TEMPERANCE — Interim Superintendent Jon White delivered what he said could be his last report to the Bedford Public Schools Board of Education last week, assuring members the district remained “a great place to educate your children” despite persistent financial problems that are leading the school system to close of a second elementary building at the end of this academic year.
He described the district as “student-centered, learning-focused, community-engaged, and globally competitive” despite cost-cutting in recent years that has reduced staff, programs, and services.
“Our children learn and grow to become productive and responsible citizens in a changing world,” Mr. White said in a presentation he called “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Better.” Mr. White has been interim superintendent since October, when he came out of retirement for the 2012-13 school year to replace Ted Magrum, who retired.
The board’s pick to be the next superintendent, Mark Kleinhans, is expected to start July 1. He comes to Bedford from Montrose Community Schools in Genesee County, Michigan, where he has been superintendent since 2002.
Finished with describing what he felt was the school district’s good points, Mr. White, with the help of a PowerPoint demonstration, then discussed what was bad.
“State funding has been stagnant or cut,” he said, and “Michigan’s economy and the political climate continue to negatively affect public education.”
He then cited the deficit elimination plan the district has on file with the state that binds it to rigorous spending cuts, including the closing of Temperance Road Elementary at the end of the school year, and said, “Michigan politicians seem intent on eliminating traditional K-to-12 education.”
The district closed Smith Road Elementary two years ago.
The “ugly” aspect of the district’s situation was the work of the Michigan Legislature, which Mr. White said “is seeking to create schools that will eliminate traditional educational core and elective programs.”
He said the state was diverting $400 million in funding for kindergarten through high school grades to colleges and universities and is considering taking more from schools to pay for roads.
As for the “better” side of things, Mr. White noted the district’s test scores surpassed Monroe County and Michigan averages and said the school system eventually would turn the corner financially.
In other business, the board approved submitting an amended deficit elimination plan to the Michigan Department of Education that would allow the district until the end of the 2016-17 school year to achieve a balanced budget.