Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DISSOLVING THE INKSTER DISTRICT: Read News-Herald report on the situation, including the fact that 32 Taylor teachers were called back on Monday

NOTE: The News-Herald Newspapers' Dave Komer reported today on issues related to the dissolving of the Inkster School District. With that move by the the State of Michigan, Taylor is one of four surrounding districts that will receive students from Inkster.

TAYLOR — A district already wrestling with major issues discussed Monday the uncharted waters it will be treading due to the state dissolving the Inkster school system.

Taylor stands to gain about 370 Inkster students among those who were redistributed among four contiguous districts that also include Dearborn Heights Westwood, Romulus and Wayne-Westland.

The unexpected enrollment increase was one of the big topics examined at the first Board of Education meeting since the announcement a few weeks ago.

The district held a registration drive Monday (see related blog post) for the displaced families and enrolled 150 students, with seven on hold needing more documentation. Some have already registered, but all must be enrolled by Sept. 3, the first day of school.

Earlier Monday, 32 teachers were called back from 51 who were laid off in June. The layoffs had taken effect prior to the addition of Inkster students.

Although school Supt. Diane Allen called the drive positive, ripple effects of the state’s July 23 decision still are being dealt with.

The district has 7,650 students and 96 schools-of-choice enrollees. It is not clear how many current students will leave for other districts under schools of choice or how many former Inkster students earmarked for Taylor also will go to other districts.

Taylor, which has a $60 million budget, is in the first year of a three-year deficit-elimination plan to resolve a $19- million deficit. Chief Financial Officer Shawn Stirling said that, as of June, the district’s budget was in line with the deficit-elimination plan.

The plan will be adjusted next month due to the changes, Stirling said.

Trustee Deborah Stellini said she is not comfortable calling back all 32 teachers with the outside chance that enrollment projections might be off, or that the number of returning district students could drop. Calling herself a “glass half-empty” person, Stellini expressed concern about having to lay off some of the teachers again.

Stirling said the 32 teachers represent a cost of $1.9 million, but that with the 150 Inkster students enrolled that day, it would bring in an additional $1.1 million. With the 150 and 96 schools-of-choice students enrolled, that would be $1.8 million — if there were no additional Taylor students lost.

“We had initially 19 or 20 teachers laid off and you guys directed us to lay off an additional 32 for the deficit-elimination plan, which it was based on,” Stirling said to the school board.

Allen said the 32 teachers have classroom assignments and adjustments might have to be done once school starts. School board President John Reilly said one alternative would be to have a substitute at the beginning of school. He said both options — having too many teachers called back and then having to lay some off, or not having enough teachers at the start of school and beginning with substitutes — are far from ideal but “are a reality of life.”

Stellini said she has heard some parents in the community were upset the school board was not allowed to vote on whether to take the displaced Inkster students. An added expense, she said, will be determining how to handle the three Inkster school buildings that are now Taylor’s responsibility.

“We do not know the true cost of taking them into our district,” she said. “We have to pay for our utilities for the buildings that are there. We may have to tear down one of their buildings. We have to look at the equipment inside and take them here. We need to be conservative on our budget.

“Where is the curriculum material coming from? Where are the seats, the bus drivers? Where are the secretaries and cooks coming from?”

Stirling said that as of Friday the district has to budget for lawn maintenance, utilities and building security. She said the Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency will be pulling a year of bills for Inkster to provide districts with anticipated costs.

One source of revenue is two years of sinking school funds, or about $1 million. However, RESA will be holding that money to split it among the schools. The money has to go toward Inkster buildings.

Of the three buildings going to Taylor, one is boarded up and has trees growing through the middle of it, Stirling said.

“We have to get a cost of the asbestos abatement and if RESA would consider covering the cost of demolition, within reason,” she said. Allen said the state is giving the school districts absorbing the Inkster district an additional 10 percent for the new students as a transition cost. Another issue had to do with busing. Stirling said that although Inkster outsourced busing, the district had five buses. Three of the four absorbing school districts were interested in those vehicles, she said. RESA has met with the four districts’ chief financial officers and operations directors.

“The districts are dividing up things saying, ‘You can have the buses and we’ll take the football helmets,’ that sort of thing,” Stirling said. “There could be additional transportation costs.”

Stirling said the Michigan Department of Education is aware of the new challenges Taylor is facing.

“We will be redoing the budget in September and it will be vastly different,” she said. “They understand we have a huge undertaking that we have to add to the budget.”

For the News-Herald's presentation of this story, which include video, click here. Contact Staff Writer David Komer at 1-734-246-0866 or Follow him on Facebook and @DavidKomer_NH on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

NEW STUDENTS: More than 150 former Inkster students register for the Taylor School District after their old district is dissolved by the State of Michigan

On Monday, staff from the Taylor School District spent the day registering former Inkster students and families into Downriver's largest school system. According to TSD Assistant Supt. Teresa Winnie, more than 150 new students are now heading for Taylor.

The State of Michigan recently dissolved the Inkster Public Schools, forcing the students in that district to be divided among the four contiguous public school districts of Taylor, Romulus, Wayne-Westland and Westwood. 

Families living between Michigan Avenue (north), Van Born (south), Middlebelt (west) and Inkster (east) have been designated for the Taylor School District. 

While the elimination of any public school district is a painful process, it marks positive economic news for the four surrounding districts. Taylor, for instance, is currently in a Deficit Elimination Plan with the state.

Last year, Taylor had approximately 7,300 students with a general fund budget of $62 million and a Foundation Per Pupil Allowance of $7,547. 

