By Pat Maurer
Farwell School Superintendent Carl Seiter reported to the Board of Education Monday that he has sent letters to Chinese Immersion parents listing options they can use to continue the language program for their children.
The Farwell board eliminated the program recently in an effort to cut a budget deficit in the coming year. The district was facing a more than $500,000 shortfall which would have eliminated their fund balance.
In the letter, Seiter expressed his regret at the loss of the program which immersed elementary students in the Chinese language. “The school board’s decision works to ensure that the district remains financially stable,” he wrote, I understand that the decision was not viewed as a direction that you want to go; however, I can only hope you understand the position this school district was in.”
Seiter outlined several options for parents including the home based Rosetta Stone program to increase/maintain competency in the language at a cost of $159 per license.
A second option was a continued after school program at Farwell through Michigan State University – Confucius Institute, a blended online version at a cost estimated at $100 per session. Seiter said a maximum of 20 students in the class would lower the cost to $5 to $10 per session per student. Two sessions per week and an upper elementary and lower elementary class were recommended with a minimum of 20 students in each class. Parents would need to commit to a full year in the program, a volunteer would be needed to supervise and parents would provide their own transportation. “MSU-CI is looking at this as a pilot program, and if successful would expand this to other districts,” Seiter wrote.
Another option would be the Midland Chinese School, which could handle about 40 students for weekly Sunday afternoon sessions. The cost of that program is approximately $142 and parents should go to www.midlandchineseschool.org for details and midlandchinese@gmail to register.
His final option was a program through www.takelessons.com which allows parents to connect with tutors over the web for language exposure.
He requested parents email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with their interest in any of the programs. He said he would make decisions, based on the parents’ interests, on August 25.
In another matter, the board held brief interviews, and appointed a new trustee to replace Duffy Doxtader, who resigned recently due to health reasons.
Candidates who applied for the four-month appointment to the vacant seat included Diana Pitts, Bill Scott, Holly Thrush (Stover), Max Paine and Joe Maxey. Pitts, Scott, Thrush and Maxey all also announced that they are running for the seat in the fall election.
After the interviews, the board voted to appoint Diana Pitts to the vacant seat to fill the rest of Doxtader’s term.
The board also approved hiring five new teachers for the coming year. They are Jason Harvey for high school English, Mistine Nasry for high school special education, Andrea English for pre-school, Patti Lapham for kindergarten and Jennifer Campbell for fourth grade.
Other business at the meeting included:
*Approval for Seiter to create a temporary position as Transportation Director Assistant to help Cody McConnell learn transportation matters for about two hours per day for the next four to five months. The cost will be less than $5,000, Seiter said.
*Recalling two para-pros who were scheduled for layoff, Amanda Hill and Jennifer Hensley and approving the resignations of April Dice, Seanne Danielak, Neali Staley and Alicia Wernette.
*Approved borrowing $2 million in anticipation of state aid from Isabella Bank and Trust. The loan will be repaid when taxes come in in December.
*Approved an overnight trip for volleyball 5-1 with trustee Irene Hanner voting no.
*Approved operational invoices totaling $207,979.29.
*Heard in Seiter’s report that the district “improved significantly” in the recently released State Top to Bottom lists.
*Seiter also reported that it is difficult to find Spanish teachers. Two were to be interviewed on Wednesday.
Finally the board went into closed session to discuss negotiations.