Farwell BOE bracing for state funding reduction

By Cathy Taylor

The first Farwell Board of Education meeting for the month of March was held Monday evening, with  Board Vice President Paula Sullivan and Trustee John Gross reported absent.

Superintendent Carl Seiter began the evening  by commenting on the recent Clare/Gladwin School Board Association Dinner held Feb. 28.   Seiter  particularly elaborated upon information passed on to school administrators concerning the status quo of school funding.

“Although the governor’s budget talks about a 2% increase for schools, the reality is much different than it appears in the media,” Seiter stated.  “The 2% is all-encompassing.  It also includes the early childhood money.  Farwell contracts out to the MMCA agency to run their early childhood program, so these funds  won’t be coming directly to the school.”

Seiter continued, “We are also starting to see a phase out of the Best Practice money. This year it was $52.00 per student.  In the upcoming year it will average $16.00 per student.”

Seiter concluded by stating that overall, Farwell will see a $2.00 decrease per student in the budget foundation next year, due largely to the fact that for every  dollar the school receives, there is more administrative and operational expense that arises to negate the revenue.

Board Trustee Duffy Doxtater also attended the Association dinner.  He commented, “There was absolutely no good news concerning the condition of public education in the State of Michigan.”

Mary Pitchford, Superintendent of Coleman Schools, gave a presentation explaining the Regional Agriscience Program on target to begin in September of 2013.  It is a two-year program where students will gain technical, mechanical and academic knowledge and skills in areas such as animal and plant science, greenhouse management, natural resource management and soil science just to name a few.

The Agriscience Program’s startup costs have been covered through a generous donation from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.  The school is now seeking donations that will allow them to fully sustain the program and make it successful.

Coleman’s program will be available to students from Midland, Clare and Gladwin counties as a career technical program.  The program meets the needs of all levels of students, including at risk students who currently make up 40% of Coleman’s student body.

Under old business, the proposed renovations to the Timberland Alternative Ed building were discussed.  Superintendent Seiter reported to the Board that DK Design Group had provided him with a break out construction estimate for the renovation project.  Through continued correspondence with the design firm, Seiter said he is still trying to negotiate the most economical construction package for the school.

Unfortunately, it was recently discovered that DK Design Group overlooked the cost of 75 new lockers that was requested by the school in the original estimate.  The cost of the new lockers would amount to an additional $14,000 to the anticipated $87,890 bottom line.

Seiter stated that through various eliminations and restructuring of the original specs, the  cost of the project could possibly be reduced from $87,890 to $54,840.  However, when the cost of the new lockers are added in, that would raise the final dollar amount to $68,840.

Board members agreed that the Timberland renovations were necessary in order to provide an adequate facility conducive to quality educational opportunities for their high risk students.

Superintendent Seiter commented, “We started the year with 70 plus kids at Timberland.  Over the course of the year, we are now roughly down to around 58.  Some of the attrition can be attributed to the overcrowded conditions in the classrooms.  These are kids that are at a higher risk for dropping out to begin with.  The more hurdles and hassles we put in front of them, the easier it is for them to make that decision (to drop out of school).”

Under new business, the Board accepted with regret the resignation of Jeff Linton.  Linton was a bus driver and ground maintenance employee with Farwell Public Schools for over seven years.  The Board wished him well as he accepted his new position with the Sheriff’s Department.

The Board adjourned at 7:53 pm, at which time they moved into closed session.

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