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APS to do more with less

Timelines, strategies in place to combat troubling school finances

August 15, 2012
Emily Siegmon - News Staff Writer , The Alpena News

ALPENA - Superintendent Brent Holcomb and Diane Block, assistant superintendent for operations and title 1 director, summarized two committees that have been established as part of Due Diligence planning and communication in order to create awareness of Alpena Public Schools' current financial situation. The committees were discussed at length during Wednesday's finance committee meeting, but troubling finances and possible changes in how Michigan schools are funded will require tightening belts and doing more with less from school districts.

Holcomb said there will not be any financial surprises, and everyone will know what is going on at APS. However, as continuous updates and changes are made to the Michigan education, APS is going to focus on the K-5 setting, due to the competitive environment.

"We're trying to get as many kindergartners enrolled as possible while being sensitive to class sizes," Holcomb said.

"The point is what we do with intent, we do better. We want to manage the process and show good leadership so we don't become a poster child on how not to do this, or have another Black Friday because of our financial problems," Block said.

Block said in order to keep another Black Friday from occurring, timelines and strategies are in place, and everyone involved in APS has a role.

According to Holcomb, an initial reaction to save additional money is to cut athletics or transportation, but he said making those cuts would lose more students than save money.

"We can't cut our way out of this. Things need to change at a state level," Holcomb said. "To our community, we're going to offer the best education possible."

Holcomb also discussed possible changes to the way school districts are funded, and said Gov. Rick Snyder's proposal is a "voucher reincarnated." Schools are currently funded through the 1979 State School Aid Act based on total enrollments, but Snyder has proposed a new way of funding in Michigan established on a system based on weighted student funding and school of choice.

"Snyder asked the Oxford Foundation to look at education from a different standpoint ... this will take the whole model as we know it and change it. The framework we live and work in today will change dramatically," Block said. "The timeline is very aggressive even though it was announced yesterday."

Block said by mid-October an update will be made and a proposal will be given to the legislative process. Changes in the way schools are funded could be in place by next year.

"This is a political agenda that is conservatively based to wipe out education as we know it ... I think the agenda is predetermined, and I think it's going to happen, it's not going to make us a better district," Holcomb said. "Do not underestimate that Oxford Foundation piece."

Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5687.



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