The Harbor Springs Board of Education said goodbye to a handful of teachers who retired at the end of the 2012-2013 school year during their regular monthly meeting Monday, June 10.
The teachers-- Jeff Joneson, Patti Jackson, Nancy Nagurka, and Carol McKee-- were honored during the first part of the board meeting.
Once the meeting resumed, the Board was given a brief budget update (a more detailed budget discussion for the 2013-2014 academic year will take place during a meeting June 24), as well as approving some open enrollment for next year. Superintendent Mark Tompkins said the district's 2012-2013 budget will end some $426,000 in the red. The district will use some of its $2.2 million (or 21-percent of the total budget) in fund balance to cover the remaining deficit. Projections for the 2013-2014 budget are much easier to handle than recent fiscal years, with an expected deficit of only $247,000.
That number is still changing on a near daily basis, Tompkins noted, and said the board will discuss a list of cost saving measures at their next meeting.
A salary-freeze for administrators was approved during the meeting for another year. The district is currently in negotiations with its teaching and support staff, as their current contract expires this year.
One administrative position that is still vacant in Harbor Springs is the athletic director. In a recent interview, Tompkins said the district will be reposting the position in the near future.
"We had a lot of applicants, some who even made it through three rounds of interviews," Tompkins said. "Unfortunately, we just haven't found a fit yet, and we want to get this right. We're going to keep looking until we have the best person for this job and this district."
The board also discussed-- and approved-- opening some grades for Schools of Choice, meaning students who reside outside the Harbor Springs district limits.
"This is the third time we've talked about this," Tompkins said. "We've gone through a pretty clear list of pros and cons by now, and I'm recommending we open Schools of Choice in a very limited way for next year."
Tompkins proposed allowing some students in certain grade levels (with numbers varying depending on the grade) to come into Harbor Springs Schools. He said part of the reason to be open on a limited basis is because there will be "best practices" money available to the tune of $43,000. He also said by spreading out 21 possible new students over many grade levels, it would not negatively impact teaching and learning. The small number would also lessen the negative impact it may have on neighboring districts, whose funding relies on student counts.
"We need to look at a gradual increase in student numbers to support current staffing and programming at the middle and high schools," Tompkins said. He noted the district needs to gain about 60 students over the next few years if that is to happen.
Tompkins said the School of Choice students would be part of a lottery system, and if those students have siblings in other grades, the district will accept them as well.
"We won't split up families, obviously, but I still don't think we'll be seeing a huge influx or number that we can't handle."
"Going forward, we're going to need a lot more discussions about this," said board member Rob Fuhrman. "We need to start planning now. We need to really look at what is the right number for us, because I'm not sure we're going to find 60 additional students to come here in the next few years. And if we don't, then we won't be able to maintain all our programs. So this is a discussion we have to keep having."