Hillman schools lay off 8

By JULIE GOLDBERG

News Staff Writer

HILLMAN — Eight people could be looking for jobs after they were laid off Thursday by the Hillman Community Schools Board of Education as the district looks to overcome a budget shortfall caused mostly declining enrollment.

A cook, an elementary playground paraprofessional, four elementary instructional paraprofessionals, and two instructional paraprofessionals were laid off. Some of those employees might get their jobs back before school starts.

Another cook’s daily hours were reduced from eight to six, effective Aug. 1, thus eliminating her from qualifying for district insurance. She will be able to use her insurance through Aug. 31.

Superintendent Carl Seiter said employees were laid off Thursday because the support staff union contract requires the district to give 45 days’ notice before the school year.

Board President Kelly Burwell said options are being considered. She said the board is looking at its budget line item by line item to figure out how to save jobs and educate students.

“This is not the end all, be all tonight,” Burwell said. “This is just a contractual part of what we have to do to give the 45-day notice so that we can literally go through this line item by line item.”

The cuts trimmed almost $98,581 of the $464,000 the district is working to eliminate for the 2019-20 school year so it can avoid pulling cash from its fund balance to cover bills.

On Monday, Seiter will meet with Hillman Elementary School Principal and Title 1 Director Pam Rader and District Business Manager Jill Olsen about how many Title I funds the district has. Seiter said the district will recall employees then based on many Title I funds are available.

Seiter said the school is initially provided an estimated allocation of Title I funds and later in the year will get its final allocation. The district has to build its budget based on the estimated allocation.

“We may be dropping some other things out of our title budget to ensure that our classroom help is still there, so that’s what I want to do with Dr. Rader and Jill, our business manager,” Seiter said. “Once we have that solidified, I’m confident that we’re going to be recalling some of our classroom (paraprofessionals).”

Seiter is hoping to recall at least three paraprofessionals who were laid off Thursday.

Seiter said after Thursday’s meeting that he’s “sick to his stomach” that layoffs have to happen. He said about 80% to 85% of the budget is personnel.

“There’s no other business in the community or anywhere that can experience the loss of revenue and not adjust expenses,” Seiter said. “It’s devastating to make these decisions, but that’s why I’m here, I’m expected to make these tough decisions.”

One position that could be eliminated in the future is the industrial arts position. Former board member Charlie Arbour said the district has spent a lot of money to make the program successful.

“We talked many times about being the school that many people would want to come to (and) that was one program that we offered that made people want to come here,” Arbour said. “We have a lot of money set in it, but if you continue to farm out programs to Alpena, I think people are going to say, ‘My kids are over there, dual enrollment’s over there, (so) why am I even here?’ We should do what we can to keep the industrial arts program.”

The board also discussed sports transportation Thursday. Seiter said he is not in favor of eliminating sports transportation altogether because it would affect students and families. He did suggest having each student pay $50 per sport, which would generate approximately $11,150. The district eliminated pay-to-play a couple years ago, and what Seiter is considering now would raise half of what was generated from the previous pay-to-play policy.

Discussion took place about having parents carpool to take students to games, but the topic of liability and safety came up. Sports transportation will be discussed more at future meetings.

The board scheduled another special meeting for July 24 at 6 p.m. to review more budget items.