Given the fact that the great majority of local public school funding comes directly from the state's "per pupil grant" each year, the influx of 150 new students is very good news for any district. 

From strictly a financial standpoint, another 150 new students would mean over $1 million in additional annual funding flowing into a district that has recently found itself in difficult economic times.

Asst. Supt. Winnie was extremely pleased with the registration day.

"To say I was pleased is an understatement," she said in an email to TSD staff yesterday. "Dan Kresbaugh, the secretarial staff and school personnel worked relentlessly to make Inkster parents and students feel welcome to the district. There was much laughter, camaraderie and great conversation.

"The students who came with their parents were very interested in all that we were sharing with them and asked great questions."

Inkster parents should note that to attend Taylor schools on Sept. 3, their children must be registered. What is needed to register your child in the Taylor School District is available by clicking here.

Anyone from Inkster, as well as any out-of-district students who would like to attend Taylor schools, still have time to register. Families can do that at the Pupil Accounting Department, 9551 Westlake, Taylor, MI, 48180, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2:45 p.m.

Monday, August 12, 2013

KENNEDY HIGH SCHOOL: New Principal Tommie Saylor offers his thoughts heading into a new school year

“Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. Talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet. Make all your friends feel there is something special in them. Look at the sunny side of everything. Think only of the best, work only for the best, and expect only the best.  

"Be as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. Give everyone a smile.  Spend so much time improving yourself that you have no time left to criticize others. Be too big for worry and too noble for anger.”
Christian D. Larsen

Hi, I'm Tommie D. Saylor Jr., the new principal of Kennedy High School.

I have decided to start sending out my "Principal’s Friday Update" today, a message I traditionally send out on Fridays during the school year recapping the week’s events, important messages to the staff, reminders and often just simply what’s on my mind. I know we are weeks away from the official start of school, but I hope by starting my update early, you will have the opportunity to get to know me a little better prior to the official start of the school year.

I’m an old-fashioned country boy who grew up surrounded by farmland and woods on the west side of the state. I am passionate about hunting, fishing and the Detroit Lions. In fact, I spent most of the month of July in the Great Garland Swamp, state land located between Baldwin and Luther. I stayed in a three-room cabin with no electricity, no running water, no telephone, no television, no heating and cooling and no indoor toilet (we used an old-fashioned outhouse).  

I had to draw my own water from a hand well pump and bathe down at the creek. It was about as primitive as one can get these days, and I loved it. My closest neighbor was miles away and I had plenty of time to think and to simply be alone with my thoughts. I read, absorbed nature's beauty and recharged my batteries. This is how I rejuvenate, unwind and gather my strength to do what we must during the school year.  

I hope all of you have had the chance to do the same this summer and are now preparing yourselves for the tasks ahead.

I am also a veteran of the U.S. Army, who served most of my five years in what was West Germany as a scout/forward reconnaissance trooper. I walked the East-West border for years, obtained the rank of sergeant and earned nine medals during my five years of service.  

After leaving the Army, I attended Western Michigan University and obtained my bachelor’s degree in education as a certified science teacher. I taught Chemistry, Advanced Chemistry and AP Chemistry at Portland Public Schools for eight years. Portland is located on I-96 just west of Lansing.  

While teaching at Portland, I continued to take classes at WMU and earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership. Shortly after earning my Master’s Degree, I accepted a position at Ashley Community Schools as the K-12 principal. Ashley is located just south of Mount Pleasant.  I was the principal at Ashley for 8 ½ years before coming to Taylor as the principal of Truman.  

This summer I concluded a 2½ year stint at Truman and I am very excited and feel honored to have the opportunity to now serve as the principal of Kennedy High School.

Now that you know a little about me, I do have a thought I want to share with you on this first update of the 2013-14 school year. I know that in the last few years Kennedy has had several different principals and assistant principals. The continual rotation of administrators has understandably created some leadership issues. Those problems end with me.

I plan on being around for a while and though I know that you have heard this before, this time it is for real. My history bears out the conviction in my words. 

I prefer to leave the past in the past, to look forward not backwards, and to spend our energies on creating systems that work. I'm going to concentrate harder on fixing problems than on fixing blame. Simply, let’s concentrate on the positive, let’s build on what works and together let’s create an educational environment at Kennedy High School that is second to none.

This will require teamwork, passion and conviction to our cause. Join me, because the future is waiting for heroes like you.

And always remember that their future is in our hands ... Making Kennedy the school of choice. Excellence by design!

SUMMER ARTS & PREVENTION ACADEMY: Participants wrap up the program

The Summer Arts & Prevention Academy at the Sixth Grade Academy recently wrapped up.
On August 2, the program held its Showcase at the Activity Building at Heritage Park, where about 50 participants put on a wonderful performance for over 160 of their family members and friends.

Throughout the course of the summer, the students learned ballet and hip-hop dances, as well as a musical drama called “The 100 Year Snooze." 

The major art piece that was done this year was a wall mural painted at the Sixth Grade Academy – the second mural the Summer Arts Academy has completed at the school. This year’s theme was “Believe." Students painted individual pictures based off words associated with this theme, which helped form the final mural.
Other highlights of the summer included field trips to the Detroit Institute of Arts, University of Michigan Museum of Art, Detroit Historical Museum, and Heritage Park, a visit from the Kona Ice Truck, and planting a community garden at the school, which the Taylor Teen Health Center and the students at the Sixth Grade Academy will continue to keep up as the school year starts.

NOTE: We'll do our best to post some more pictures of the program in upcoming blogs.