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Budget Gap Dogs Plymouth-Canton Schools

Plymouth-Canton Community School officials look for ways to cut up to $18 million from next year's budget.

Plymouth-Canton Community Schools officials on Tuesday discussed reducing the district's projected $18 million shortfall by using methods similar to those employed by the state.

But it won't be enough.

“We’re looking at a deficit of $10 (million) to $11 million that’s unresolved at this point,” said James Larson-Shidler, the district's assistant superintendent of business services. The state has cut funding to school districts by about $470 per pupil, which totals about $18 million of Plymouth-Canton's $162 million annual budget.

Larson-Shidler told the board members to expect "an overall decrease of 200 students."

New programs, including some form of schools of choice, would add students to the district, a net increase of 16 students, he said.

Larson-Shidler said another way to cut costs to the district is ask for employees to pay 4.2 percent more for retirement, a total of 24.46 percent of the contribution. “Each percent increase in the retirement rate is approximately $1 million in our budget,” Larson-Shidler said.

The proposed budget would include a hiring freeze, meaning no new positions in the next school year without the school board's review and approval.

The public hearing portion of Tuesday's meeting included concerns about funding cuts to a free early childhood program for disadvantaged 4-year-olds, known as the PLUS Preschool.

One parent, Michelle Foley of Canton, appealed to the board on behalf of the preschool's teachers and students. “These may be just teachers, but to any parents or students, they’re family," said Foley, whose daughter graduated from the school.

“We are not eliminating PLUS Preschool,” said Cindy Swift, assistant superintendent of instructional services. “We are looking for a way to fund it.”

Beth Sexton of Plymouth, a media specialist at Dodson Elementary School, asked the board to bolster her school's enrollment by transferring 200 students from Workman Elementary School to nearby Dodson.

Dodson is the second-youngest elementary school in the district, she said, and every classroom has about $110,000 worth of equipment. “But it is slowly being decimated by student population loss,” she said. “It will have seven empty classrooms next year.”

Interim Superintendent Jeremy Hughes said Sexton’s case put him in mind to take a look at school zoning and boundaries, which he said was "long overdue." Rezoning the school district has been discussed repeatedly this year, particularly while the board considered whether or not to close Fiegel Elementary.

The school board will finalize the 2011-12 budget at its June 28 meeting.

