Open Letter to the Milan Area Schools Community

Hello Parents and Community Members of Milan Area Schools. I am writing this letter to help provide you with some factual information regarding several recent topics of discussion in the school district. These topics include recent School Board decisions, district budget considerations, and other topics being discussed in the district. If you have specific questions regarding any of these topics, please feel free to contact me at 439-5050 to discuss your questions or to schedule a meeting with me.

2013-2014 Budget and State Funding Model

The district is currently working through the 2013-2014 budget planning process. Specifically, we are looking at methods to reduce the budget that do not directly affect the classroom or student programming. Due to low birthrates in Washtenaw County and a difficult economy, Milan Area Schools is currently experiencing declining enrollment. Therefore, we are taking the proper measures to right-size our district staffing. We currently have a positive fund balance and we are making precautionary budget decisions in order to guarantee the continued financial stability of the district. A reasonable amount of fund balance is necessary in order to secure cash flow throughout the year. Our current fund balance is approximately 4% of our annual
expenditures. I feel that it is important to provide you with pertinent school funding information. Specifically, I would like to share some data from a state report regarding school district funding in Washtenaw County. This data is part of the most recent Bulletin 1014 Report, an annual report published by the Michigan Department of Education. The data below provides the total funding provided to each district per pupil attending the district.

Willow Run $11,655
Ypsilanti $11,462
Ann Arbor $11,449
Whitmore Lake $9,993
Chelsea $9,827
Lincoln $9,600
Dexter $9,452
Saline $9,428
Manchester $9,341
Milan $9,019

Please note that Milan Area Schools is the lowest funded public school district in Washtenaw County. In order to explain the magnitude of these numbers, I would like to provide you with some of my observations.

1. We receive between $311 and $2,636 fewer dollars per pupil than the other districts in the county.
2. Using our current student population, these differences translate to total budget funding differences of between $746,400 and $6,326,400.
3. If Milan Area Schools received the average per pupil funding of the county, our budget revenues would be $2,648,640 higher. I do not understand why a student in Milan Area Schools does not deserve the same level of educational funding as students in other districts in our county. If these numbers frustrate or concern you, please feel free to contact me or your legislators in Lansing. You can find contact information for your legislator by visiting these two web sites:

Senators: http://www.senate.michigan.gov/fysenator/fysenator.htm
Representatives: http://www.house.mi.gov/mhrpublic/

Both of these links are available on the district’s main web page.

Academic Achievement Growth

Over the past four years, our district has experienced growth in our student achievement (at every building) as measured on several National, State, and Local Assessments. Some of the data measures that we use are the Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP), the ACT college entrance assessment, the Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), and Local Assessments. For example, below is our ACT data for the past four years. In 2013 Milan experienced the largest growth in average ACT composite score and College Readiness measures in Washtenaw County. We are now ahead of the state average on the ACT and College Readiness.

2010 18.8 Composite Score
2011 19.3 Composite Score
2012 19.8 Composite Score
2013 20.5 Composite Score

The outstanding student achievement growth in the district is attributable to the efforts of all of our staff members in the district. Educating a child requires the combined efforts of every employee. If you have questions regarding our current student achievement data, please feel free to contact Peter Kudlak at kudlakp@milanareaschools.org or 435-5050.

Advertising Campaign

As previously stated, over the past two years, Milan Area Schools has experienced a decline in student enrollment due to factors that are not under our control. In an effort to maintain our student population, the School Board and Teachers’ Union (MEA) felt that it would be beneficial to promote the great things that are taking place in the district. Student population is important because all school funding is based on pupil counts. It is also worth noting that many programs and class offerings are based on an economy of scale. Therefore, we can offer all of our students expanded opportunities when we have more students in the district. The total cost of the “Schools to Choose” campaign was approximately $14,000. The district and the Milan Teachers’ Union (MEA) split the cost of the campaign. Our current data demonstrates that at least 15 new students have specifically stated that the campaign drew them to Milan Area Schools. The funds brought to Milan by these additional students will benefit every child in Milan. The district administration closely evaluates each schools of-choice applicant, and students with previous discipline records are denied acceptance into our schools.

