2017-08-17 / Front Page

Surprise! No S-B layoffs

By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

A pall of uncertainty was pulled away Monday night when Suttons Bay Public Schools interim Superintendent Mike Carmean delivered news everyone wanted but few expected to hear: There will be no teacher layoffs to begin the 2017-18 school year.

A crowd of teachers, parents and community members broke into smiles and applause as Carmean made the announcement, one of his first actions after board members unanimously approved his contract.

“I’ve met with the administrative team and there will be no layoffs as of tonight,” Carmean said.

The announcement put at ease fears among teaching and administrative staff as they were notified of layoffs in June.

However, a lot has changed.

The administrator making those decisions, former superintendent Chris Nelson, resigned abruptly last month. After his resignation, allegations were leveled that he altered teacher evaluations to downgrade an educators’ ranking from “highly-effective” to “effective” and subject to layoff.

Two teachers and two members of the support staff were given verbal layoff notices at the end of the school year. However, no written notice was issued by the district even though the budget, adopted in mid-June, reflected the staff cuts.

“When looking at the district needs, and using funds that are saved from my working part time this year, we are able to bring back the elementary secretary position,” Carmean said. “She’s the first person people see when they come into the school.”

The secretarial position in the guidance office will remain empty as written notice of layoff has been sent to Lisa Stark, Carmean said.

On a more positive note, the board approved Carmean’s recommendation to add a second section of kindergarten, Currently, 28 children are registered for kindergarten which is too big for one class and too small when split, necessitating another teacher. “We’re hoping for a few more students,” Carmean said.

Higher-than-anticipated student numbers are welcomed as Suttons Bay’s enrollment — and in turn its revenue — has dropped significantly in the past several years.

Although there was no discussion Monday about Suttons Bay’s virtual school, Carmean said the online program will continue into the 2017-18 school year. Advertisements on the radio and billboards have already been placed.

“Early indications are that the numbers may be up a little,” Carmean said, adding that he is scheduled to meet with the virtual school director next week for further discussions.

Carmean comes to Suttons Bay with 7 1/2 years of experience as superintendent for Sandusky Community Schools.

Not unlike Suttons Bay, Sandusky receives a foundation allowance from the state that was eroded by decreasing enrollment.

His experience is just what Suttons Bay’s Board of Education was looking for.

The 2017-18 budget adopted in June projects a $23,000 fund balance at the end of the school year.

During his comments Monday night Carmean commented about the numerous programs in place at the school. He questioned, “How much is too much?”

“That’s my initial reaction, comparing the number of programs from my former school to Suttons Bay,” he said Tuesday morning. “I believe everything needs to be looked at, which will take time. Presently, I have no indication that there will be reductions.”

Board members are hopeful that Carmean’s experience in labor relations is also being tapped. While at Sandusky, a total of seven contracts were settled.

Carmean sat in on negotiations Tuesday with the Suttons Bay Education Association (SBEA) which has turned down two proposals from the school district since talks began in January. Both proposals were made during Nelson’s tenure.

The union requested a fact-finder to help bring the two sides together. However, in the week since the Board of Education tapped Carmean as interim, the union has held the request, two grievances and complaints of unfair labor practice in abeyance.

Tuesday’s contract talks include union representatives, Carmean and a negotiator from the Michigan Association of School Board, contracted by the district.

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