Muskegon School Board Hands Out Mass Pink-Slips; All Employees To Learn Fate Beginning Of June

Andrew Trzaska | April 19, 2011

In a move called “unprecedented” in the district, school board members of Muskegon Public schools voted Tuesday night to authorize the non-renewal of contracts starting July 1 of this year for virtually all employed by the district, including teachers, administrators and support staff.

The blanket pink-slipping comes in the in the face of a “perfect storm” of reduced revenues from the state, contractual obligations, rising payments into retirement funds and other monetary issues.

In fact, the district will be $11 million short in the coming budget year, which is about ¼ of the $40 million that all districts in the county together face.

Acting Superintendent Betty Savage stated that the committee that works on the budget is lawfully required to provide a balanced budget every June, and described the move as a way to “to give administrators as much latitude and flexibility in dealing with this unprecedented deficit.”

When questioned during public comments about what other schools in the area were doing with its staff, Savage stated that she did not see a need to compare what Muskegon Public Schools does to balance its budget against other districts.

“I know what we need to do and what our flexibility needs to be… it’s not something we relish.”

Savage’s own contract is part of the non-renewal.

Savage did cite similar decisions made in the Grand Rapids public school system, and most recently Monroe Public Schools.

The timeline of budget-related dates and milestones begins on May 5, when a special board meeting will occur for the budget committee to present its recommendations to the board to achieve a balanced budget in June.

Board members will approve the recall of what Savage described as a “majority” of employees by June 1.  Notification of assignments will be sent to teachers and other staff on June 8, several weeks before their contracts expire on July 1.

The June 8 notification date is laid out in a letter of agreement with district union representatives.

It was confirmed at Tuesday’s board meeting that seniority and union status would be accounted for in teacher assignments across the district.

The mass-pink slipping was not the only significant announcement made about plans for the coming school year.

Savage confirmed that a district-wide restructuring plan is in the works, but for the 2011-2012, no buildings will be closed.

No confirmation beyond next year was provided.

Consequently, the approval of the non-renewal came during the same meeting as a unanimous vote approving the hire of Wyoming and Godwin Heights superintendent John Felske, who will begin as Muskegon’s new superintendent on July 1, 2011.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst