MCC board votes to eliminate 2 teaching positions

October 21, 2013
Resident Randy Wyman addresses the school board.

Resident Randy Wyman addresses the school board.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

 SCOTTVILLE — By a vote of 4 to 3, the Mason County Central Board of Education voted Monday night to eliminate two math and science teaching positions, making up for a $337,920 deficit the district will have due to a reduction of 48 students.

See related story here.

Jack Stibitz, left, listens to comments.

Jack Stibitz, left, listens to comments.

One of the positions was the job held by Sherryl Martin, who passed away earlier this fall. The other position is held by eighth grade math teacher Jack Stibitz, who has worked for the district for 18 years.

While the board’s vote was to eliminate the two positions, it did not technically decide on which two staff members would be cut. That decision has been made by the district’s administrators. However, it was clear by discussion of the school board members, that the outcome of their decision would result in Stibitz being laid off as of Nov. 25.

Trustee Jim Schulte, prior to voting in favor of the staff reduction, said he would like to see the board explore further what other options are available, such as again offering early retirement incentives.

Superintendent Jeff Mount said those incentives were offered in the spring but no teacher chose the option at the time.

Several MCC school district parents, teachers and students attended Monday’s board of education meeting to express their concerns about Stibitz losing his job. Stibitz and his family were also in attendance.

“We all like Mr. Stibitz. He’s a great teacher,” said eighth grader Gus Quigley, who along with several other students started a petition drive to preserve Stibitz’ job. “We started the petition hoping to keep Mr. Stibitz.”

When asked by a parent of why Stibitz was selected for layoff, Superintendent Jeff Mount said that the specific area that needed to be addressed was math and science in the middle school, adding the current eighth grade class has 89 students, the smallest class in the district.

High school teacher James Stuart, speaking on behalf of the MCC Educational Association, said this was the first time in MCC’s over 50-year history that a tenured teacher with 18 years in the district would be considered for layoff.

“There are other options to save revenue,” Stuart said. “We have shown the MCC board members those options. The board’s response has been somewhat luke warm.

“Imagine your livelihood, your job, your business, something you have relied on for years, at no fault of your own, gone. It is a fearful picture.”

Parent and Scottville businessman Randy Wyman said his four children each list Stibitz as one of their most influential teachers. Wyman said he did not understand why Stibitz, who is certified to teach in many different curricula, was not offered a position somewhere else and a teacher with less versatility wasn’t laid off.

Sixth grade teacher Scott Dumas said he believes the board of education, along with the community, needs to address what the school is going to do about losing so many students each year.

“We need to step out of the box and try to figure this out,” Dumas said.

“People want to send their kids to the best school in the area,” said Cathy Quigley. “And, with school of choice, I’m concerned if we are going to start cutting teachers that we aren’t going to be the school of choice.”

“In the secondary levels we have small class sizes in the areas of math and science and these are the two areas where staffing will be reduced,” Mount told the board in a memo. “These layoffs will not increase current elementary class sizes and will only adjust those small science and third trimesters.”

Mount said this year’s eighth grade class is the smallest class in the school, with 89 students. Because of that small number, there are only 14 to 15 students in the math and science classes. He said several criteria was looked at when deciding which of the six school science teachers would be eliminated. The state longer allows the district to make that decision based on seniority alone. He said several criteria were looked at when comparing the teachers, all of which are considered good teachers. They included teaching skills, classroom management, attendance of the staff member, disciplinary action against the staff member, among other areas.

“If all those things are equal, then we can consider seniority,” Mount said. “It’s a very difficult process to work through with our administration team. It was the most difficult process, I think, I have ever been part of.”

One of the parents raised a concern about the $81,000 fine MCC was assessed by the state board of education because two teachers had let their certification lapse (see related story). Mount said Stibitz was not one of those teachers but the issue had no bearing on the budget decisions or on who was being laid off.

“The real damage here is what you are doing to the people,” said Linda Rowcliffe. “I respect that you have a budget but it’s the students that are going to pay the ultimate price for the decisions the school board is making. Mr. Stibitz is an effective teacher. When students who have graduated come back to town they look him up. He makes a difference. He finds a way to reach that student. He works his ass off for the students of Mason County Central. If you lose a teacher of this quality at MCC you will find a large migration of students that will be transferring and you will not have MCC.”

Mount told the school board that if it did not vote in favor of staff reductions, the school would not be able to balance its budget, which it is required to do.

He said that the school currently has 1,338 students, compared to 1,386 last year; 135 kids transferred out of the district this year. Of those, 42 left the school district to attend another local school; 39 went to another district somewhere else in the state; 17 moved out of state; 4 are part of the West Shore ESD’s ASM Tech program; 7 are now home schooled; 9 transferred to alternative education and 17 are unknown.

He said the district also has 114 newly enrolled students. In addition, last year’s graduating class had 126 student while this year’s kindergarten class has 104 students.

The vote was as follows: Voting yes were President Randy Saxton, Vice President Jeff Barnett, Secretary Carl Geers and trustee Jim Schulte. Voting no were Secretary Gena Nelson and trustees John Wagner and Sherry Wyman. 

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