jones June 15, 2011 at 06:53 PM
Fiegel boundaries are crazy too. This school system just loves to waste money.
Susan Miller June 16, 2011 at 09:09 PM
The kids may be passing Bird, but Bird is (I think) full to capacity - every classroom is full, as well as the portables! Having such limited space at some schools and while classrooms stand empty at another is indeed crazy. But one of the solutions - re-zoning - is a word that strikes terror in the hearts of many parents. A few years ago, there was talk of re-zoning part of Plymouth Township that attended Bird. There was such an uproar from parents that the School Board backed down ... just like they did with Fiegel. We need to get real about this, and accept the fact that someone isn't going to be happy. Probably A LOT of us won't be happy. Change is coming. In the interest of all our children, we need to work together to find some solutions.
TJP1071 June 20, 2011 at 07:09 PM
While Bird might be full...you are correct overcrowding at one school while others sit almost empty is not ok. I was a part of that crazy mess that got downright dirty a few years ago and was not happy that the school board gave in. I found it interesting that the areas closest to farrand were not rezoned to farrand but the area that held the trailer park on the other side of town. You are correct in that we all have to accept some changes and change can sometimes hurt.....but if at least we can see that even though we may not like it ...it makes sounds sense...we will have to adjust!
Michaelo June 21, 2011 at 09:51 PM
+1 Larsson-Schindler needs to step down as well.
Robin Moore June 21, 2011 at 11:50 PM
My problem I have with this district, is that they say we need to save $18 million dollars in this district alone, so they have to cut from every place, like transportation, custodians, food services, etc. But, you hear about these schools being overcrowded, like Workman and Bird, and then you hear about these schools, that have plenty of room for kids to enter in like Dodson. Seven rooms in Dodson are going to be completely emptied next year, and what do they want to spend money on? Portables, to help fulfill the overcrowdedness at Workman, that's in sane. It's diffently insane, if your trying to save $18 million dollars, and you know that you have schools that are overcrowded like Workman, and schools you know, that have 7 classrooms that will be completely emptied next school year, like Dodson. That's definitely not the way to go, if your trying to save a huge amount of money for one school district. So, redistricting is a must, if you would like to see $18 million dollars cut from your district next school year. Don't spend money on something that you don't need, please.
Michaelo June 22, 2011 at 01:27 AM
I totally agree Robin. A discussion question; Is it the product of school district(s) not being held responsible to the collective community they represent? Or is it a fundamental problem with the public schooling system?
Maddiex June 23, 2011 at 12:19 AM
You have mentioned getting rid of Larsen-Shidler before....what is your beef with him? Come on, spill it Michaelo......what do you know that we don't?
Maddiex June 23, 2011 at 12:31 AM
I don't think the principal gets to "decide" how many students he will take. When a certain grade gets too full in a building, the kids get sent to overflow schools that have room in that grade. There are different numbers in different grades every year so you can't exactly know how many kids you will have until they are all registered. Workman is a really large building and there are a few hundred more kids there ( I heard they built is larger in case they needed to use it as a middle school later), Dodson is the next newest elementary, and unlike the older buildings, it was built to hold more. Now the elementary population within their boundaries has decreased. They have moved onto Discovery Middle Schools, which is now really full. You can't change the boundaries every year. The district has decided to allow "school of choice" for the children of employees who live outside the district to fill some of those empty seats, but there aren't that many. They say they may have 200 spots open thru the 16 buildings, maybe, and in elementary only. You also have to leave room for kids that move in to an area. Saying Dodson has so many unused classrooms makes it sound like the schools are deserted, but most are really full. You could try to pull kids out of Workman and make them go to Dodson, but they don't want to.....they want to stay where they are, they want to stay where their friends are, and the parents put up a huge fight.
DownUpside1 June 23, 2011 at 09:29 AM
"They say they may have 200 spots open thru the 16 buildings" That can't possibly be accurate. Fiegel has a little over 300 students and a school board employee went to a lot of time and effort to figure out how they could ALL be re-distributed to the other schools in the district. So, if you take space at Fiegel out of the equation, you obviously have over 300 spots available. Fiegel is obviously under capacity, so even more spots are available with it staying open.
DownUpside1 June 23, 2011 at 09:51 AM
And...the possibility of transfering Fiegel students to Dodson was not part of the re-distribution plan presented. The re-distribution plan presented only affected Fiegel student distribution. So those 7 classrooms at Dodson were not expected to be filled. 25 students/room (low # I know) X 7 empty classrooms = 175 open spots at Dodson alone. And like I said, it was already figured out how to fit the 300+ Fiegel students into other schools without taking the empty space at Dodson into consideration. That 200 open spots appears to be an out and out lie!
jones June 29, 2011 at 11:14 PM
There are way more openings in the elementary school than 300. I heard that there are over 800 openings randomly throughout the schools. We are now taking 150 school of choice kids (teachers kids only) they could still close Fiegel and fit all those kids in as well if PCCS wants to.
