2010-07-31 / News

School Board Hires Teacher, Cuts Half-time Custodial Position

By Rebecca Jaskot

A new social studies teacher, Christopher Schoonover, was hired and a half-time custodial position was cut by the Mackinac Island school board Thursday, July 22.

Mr. Schoonover was graduated from Michigan State University, where he studied social science with a concentration in public policy and a minor in history. He was selected after two days of interviews with 10 candidates.

“He is energetic and shows a passion for teaching,” said Mr. Waaso.

As part of the interview, he gave a presentation to the interviewers teaching about the electoral college.

“His lesson was studentfriendly. It was clear, and he included different learning techniques,” said mathematics teacher Susan Bennett, who helped interview. “We were all engaged in the lesson, and he was energetic.”

The board voted to remove the custodial position of Donna Killips, who is the school cook but works halftime doing custodial work. The school also has one full-time custodian, Mike Bradley.

The cut is estimated to save the school $22,000 to $23,000.

The board adopted a budget of $1,603,323 for the 2010- 2011 school year at its last meeting in June, with estimated revenue of $1,309,018. At the end of the 2010-2011 school year, the board estimates that the fund equity will be $395,565, which is down from $689,870 at the end of the 2009-2010 school year and down from $1,114,051 at the end of the 2008-2009 school year.

“When you have a budget that is $300,000 more than the revenue you have coming in, you have to start making some adjustments or it gets overwhelming, and then the adjustments become drastic,” said Superintendent Dave Waaso, who began work here in January. “I would rather start doing some small things now than wait and do some really major things later.”

Mr. Waaso made the recommendation after going through the school's budget line by line with the budget committee, looking for ways to save. After the high school social studies teacher left at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, the committee looked into not hiring a new one and having current teachers rearrange their schedules to teach some social studies classes, but they could not make it work. At its last meeting in June, the budget committee decided not to raise local taxes to increase the school's revenue.

“At first I was somewhat taken aback by Mr. Waaso's recommendation, but we did hire him to come in here and cut costs and streamline the operation, and this is his first big cut,” said trustee Jason St. Onge of the custodial cut. “If it doesn't work out, he stands on his own. If it does work, he sure showed us. But I don't think it shows very good confidence for him to make his recommendation and for us to simply say no no no, we're not doing it.”

Mackinac Island Public School comprises about 38,000 square feet, including a gymnasium. Mr. Waaso said he has experiences in other districts where custodians were cleaning an between 28,000 and 33,000 square feet. Yet, board members pointed out that Mackinac Island has a small school population of 80, which is likely to produce less mess than other districts.

The situation is manageable, Mr. Waaso said, but the staff and students will have to make some commitment to cleaning. The board discussed the possibility of students receiving hours of community service for helping with custodial duties after school.

“I want it to be known that there have been some people who have expressed concern about getting the building clean,” said Mr. St. Onge. “We assure you that we can do more with less, and we'll see that that happens.”

Trustee Kelly Bean said the decision is not personal, and that the board did look into other ways of saving money, such as not hiring a teacher.

“Every municipality school district across the state and across the country is being asked to do more with less. think it should be pointed out I think it's important to all of us that we're not cutting student services,” said Mr. St. Onge. “We can't cut out history and we don't want to cut out mathematics. We have got to keep our educational level at the highest it can be. And this is unfortunately where the cuts have to go.”

If the move does not allow the school to be adequately clean, the board said it will readjust.

Jennifer Bloswick was sworn in as a new board member for the 2010-2011 school year during the board's organizational meeting preceding the regular meeting. Ms. Bloswick won the May 4 election and is taking the place of Sara Chambers, who was recognized for her nine years of service at the meeting. Ms. Chambers served as treasurer for seven years. During the election of officers, Ms. Bloswick was elected to serve as treasurer for the upcoming year. The other officers were reelected to serve another year: Ben Mosley as president, Jason St. Onge as vice president, and Terry Andress as secretary.

The curriculum committee reported that it purchased new textbooks for $5,600, which is less than the anticipated $6,5000, saving $900. The school is also planning to hire a music instructor to teach for a few hours each week.

The board approved the school calendar for the 2010- 2011 year, which will include the same number of days as last year. The board also decided to continue not to offer a breakfast program for students before school.

Mackinac Horsemen's Association requested the use of the school's restrooms for the 40th Annual Mackinac Island Horse Show Sunday, August 8. The show will be held on the grounds of Grand Hotel next to the school. The board agreed to allow the association use of the restrooms but noted that it should not become habit for any organization wishing to use the field for events.

Exterior lights are being installed on one side of the school, and the building is in the process of being re-keyed.

The next school board meeting is Thursday, August 19, at 6 p.m.

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