Esky collects debt for failed classes

ESCANABA — The Escanaba School Board started discussions on ways to collect debts from parents of students who failed a virtual class, Early Middle College course, or Dual Enrollment class Monday night. Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher reported a total of $50,000, in uncollected funds, has accumulated due to students failing classes in the programs offered as advance placement at Bay College. The board reviewed the report showing amounts due to the school. Fletcher explained the State of Michigan requires school districts to recoup money paid for students who failed.

“There are situations where we incur debt and the state expects us to try to recover that debt,” said Fletcher.

When a student does well in the program, the state considers the money well spent in any of the three programs.

According to Fletcher, parents and students know before the student takes a class the money has to be paid back to the school district if the student fails. The percentage of the students who fail are very low in either Early Middle College or Dual Enrollment. The percentage of students failing in virtual classes is higher. Ninety percent of the Early Middle College students were successful last year and 86% were successful in Dual Enrollment.

Escanaba has been billed $13,300 by the state for classes failed by students in Dual Enrollment from spring 2017 to winter 2019. Almost $9,000 of the money has been paid back to the school.

“That leaves us with about $4,000 outstanding, that we were unable to get after repeated attempts to work with families,” said Fletcher.

Early Middle College outstanding costs were $58,800. Escanaba did collect about $22,000, leaving an outstanding balance of $36,800 to collect. The total outstanding money to be repaid is approximately $40,000.

“It’s money the district pays per credit hour for the courses that kids take. If they pass them, that’s money well spent, if they don’t then it becomes our duty to collect those funds,” said Fletcher. “I don’t have the failed virtual courses, that would add to this amount.

That would probably take us over $50,000 in uncollected funds.”

Students who are repeatedly unsuccessful, or unsuccessful in a semester, typically do not continue in the programs, Fletcher said.

The board will discuss ways to collect debt from parents after exhausting every effort.

“We really want to work on this as a case by case basis … $40,000-$50,000, if that continues to accrue it becomes a substantial amount of money. I’m proposing we consider using a debt collection agency to try and collect some of these funds from folks after we as a district have done everything we can to work with families,” said Fletcher. “We want to make it as easy as possible for folks to reimburse the district.”

In other business the board:

– Continued to discuss policy changes to the scholarship program regarding school of choice.

– Received a report from Fletcher regarding the state budget. He showed Governor Whitmer is proposing an increase of $225 per pupil in the Escanaba district. Fletcher said additional dollars should be added to transportation and to teach at-risk students. “Where we tend to lag behind are in the more expensive students we have to educate,” said Fletcher. “…a third area of issue for us is transportation.” The money to fund transportation comes out of the general fund.

– Received information regarding candidates running for the Michigan Association of School Boards, Board of Directors. The board will review the candidates’ information over the week and vote during the regular meeting Feb. 17 on who they would like to represent them.

– Received information regarding a set of policies from the Thrun Law Firm. Escanaba currently uses NEOLA as the school’s policy service. NEOLA is based out of state and services other states. Thrun is from Michigan, writes the policies with Michigan law in mind, and currently represents Escanaba. The board will decide at the next meeting to continue using the same policy service or not.

– Reviewed Accent Specialty Services’ quarterly review. Accent, a custodial service from Menominee, is required by the board to provide quarterly information after the contract was renewed. Accent provided a detailed report in regard to quality assurance of cleaning services in the Escanaba facilities.

– Received plans showing the layout of Lemmer Elementary, Upper Elementary, and the high school for the next school year.

– Hired Julie Klade-Irving as a cook helper at the Escanaba Upper Elementary, and Ron Romps as a bus driver.

The next Escanaba School Board meeting will be held Monday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. in the courtyard room at the Escanaba Upper Elementary.