gala in Grand Rapids. The event raised $400,000 to support the West Michigan Aviation Academy, a school founded by Dick DeVos.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI - Former President George W. Bush Wednesday charmed a crowd of 900 attending the second annual West Michigan Aviation Academy's Leaders of Tomorrow Gala with his candor and trademark wit.
Education
4:34 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Mid-year public school closings rare nationwide

The Buena Vista School Board meets.
Sarah Alvarez Michigan Radio

A public school in Michigan closing before the year ends isn't just a state story.

The Washington Post picked up on the troubles of the Buena Vista school district in a piece by Lyndsey Layton today.

Layton looks at how often these kinds of closings happen around the country:

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Education
2:42 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Michigan economy in 4th year of recovery, housing up

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Economists say Michigan's economy is turning around for the fourth straight year in part because the housing sector is on the mend.

University of Michigan experts told state lawmakers Wednesday that employment grew significantly faster in the past two years than previously estimated.

Michigan's unemployment rate dropped 1.3 percentage points in 2012 and is expected to continue gradually declining.

The downside is the state's jobless rate is high, above where it was before the national downturn in the economy in 2008.

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Education
12:02 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Buena Vista schools get aid from state, doors will open today

Parents and children embrace during a Buena Vista School Board meeting.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Students at Saginaw County's Buena Vista school district may be back in the classroom soon. The state has approved the district's plan to bring itself out of debt.

State Superintendent Mike Flanagan has approved the release of state aid funds to the Buena Vista school district.

The district hasn't held class since May 3 because it ran out of money to pay its teachers. Last night the Buena Vista board of education approved a deficit elimination plan.

Flanagan says he is now encouraging the local school board and administration to reopen the doors as soon as possible. The state will release state aid to Buena Vista on May 20th, allowing the district to make payroll on May 24th.

The aid will put an end to any discussion of a “Plan B” that was developed earlier this week to have Buena Vista students use federal money to attend a skills camp over the summer.

The schools will be open today for those students who qualify for free meals.

Education
11:19 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Emergency manager for Detroit schools extends his stay

Roy Roberts
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

Detroit Public Schools Emergency Manager Roy Roberts was supposed to leave his post tomorrow. 

Today, he announced he will stay on the job for another six months.

In a letter to the staff at Detroit Public Schools, Roberts said Gov. Rick Snyder agreed to extend his contract.

Many of you are probably asking yourselves why I requested this contract extension. My answer is really quite simple, and is the reason I took this job in the first place – it’s about educating the children of Detroit.

DPS is on a good trajectory, with improved test scores and graduation rates, a balanced budget, and a solid
strategic plan, developed by all of us, that focuses on neighborhood-centered, quality schools. I want to do everything I can to ensure that we complete this school year in keeping with this trajectory – and help begin the preparation for an even more successful 2013-14 academic and fiscal year.

The Detroit News reports that Roberts will work on a budget for the coming school year for the district "which educates about 53,000 students and grapples with a graduation rate of less than 70 percent."

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Education
1:01 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Budget deficit forcing school officials to close Albion High School

Some students cried when the vote to close the high school was taken at last night's Albion School Board meeting.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Albion School Board voted last night to close the district’s high school.

Beginning this fall, the mid-Michigan district will only serve students in grades K through eight.

Some students cried.  Others just shook their heads, after the school board voted 5 to 1, with one abstention, to close Albion High School.

School board members said repeatedly they didn’t want to close the school, but a projected million dollar budget deficit could not be ignored.

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Education
12:59 am
Wed May 15, 2013

There's more money in Michigan's school aid fund, but should it be spent on schools on the brink?

(file photo)
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Battle Creek State Senator Mike Nofs says he doesn’t think higher than expected revenue in the school aid fund should be used to bail out struggling school districts.

Nofs says at today’s revenue estimating conference, state officials will announce the school aid fund has nearly $100 million more than predicted.

Nofs expects there will be push to use that money to help the struggling Pontiac and Buena Vista school districts. But he says that’s not a good idea.

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Education
12:51 am
Wed May 15, 2013

Buena Vista schools approve plan, await state action

Buena Vista Superintendent Deborah Hunter-Harvill and School Board President Randy Jackson at Tuesday night's tension-filled emergency meeting.
Sarah Alvarez Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista School District unceremoniously shut down ten days ago, sending staff and students home for the year after the district ran out of money.

At Tuesday night’s emergency school board meeting there was almost universal confusion about what happens next. 

The school board unanimously approved a deficit elimination plan they hope will allow state aid payments to start up again so students can get back in the classroom. 

If that doesn't work, the board grudgingly approved a plan for a summer "skills building camp," in lieu of traditional classroom time.

Nobody at the meeting seemed very happy about that option.

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Education
3:47 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Buena Vista's school year could be saved under a new plan

Parents and children embrace during a Buena Vista School Board meeting.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

An entire school district closing before the school year ends is a bit of a black eye for public education in Michigan.

Just on perception alone, you would think politicians and administrators would jump to fix the problem. Instead, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett pointed out, many just put up their hands.

Now, some news of movement.

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Education
4:46 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Buena Vista school district to use federal funds for 'summer camps'

Student artwork given to Buena Vista kindergarten teacher Marci Karwat.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The Buena Vista school district will try to run summer camps to help students affected by the sudden cancelation of classes for the balance of the school year.

That's one of the decisions today from a meeting of state and local education officials.

The shut-down will not stop eligible seniors from graduating, or other students from advancing to the next grade. The district in Saginaw County will try to run four- to six-week camps over the summer break to help students make up what they missed, and prepare for the coming school year.

The money for those camps will not come from the state, but from federal funds.

The Buena Vista district abruptly ceased operations earlier this month. That was after the state cut off aid payments because of debts owed by the district.

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