2012-11-29 / Front Page

RAPS teacher contract saves district over $200k

The Roscommon Area Public Schools Board of Education voted to approve a one-year contract with the Roscommon Teacher’s Association during its regular meeting at the board office in Roscommon Nov. 20.

All Roscommon teachers took a 4% salary reduction, and step increases, which were not granted at the beginning of the year, will be granted from Nov. 21, 2012 forward. The number of sick days allowed teachers was reduced from 15 to 12, and they will now pay 20% of their health insurance premiums, up from 10% in the last contract.

The teachers also agreed to the creation of a new salary schedule for new hires with a pay rate 10% lower than the previous contract. The new starting salary for beginning teachers with bachelor’s degrees in the district will be $32,892.

Shay Anderson, RAPS business manager, said the contract will save the district “around $219,000 this year.” Board President Brian Hill said negotiating teams from RAPS and the RTA met 14 times to hammer out the contract, which covers the 2012-2013 school year. He thanked both teams of negotiators for “working hard on short and long term solutions.”

Hill said a memorandum of under- standing on a retirement package with the RTA is still to come.

The board also heard a presentation on their new strategic plan from Olga Holden, Michigan Association of School Boards board development and planning specialist, and received a document entitled “Roscommon Area Public Schools 2012-17 Strategic Plan Summary Document,” outlining the plan and the process used to develop it over the last three months.

According to a letter in the summary, from Board President Brian Hill and Superintendent Catherine Erickson, the plan is the culmination of two community/ parent forums, one all-staff forum, one administrator session, one board of education forum, a strategic planning team retreat and an electronic survey of more than 48 students, parents, staff and community members. In all, nearly 200 people provided input for the planning process. The planners also looked at data from five comparable school districts and concluded that “In general, the data revealed that when compared to state averages and the reference districts selected for this report, RAPS emerges as a fiscally sound district making academic progress.”

A mission statement and statement of values and beliefs were developed during the strategic planning team retreat. The plan’s mission statement, reads: “To educate, challenge and inspire all students to become lifelong learners that are well prepared for our global society.” The statement of values/beliefs reads: “We believe in everyone’s worth, dignity, right and ability to learn and make positive contributions to society.”

Strategic goal areas set out in the plan, each with their own set of objectives, include student achievement, professional development, finance, facilities and parent involvement, communication and marketing. Board members urged Erickson and Holden to include a statement on the key role that keeping pace with technology will play in every one of the goal areas.

Erickson said that the district’s current technology is close to “state of the art,” and that the critical issue is how to keep it that way in the future. She said she would also like to see graduation and drop-out rates added to the objectives in the plan’s student achievement goal area.

Erickson said a final version of the strategic plan will be presented to the board for adoption at its regular meeting in December.

Also during Tuesday night’s meeting, the district’s 2011-2012 audit was presented to the board by Duane Reyhl, senior manager with Andrews, Hooper, Pavlik, PLC of Saginaw. Reyhl noted that while state aid and student counts are “declining gradually” everywhere, Roscommon has experienced “a much bigger drop” (in large part due to the opening of Charlton Heston Academy in St. Helen).

Although the district’s fund balance of $3,378,312, showed a decrease of $463,617, it still leaves RAPS with an unassigned fund balance of $2,505,455 (or 18%). “Had the board not taken measures to preserve the fund balance (over the years),” said Reyhl, the district “would be in much worse shape.”

Reyhl gave Anderson high marks for her management of the district’s budget, which included a budgeted loss to the general fund that was within .5% of what the auditors found. He said that Anderson coming within .5% of the actual loss in her projections was remarkable.

Hill said “it is a tough job to come reasonably close, let alone within 1%” and the .5% difference between the budgeted loss and actual loss “is well within due diligence. I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to have a person like Shay, we are very lucky.”

The board also heard from Roscommon High School Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Mitch Koehn, who informed them of changes in the district’s truancy policy. He said that at the behest of 34th Circuit Court Family Court Judge Douglas C. Dosson, the district will address truancy problems more quickly.

Koehn said that under the new standards requested by the court, parents will be notified by letter when a student has four, eight and 10 absences, rather than six, 12 and 18 absences under the previous truancy policy. He said that the court will now intervene when a student reaches 10 absences, assigning a probation officer to the case, but not necessarily entering a formal truancy complaint.

Koehn said the formal complaint can be made at the discretion of the court at any point after a student reaches 10 absences. He also said that in accordance with state law, RAPS will now require students to remain in school until the age of 18. The previous age where a student was allowed to stop attending school (drop out) was 16 years old. The new drop out age will apply to all classes from this year’s freshmen (Class of 2016) on.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also accepted the resignation of Board Member Kathleen Jernigan, who has served in that capacity for almost 20 years. Jernigan, whose resignation becomes effective on Dec. 31, 2012, said she was resigning from the seat, the term of which was recently increased by 18 months through an act of the legislature, because of personal reasons. “It was a hard decision to make, I enjoy the work,” said Jernigan.

The board is currently taking applications to fill Jernigan’s seat and scheduled interviews of candidates for the appointment on Jan, 8, 2013. Their selection will be announced at the board’s regular meeting on Jan. 16. The seat will be up for election in November, 2014.

Board Member Sonia Lake said she was pleased that a new superintendent evaluation process she and board members Kim Morley and John Bowen have been working on jibes with the new strategic plan. She said the new evaluation will be presented to the board at it’s regular meeting on Dec. 14.

During public comment, Task Force Chairman John Rosczyk expressed his approval of the strategic plan that the district is putting in place and said he was impressed with how the board “kept the students first and foremost” during what he called a “tough year.” Hill thanked Rosczyk for “bringing the community together through his service on the task force, and said the district “needs to integrate the ideas of the task force” as it goes forward.

The board then went into closed session to discuss legal matters.

After the meeting, Julie Nordquist, who served as secretary of the task force, said the district’s new strategic plan “is not the end but the beginning of the process. Parents and community members need to stay involved (with the school district).”

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