Maddiex June 30, 2011 at 04:32 PM
I am not understanding what the discussion here is actually about....are you angry that they didn't close Fiegel? Are you angry that some schools are full and some aren"t? Why is having space at Dodson such a big issue? Are the people commenting here parents of kids who want another building? Please explain.
Robin Moore June 30, 2011 at 08:04 PM
Maddiex, This is what gets me. I'm not mad because they didn't close Fiegel. Actually, what gets me, has nothing to do with Fiegel. And I don't know about everybody else. But, from what I understand, Workman is overcrowded right? Dodson, which is a mile away from Workman, has 7 rooms that will be vacated this coming school year. And from my understanding, the people at Workman, is planning on buying some portables, to fulfill the overcrowded Workman, when you can put some of the overcrowded kids at Workman and send them over to Dodson, a mile away. Now, if we are $18 million dollars in the whole, I don't see how buying portables for an overcrowded school is going to help bring some of the defeceit down, when you got a school that is a mile away from you, that is going to have 7 rooms completely emptied this coming school year. Now, my opinion, to me, that does not make any sense, and it really angers me, when the state or even the district spends money on something, when they can look outside of the box, and see that they can do it a better way, without spending money that they don't need to be spending money on. They don't need to spend money on portables for Workman, when you got Dodson, a school a mile away, that is going to have 7 rooms totally emptied for the 2011-2012 school year. That is the issue I have. I don't know about anybody else. But to me, that is just a waste of money, when you could do it a better way, without spending the money.
TJP1071 June 30, 2011 at 08:19 PM
Robin!!!! I AGREE!!!!!!!
jones June 30, 2011 at 11:32 PM
When you have a 18 million dollar deficit and you can't come up with more than 14 million in cuts than you have to do everything on the list plus find more ways to cut. They decided to use the whole rainy day fund and not make any decisions. That was just a cop out! This district is in trouble and the board is not helping it. They are using all the savings and saying lets worry about it next year. How irresponsible can they be? This is not the way to handle the schools that parents count on. If they don't have a need for 16 elementary schools than they need to close one. They had all the numbers worked out to close Fiegel and than didn't do it when the parents threw a fit. This will happen again next year too. People don't like change, sometimes it is for the best though. Closing Fiegel was the school boards biggest money saver on the list of 23 items. So now they are scrammbling to look for ways to cut money. (cutting cleaning services, busing for midday, privatizing kitchen staff and bussing, Media center cuts and closing most buildings at 4 PM)
DownUpside1 July 01, 2011 at 01:44 AM
I agree with Robin too. The thought of the district spending any money on portables before filling empty classrooms is nothing but a huge waste of money the district already doesn't have. What makes it even worse, is that Dodson is one of the newer schools built in the district. Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought we passed a millage to build Dodson. Did we really vote for a millage to build a building that would have so many empty rooms???? What really makes me mad is that when a cost cutting measure would be proposed, people would come to the board meetings to explain to the board why that cost savings should be overlooked. Rather than making the tough decisions on what made sense and what didn't, they backed down on pretty much everything. They are using all the money they have in order to keep the status quo for the coming school year. There will be absolutely no room for to save anything in the 2012-2013 school year and the years to come. I did not vote for this board to come in and refuse to make the hard decisions. That is exactly what they were voted in to do.
DownUpside1 July 01, 2011 at 02:03 AM
In regards specifically to Fiegel. I don't agree with the board's decision not to close it. Remember all the Fiegel parents who went to the school board meetings to drive home the point of how important the sense of community is at Fiegel??? Well, my understanding is that new PTO members were needed for the next school year. Those same parents who begged the school board to save their school, could not be bothered to make a difference within the school. If volunteers don't step up in September, the PTO (and fundraising and all spending of funds raised this past school year) will be put on hold until such time as a full-fledged PTO can be assembled.
Maddiex July 01, 2011 at 02:06 PM
Where did you hear that Workman was buying portables? Maybe that isn't true. I know some buildings use portables for classes like Art,Music, and Preschool. Dodson had their preschool in portables, I am not sure if they still do. I do not believe they would put actual classrooms in portables. I also know that if Workman were really overcrowded new registrations would be sent to an "overflow" school. I use to work at Gallimore a few years ago, and the board passed something that sent alot of the students over to Workman when it first opened. I thought that was a long way to go, but they pulled kids from other areas to fill that school when it opened. I also know that enrollment changes every year and it's hard to predict. If the board were to move kids out of the schools they are already in parents would go ballistic! It has to be done with new registrations, and moving kids from one area to a different school also affects bus routes, daycare dropoffs, etc. It isn't something you can just do, there is alot involved.
