Saturday, Jul 30, 2016
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Education

Mason board OKs layoffs, shuts school

ERIE, Mich. - About 100 people learned last night that their school district will close an elementary school and eliminate 16 full-time positions, including one principal.

Under a program outlined by Mason Consolidated Schools Superintendent Marlene Mills, the district will close Mason North Elementary School and cut a middle school teacher, a high school teacher, three secretaries, a data processor, two custodians, a groundskeeper, four general bus aides, two lunch aides, and one principal. Two part-time positions, half an elementary teacher position, and half a counselor position also will be cut.

The cuts will save the district about $1 million, Ms. Mills said.

"These are tough economic times; that doesn't make it any easier to present a budget that has layoffs."

To the dismay of many in the crowd, the board's seven members voted 4-3 to accept the plan at the special meeting.

"Recall this board of education is what needs to be done!" cried Roxanne Gardner, a custodian, after the vote.

"We have to make cuts somewhere," said Kent Swick, who voted yes. "They're painful, they're hurtful, and we can't get around them."

"Everything is not good," said William Saul, who also supported the motion. "Everyone has to face up to the facts."

Pamela Cousino, who made the motion to accept the plan, and Daphne Williams also voted yes. Donald Pearce, Brian Thompson, and Denise Gale voted against it.

The district has a projected enrollment of 1,407 for next year, with a projected budget of about $11 million, Ms. Mills said.

The closing of North Elementary, which will leave the district with three schools overall, sparked many public comments during the lengthy meeting.

"As professionals, we love what we do," said Carey Scarbrough, who has taught at North 15 years and spoke for all the school's teachers. "We know we can do our job wherever we are located, and the students will be fine."

But she raised concerns of crowding resulting from adding North's 125 children to Central Elementary, which has about 450 children. "That's a lot of students, a lot of congestion."

Ms. Scarbrough also raised the specter of "potential loss of more students due to parents pulling students from the district."

Custodians and secretaries said they are already strapped for time, and cutting more positions will make it harder for them to do their jobs. Parents also protested.

Ms. Mills said the public's passion for North and anger and sadness at the possibility of the closing didn't surprise her.

"We know it is a great building," she told the crowd. "It's disheartening to make this recommendation."

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