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Escanaba schools debates its future

October 18, 2011
By Jason Raiche - Staff Writer ( , Daily Press

ESCANABA - Where is the Escanaba Area School District heading? That was the topic of discussion for Superintendent Michele Lemire at Monday's school board meeting.

The board heard a report from Lemire highlighting current realities of the district and things the board should consider in the future.

"In 2009, the board adopted a strategic plan that gave some direction for the district about the goals we have for student achievement, communication, facilities and funding, and we've been working on that plan for a couple of years now," said Lemire. "Another part of our current reality is we have started our reconfiguration plan. We've got the eighth grade up in the high school. We have fifth grade here at the middle school, but for next year that plan will be for the fourth grade to come to this building (the middle school) and the seventh grade to come to the high school."

Lemire said the reason for the reconfiguration is for students to have increased opportunity, in addition to effectiveness and efficiency. Under the reconfiguration, some things to consider are the mindset, courses and curriculum that goes with it since the new groupings will be: kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth, seventh through ninth, and 10th through 12th. She said there are many things to consider with reconfiguration.

"What's going to be our brand?" questioned Lemire. "How are we going to market, deliver, share, celebrate Escanaba Area Public Schools? What courses make sense for those levels? What classes make sense for those levels? How do we give our kids even more? ... What kind of things should we do for curriculum to make our kids more successful, and what should be the focus for each level and each building?"

Some other questions the board needs to address in the future of this reconfiguration, said Lemire, include: whether kindergarten should be full-day or continue as half-day, personnel and services in each building, and instructional resources and equipment.

Fact Box

"What's going to be our brand? How are we going to market, deliver, share, celebrate Escanaba Area Public Schools?"

Michele Lemire

Escanaba superintendent

According to Lemire, one goal moving forward is renewing the district's strategic plan.

"The big question is we'll have to be revisiting what our desired future is for the Escanaba Area Public Schools," said Lemire. "Where truly do we want our students to be when they graduate?"

She said the district will need to continue to look at additional improvements to the school grounds including playground, fences, the track and tennis courts, equipment, technology and infrastructure.

Lemire also addressed Gov. Rick Snyder's visions of education and some of the legislation he has approved or would like to see, and how the district would respond. She reiterated her belief the district should renew its strategic plan, ensure its reconfiguration is consistent with district goals, and the district needs to improve on the quality of its data, since it is tied to state and federal funding.

In other action Monday, the board accepted an audit report for the 2010-11 school year and also approved a budget amendment resolution for the current 2011-12 fiscal year.

According to Lemire, it is required by state law that every school district in the state be audited each year. Brian Thorsen of Schneider, Larche, Haapala and Co. presented the district's audit report, followed by a presentation by Sue Furney, director of business services for the school district. Furney's presentation compared last year's projected budget to the actual final numbers.

According to Furney, projected revenues under last year's amended budget totaled $22,183,825. Actual final revenues totaled $22,202,436 - an improvement of $18,611. Total expenditures also saw an improvement - of $197,640 - than what had been projected.

Previously, the general fund balance was projected to be $762,410 for June 30, 2011. However this number was adjusted to reflect the higher revenues and lower expenditures for a total fund balance of $978,662. A new requirement to transfer money in the athletics fund to the general fund brought forth a final fund balance of $979,951.

The June 30, 2012 projection for the 2011-12 budget had been a fund balance of $283,832, but the budget needed to be amended to reflect a new projected general fund balance of $540,508.

"We did make an improvement there," said Furney. "Is that where it needs to be? Absolutely not."

The board approved the amended budget to reflect these changes.

In other business, the board:

approved the signing of a lease agreement with the city of Escanaba for Ness Field for a sum of $1 per year for three years, set to expire June 30, 2014. The board also agreed to cancel the $1 per year lease the district has with the city of Escanaba for the soccer field located behind the high school.

approved a resolution regarding Section 22f of the State School Aid Act, which provides $100 per pupil one-time grants to those districts satisfying at least four of the five best practices criteria no later than June 1, 2012.

heard a technology presentation by Technology Director Bob Viau, regarding technological enhancements, the Children's Internet Protection Act, and a look ahead to the 2012-2015 technology plan that tells the district's technology goals.

heard a monthly construction update.



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