Robin Moore July 02, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Maddiex, You know, I heard about Workman buying portables for their school, through some sources at work, and you know what, I hope that I am wrong that they are not planning on buying portables for the school. And I do know that some schools do use portables for classes, but I don't remember any of the portables being used for art, music, and preschool. But, that's not the point anyway. When I was going to high school, before they made Plymouth, I remember going to two portables for classes, at Salem. One class was for some kind of reading class, and one was for some other class. One portable I had to go to at the high school, I had to go from the second floor of Canton, all the way to the portables, where the tennis courts now stand, when you drive through the bus loop, where the barns used to be. Even at East Middle School, where I work at the bus yard, there's portables. So, I do know that some schools have portables. So, one thing is true, I know that actual classes do go into those portables. Which is not a big deal. And let me ask you one question Maddiex, what do you mean, when you said that if Workman were really overcrowded new registrations would be sent to an overflow school? Don't you think that if a school is overcrowded, new registrations would be sent to a school that is not overflowing? So, can you please explain to me, what you actually mean by that one sentence right there. I just don't understand it.
Robin Moore July 02, 2011 at 03:54 PM
And besides that, what if it is true that Workman was buying portables for their overcrowded school? I hope it's not true, but what if it is? Why would you buy portables for a school that is overcrowded, when you know good and well, that there are schools like Dodson that is going to have 7 empty classrooms next school year? And Dodson is not that far away from Workman. It’s not like your taking the kids out of Workman, which is off Cherry Hill and Denton and sending them to Dodson and having Dodson being where Farrand is. Dodson is only off Cherry Hill and Beck. So, both schools are not that far apart from each other. Their right down the street from each other. So, you really don’t need to go that far. And the way it is with some of these parents, the board needs to step up with some of these parents, and not give in to what the parents demands are. If the board takes some of these kids out of Workman, and puts them in Dodson, to help save money, and to help fill up these classrooms at Dodson, and if the parents go ballistic, then the board should tell them, you don't like it, then go to a private school, or go to another district.
Robin Moore July 02, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Because you know what, these parents in this district, I know some people might disagree with me, and I'll probably make some people mad at me, but I am going to say this now. The parents in this district are babied. All they need to do to get their way, is to throw a temper tantrum, and they get what they want. I don't have any kids, but I do have nieces and nephews, and I don't even allow them to throw temper tantrums, and get away with it, like this board does for the parents of this district. So, sending some of these kids from Workman to Dodson, is not that big of a deal. I don’t believe it’s going to make that big of a difference, with transportation, for it being a mile away. But I could be wrong on that one too. I’ll admit, that I could be wrong. And I hope that I am wrong. But, if this district is so far in debt, like they say $18 million dollars, then they should not hesitate to try and save money, by taking away some of the kids that are in Workman, and sending them to Dodson. That is if they really want to start saving some of the money, that we are in debt with. The $18 million dollars, and stop giving in to the parents demands.
Maddiex July 02, 2011 at 04:28 PM
I worked at Gallimore and they had a portable, it was their art room. My kids are at East, and my daughter tells me there is a portable there, but they don't use it for any classes. I know that the district owns several portables, and sometimes they have them sitting on the school property, but that doesn't mean they use them. Dodson, Hoben, and Miller have used them for preschool. There was one at Bentley that the district wasn't using so they let the area literacy council use it as an office. I don't think Miller is having preschool any longer, so there is another empty. I really dont think they will be buying any new ones. But either way, Workman isn't overcrowded. There are a lot of students there, but it was built for a lot of students. You can look at the number of students there compasred to the smaller buildings and think "Wow thay place is overcrowded", but it's really big. They have the same class sizes as everyone else. If they have 100 1st graders, they put 4 first grade rooms and teachers there. If they get 110 1st graders they either add a class or create a split class to accomodate. (Continued next post)
Maddiex July 02, 2011 at 04:29 PM
Sometimes a school will just have too many of one grade level register on a given year. The classrooms are set, the staff is set, etc. They will now say they are full and an "overflow" school will be designated. Like if Field 3rd grade is full, any new registering 3rd graders will be sent to say, Eriksson. The following school year, there may be openings in the 4th grade at Field, so they give those families the option of staying at Eriksson or going to Field, which is their home school based on their address. Most opt to stay where their friends are. That is just the way it is.
Maddiex July 02, 2011 at 04:37 PM
