By Cathy Taylor
By a unanimous vote, former Board Secretary Rose Sharp was selected as the new Board President. Running unopposed, Sharp replaced out-going Board President Max Paine. Paine recently retired after 25 years of service with the Farwell Board of Education.
Irene Hanner and incumbent Paula Sullivan were nominated for the job of Vice President, with Sullivan retaining her position.
The seat of Board Secretary, previously held by Rose Sharp, was bestowed upon Irene Hanner, with Hanner’s previous position of Treasurer going to Trustee Shari Buccilli. Both ladies ran unopposed.
As one of her first orders of business, President Sharp proposed that all future organizational board meetings begin at 7 pm. Previously these meetings were scheduled for 6 pm the first Monday of the month. The change was made primarily to accommodate board members with conflicting work schedules. The motion was approved.
Other business conducted at the Monday evening meeting included appointments to the various board committees, the approval of existing bylaws and policies, as well as approval to continue utilizing currently retained outside business sources.
Farwell Schools Superintendent Carl Seiter welcomed John Gross as the newest member of the Farwell BOE. Grosswas sworn in at the start of Monday’s organizational meeting. John is the owner of Eagle Pharmacy in Farwell.
Superintendent Seiter gave an update concerning the Great Start Readiness Program, a state-funded tuition program designated for Michigan’s “at-risk” preschoolers. He expressed his concern over the number of slots within the program that currently remain unfilled.
Seiter commented, “Kendra Tomasky from the Clare/Gladwin RESD approached me about a month ago saying there are currently 26 spaces available with funding attached to those spaces that are unfilled. And, like all bureaucratic organizations, if you don’t use the slots this year they are taken away from you next year. So in an effort to make sure that Clare and Gladwin Counties do not lose those 26 slots, we have been asked to review the families within our own tuition-based program and see whether or not their circumstances will allow them to qualify for the GSRP program.”
He continued to note that there are students from families in the Farwell school system that meet the criteria for acceptance into the GSRP pre-school program but are not taking advantage of the opportunity. He wants to encourage any family that is willing to go through the red tape-laden application process to do so.
The State of Michigan developed the GSRP in 1985 as a source of financial support for families with 4-year-old children living in “at risk” situations to be able to access quality tuition-based preschools. The criteria for risk factors includes a family income under 200% of the federal poverty level, one-parent homes, a child with a diagnosed disability, problem or challenging behavior, children of homes where English is not the first language, children whose parents are not high school graduates, as well as children of abuse and/or neglect.
At its inception, the GSRP began with one million dollars in available funding with 694 preschoolers participating. 27 years later, the program has seen a rise in funding to more than one hundred million dollars with nearly thirty thousand preschoolers enrolled in 2012.
Over the past 27 years, it has become evident that the GRSP has had a dramatic effect on the educational success of Michigan’s “at risk” children. Of all the state’s qualifying children, those who participated in the GSRP have presented a much smaller rate of grade retention than those who did not participate. Many of these children also enter kindergarten with a heightened level of imagination and creativity and are able to retain learning and complete assignments better than those children who did not have the benefit of GSRP participation. Itis estimated that approximately 44% of the state’s cost to implement the program is eventually recouped through savings incurred from the reduced incidence of repeated grades by the children of the program.
Superintendent Seiter also reported on the recent follow-up meeting with the State Department of Education concerning funding through the Section 31a At-Risk Program. A state-funded initiative targeted at older at-risk students, the program provides funding to eligible school districts for supplementary instructional and pupil support services. Seiter related that everything with the grant looks good, but because the state is tightening its restrictions concerning the program, there are a few adjustments that need to be made in order to continue qualifying.
Seiter also announced that the recent changes made to the school’s transportation policies are still under discussion and will be presented to the full board at a future meeting.
Under items of discussion, preliminary sketches were distributed to each board member for the Timberland Alternative Education building remodeling project. Seiter informed the board that he will be meeting with the design firm on Friday and will then be able to answer any questions.
School business manager Jacob Sullivan presented information concerning updates made to the Section 125 Flexible Benefit Plan for employees. He stated that with the changes made to the teacher’s contracts last summer, it was necessary to make some updates to the plan so that the school and the employees could better utilize the pre-tax benefits of the high-deductible plan. The changes were unanimously accepted by the board.
President Sharp adjourned the meeting to the public at 7:45 pm, at which time the board entered in to closed session to discuss a property issue.