ATLANTA - Concerned parents, grandparents, community members, teachers, and administrators of Atlanta Community Schools filled the high school library Thursday evening for a community meeting. The meeting was organized by Tarry Deo, former superintendent, and Dale Suiter, father and grandfather of children in the school, addressed the community about ongoing problems involving the board of education.
"We continue to fail our students by providing inadequate outside services with people that are not approved through the Michigan Department of Education to work with students in our public school system," Deo said.
Besides special education, Deo said issues with the Department of Education and state are resulting in losing an estimated $5,000 in state aid each month.
News Photo by Emily Siegmon
Tarry Deo explains Atlanta Community Schools budget during Thursday evening’s community meeting. According to Deo, the budget has not been discussed or amended by the board since it was adopted in June. He said after losing 45 students the budget does not reflect accurate revenue.
"The lawsuit against the (Alpena-Montmorency-Alcona Educational Service District) has not been explained or financially justified to the public," Deo said.
Deo said the school budget has not been discussed by the board since it was adopted earlier in June with inherent problems.
"Title I funds have been used inappropriately for the last three to four years. This has caused a $350,000 shortfall in this year's budget with potential liability of $1.2 million," Deo said. "Inaccurate student count information was sent to the Department of Education, and students were in classes without certified teachers. This will also result in a loss of state aid."
Deo said overall the school board and administration have not followed rules and are not complying with state and federal regulations.
"The board needs to read the mission statement and begin making decisions in the best interest of Atlanta students. The board must immediately address the school budget and agree to sign the special education agreement with the AMA ESD," Deo said.
He said the board should terminate the consulting agreement with former Superintendent Theresa Stauffer, check criminal records and certifications of all employees, and follow the Open Meetings Act.
"We are here today to get a handle on things that haven't changed ... The ending fund balance today, without board discussion shows -$253,582. I can't change that, I can just tell you what it is," Deo said. "It's an easy thing, you tell the truth and follow the rules."
Suiter said Atlanta is dealing with desperate circumstances directly caused by Stauffer and the current school board. He said ultimately the board of education is making each day worse with legal fees, loss of state funding, and state and federal investigations.
"Overall, we lost 75 students to Hillman and Johannesburg districts at $6,900 each, an overall loss of $517,500 each school year," Suiter said. "The board priority appears to be the destruction of Atlanta Community Schools, no other rational explanation exists."
Suiter said the board has not discussed the reasons, updates or complaints involving the lawsuit against the AMA ESD with the community.
"When this first started I was told the AMA ESD were bad people ... I went along with them for about a year, until I realized it should have never happened," board member Laurel Orm said. "I have not been briefed on the status of the AMA ESD lawsuit since it started."
Suiter said the community should demand access to the current status of what he called a frivolous and expensive lawsuit.
"Support Superintendent Haskin and Assistant Principal Pieffer, expect this board to not support them and try to fire them. This board has no loyalty to students, staff, teachers, or community members. Why expect them to support those trying to educate our students," Suiter said.
A petition was available to anyone at the public meeting, demanding the board stop the ongoing lawsuit against the AMA ESD, encourage administrators, staff and teachers to deliver quality education while treating them with respect, restore financial stability, and implement a policy where actions of the board will benefit Atlanta students, staff, teachers, administrators and community members.
Suiter said he will recall board President John Fazekas, Secretary Michael Talbot and board member Roselyn Ferguson.
"Next week I will be submitting the recall language to the county clerk. Once the recall language is approved by the county board of election I will have petitions printed and we will obtain the number of signatures needed," Suiter said. "Once petitions are submitted and approved an election will be scheduled to recall the board. We must have a get-out-the-vote campaign. Board members must be elected that will act with the best interest of students and the community, teachers and staff. The current situation must stop."
Emily Siegmon can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687.