So having space at one building or another isn't really an issue. During the last few years times have been tough in Michigan and a lot of people left the state. They took their students with them, so enrollment declines. As the economy hopefully comes back, enrollment will grow. We have been pretty lucky in this area, as many districts have been hit harder. We still have all our neighborhood schools, and an outstanding district. When Lansing makes cuts it's hard. The district have really done everything to keep those cuts out of the classroom. I do agree with you that the Board backed down....but it's an election year, and they vote knowing that. How many Fiegel supporters do you think will vote for Dianne Gonzalez now? Answer... A LOT! But not John Jackson, he voted to close it. He's out for sure.
DownUpside1 July 02, 2011 at 05:43 PM
Fiegel has a low student population. If the school board elections had a large turnout, Fiegel parents would count the least of any schools. School board elections have a notoriously low turn out to begin with. You are taking an awfully big grain of salt in assuming that these parents will vote in the election - especially when they have not stepped up to help at the school level on the PTO. As a Fiegel parent (who did not lobby for it to stay open) I can tell you that, based on my conversations with other Fiegel parents, most were ok with it closing, but were simply not vocal about it. No one wanted to get into arguments with the very vocal supporters. I would say that supporters were outnumbered by the silent majority - at least with the parents I come into contact with. I, for one, plan on re-electing no one currently on the board. Their cowardly method of not making cuts when they were needed is not worthy of my vote.
Robin Moore July 02, 2011 at 07:10 PM
I know that Erikkson 20 years ago, when me and my sister were going to Erikkson, had portables as well. It was not used for art, music, or preschool. My sister had her 3rd grade class room in that portable. But, of course, that was actaully about maybe 22 years ago. So, I don't know if Erikkson still uses the portable, and if they do, I don't know what they use it for. They could use it for art, music and preschool now, but back then, when I was going to Erikkson, they actually used it for actual class rooms.
jones July 02, 2011 at 07:17 PM
downupside1 I am in total agreement! I too am a Fiegel parent and wanted it to close! I think the board was weak and couldn't make a decision if they had 18 million dollars depending on them too!
Jen July 10, 2011 at 03:43 AM
It cracks me up that people think parents in this district are "babied." It is more correct to say "some parents, living in certain areas of the district are given consideration" but as a whole, I have found the board and administration completely non-responsive, condescending, often misleading,disrepectful and patronizing. Basically, decisions are made before parents know, and we basically can talk until we are blue in the face...they don't care (unless you are from the chosen area). I was active in an issue that impacted our school, was promised parental input, and then all communications simply STOPPED from the board and administrators. We have a board that will not work together, on EVERY issue you can almost take a 4-3 split to the bank and it is the same people..... Also,I've been an aunt, a very involved aunt....and I'm also a parent....there's a difference....a big one...not in how much you love them (I can honestly say I love each and everyone my siblings children as my own), but in how much you know and understand......it is rough to disband a school community......these kids identify with their community, their school spirit.....It isn't simply, "Oh just shuttle them down the block a mile." It is a big deal......In this economy, we all have to make adjustments....I'm not saying it should NOT be done....but it is NOT just a simple thing..... And look at the housing values of the schools protected from over crowding.....who is really coddled.
Jerry Grady July 12, 2011 at 02:05 PM
The issue is simple, what do you do when you have no more money to spend, you cut. What does goverment do, wine they need more money. Until they run the school as a business and make the tought decisions that need to be made this will continue to go on forever. It has nothing to do with empty space, it is all about getting re-elected so they can keep the so called power they feel they have. True leaders make the tough decisions and move on. No one likes it and everyone feels the pain, but take the emotions out of it. I moved here and entered into the 9th grade at Canton back in 1976 from a school system of less than 300 in high school. That school had over 2,000 when i entered. So i understand what it is like to move to a new school and deal with a new social enviornement. Kids are strong and flexible, they will make it thru any change. Think of the way this world works now and how people are moving everyday due to a world economy. Change is good, difficult, but good. Change and strong hard decisions are needed to put the Plymouth Canton School System back on the map.
Robin Moore July 12, 2011 at 06:19 PM
Jerry, you are absolutely right. Now adays, it's not even about what's good for this and what's good for that. It's all about these people in Government, will do anything they could to get the money. Its all about money and power. Not whether or not this is actually good for the school system, or for the kids. And change is good. But, it also depends on what kind of changes are being made if it is really good for us. And really, the government doesn't care if it's good for the country or the Plymouth-Canton school district or not, as long as they have the power to control us and we give them all the money that we earn in our job, they are satisfied. They wouldn't be good in our government if they didn't want all the money and power that we can give them. That’s why they want to tax us, all the time. They see that they ran out of money, what do you think is the first solution to the problem of getting more money? Raise up the taxes of course. So, that way, our pay checks are getting smaller while their pay checks are getting larger. So, go figure that one out.

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