EGR Schools: 4 layoffs, admin takes pay cut

The June 15, 2015 public hearing to discuss the budget for East Grand Rapids Public Schools.

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Clapping and cheering lasted a solid 15 seconds after the East Grand Rapids Board of Education announced Monday night it was saving five-days-a-week elementary school foreign language, music, art and gym programs.

At a budget hearing last week, the board planned to put the so called “elementary specials” on a rotating schedule and make the teachers who instruct the classes part time.

“If you cut all of the specials teachers down to part-time status, you take away the quality of the teachers, because eventually that will become a revolving door of people coming and getting that part-time experience in and getting a better situation for themselves,” EGR parent Lucinda Shair said.

The programs will now continue to be held every day at a cost of $260,000 — the same amount of money that was raised last year by parents and community members through the EGRNOW! campaign.

The Board of Education President Michelle Rabideau said that the changes were made because the district heard from so many EGR families over the past week.

“It really was the community that had us thinking about that list, that list of potential cuts that none of us wanted to make, but unfortunately that was the year,” said Rabideau. “What we received from Lansing, this was the year we had to make some really difficult  cuts.”

“I think it was a big wake-up call to the community to continue using EGRNOW! to plug the holes until things change at a state level,” parent Anne Petruzzi said.

She was one of several parents who raised about $20,000 in a single day last week at a yard sale. All that money went to EGRNOW! and thus, the district.

Some would argue parents and community members shouldn’t have to fundraise for public education and that it should be funded by the state.

“But that’s where we are. The urban districts have been feeling this for years and it’s hit East Grand Rapids now,” Petruzzi said. “That’s just the reality of public school funding.”

EGRPS did decide to cut the middle school intervention specialist, and a total of four teachers will be getting layoff notices on Tuesday. The district will use about $63,000 from its reserves in the upcoming school year.

And the administration took a 2 percent pay cut across the board. For the superintendent, that will mean about $3,600 less next school year.

“I think it shows that they’re all in, that this a community that’s working together to find solutions, and it shows the investment in the community, as well,” Petruzzi said.

“We shouldn’t have to ask our community to pay for public education, but we are so fortunate that we do live in a community that rises to the challenge,” Rabideau said. “They want the very best for their kids. They’re going to respond.”

The board cautioned those present that the shuffling of funds for the next school year was merely a “band aid.” Rabideau reinforced that by encouraging those at the meeting to plan now for what they plan to give to the EGRNOW! campaign in the future, as the district predicts having about a $311,000 shortfall in the 2015-2016 school year and a $283,000 shortfall in 2016-2017.

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