Staff Reductions

It is important for any business to make sure that their staffing levels are appropriate for the services that they provide. This is very true for school districts. Taking this into account with our declining enrollment, it was necessary for Milan to right-size our district staffing levels. While a great deal of this was accomplished through retirements and staff attrition, a few layoffs were required. The district recently laid off 4 teachers, 6 custodians, 2 secretaries, 1 bus driver, and 1 business office employee. These layoffs will not directly affect the education or programming that we provide our students.

Privatization of Support Services

Another possible way to reduce the district’s spending is to privatize non-instructional staff. It is important to know that instructional staff cannot be privatized under current Michigan laws and school codes. The district recently did a precursory investigation of the possible savings from privatizing our custodial, maintenance, food service, secretarial, and transportation employee groups. The one group that appeared to provide substantial savings to the district was custodial. At the June 11th Board Meeting, the Board of Education voted to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) to get solid pricing on privatized custodial services for the district. This decision does not mean that the district is going to privatize custodial services. It simply means that the district is interested in knowing the real amount that could be saved by privatizing this group. Once those numbers are available, the Board will have to weigh the cost savings with the multitude of pros and cons of privatization.

Single Tier Transportation

As you are aware, Milan currently has a two tier transportation system. Our secondary (middle school and high school) students are transported together (on one tier) and our elementary students are transported together (on another tier). The district is currently investigating the savings generated by implementing a single tier transportation system. This would place all of our students on the same bus run in the morning and the afternoon. There are potentially substantial savings from this change. The savings are generated by decreasing expenditures on fuel, bus repairs, wages, and bus purchases. These savings are mainly generated by the fact that each bus will only travel half of the miles that they currently travel each day. Maintaining our current system is difficult because our students who are transported are spread out over approximately 89 square miles. This creates a situation where time constraints do not allow us to fill our buses before they have to return to the school. This decreases our ridership efficiency and thus, increases our costs. Transporting K-12 students on the same bus run would allow for our buses to be utilized more efficiently. The district is currently in the investigation phase of this implementation. When and if single tier transportation is implemented, parents will be informed of the new transportation arrangements. We have already talked with other districts that have made this transition. In an effort to implement policies that will keep all of our students safe while riding the bus, we will continue to communicate with these districts regarding their implementation process.

Multi-Age Program Closing

The first and second grade multi-age program at Paddock Elementary School will not be continued in 2013- 2014. While there is a lot of speculation about why this occurred, it is important for everyone to know the following facts about the program:

1. The program was not a Gifted and Talented program.
2. The Board of Education did not cut the program.
3. The administration did not cut the program.
4. There are no cost savings created by the discontinuation of the program.
5. The two teachers in the program approached the building Principal to inform him that they did not want to teach in a multi-age setting next year.
6. The teachers stated that changes in state and district requirements would not allow them to implement the program the way they desire.
7. Earlier in the year, district administration did discuss our expectations of a consistent implementation of curriculum and programming in all 1st and 2nd grade classrooms with the teachers.

Thank you for taking the time to read this lengthy letter. If you have any questions regarding these topics or any other matters, please feel free to contact me at girbachb@milanareaschools.org or 439-5050.

Sincerely,
Bryan Girbach
Superintendent
Milan Area Schools

One Response to Open Letter to the Milan Area Schools Community

  1. Brian Lamble June 27, 2013 at 7:00 am

    This would be a good time for the district to take another look at all the expensive trips they expect parents to pay for. Or maybe have the staff at the school sell popcorn and candles to make up the shortfall.
    I have never lived in a district where they have 300.00 overnight field trips while school is in session. It places an unnecessary burden on the parents and children. The children that can’t sell or otherwise afford the trip are left at school in mostly empty classrooms while their classmates and teachers are on a trip.

    This time and money could be better spent on an Equal education for all children in the district.

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