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Muskegon’s School Board Passes Budget, Discussion Shifts To Keeping Enrollment Up

Andrew Trzaska | June 21, 2011

Despite many last-minute appeals to stop cuts to various positions and services in the district, Muskegon’s school board voted Monday to accept the most recent draft of the budget, which despite the saving of some programs and teacher jobs still cuts deeply.

Over 125 people were present at Tuesday night’s full board meeting at the Hackley Board of Education building.

The presence of a significant portion of those people came from the organization of a sign-carrying demonstration that was dampened by the summer downpours that hit Muskegon in the several hours preceding the meeting.

Signs that made it through the rain bore messages of “Invest in Education” and “Stop the Attacks” were found littered around the building as the meeting began.

Despite a hot room, discussion was civil among all involved as the final pleas for reconsideration of various budget cuts were made partway through the meetings.

Many different groups were represented Tuesday night, including the teachers’ union, band parents, various athletic teams, paraprofessionals employed by the school district, parent and both recent and longtime alumni.

Several special causes were spoken about, including the letting go of MTEC’s principal and the band program secretary.

Several parents and students, including recent graduate and former drum major Elijah Curry class of 2011, pointed out that low visibility of the position did not mean that the position was of low utility as well.

Speaking of the position’s value, Curry pointed out that because the position does a lot of legwork for the music department, it allows the band director to focus on quality instruction.

“The band works to make the music program and the school better as a whole… the tradition is that we have band directors that can completely commit to the program.”

Similar arguments were made for other special causes – that every cut makes the overall system weaker.

Aside from special-topic comments and questions, a general theme developed among many public comments: if the district cuts too deep, they will lose students. If they lose students, they will lose more funding and cause further need for budget reductions.

One voice in the public forum alerted the board to a possible growing interest among some parents in sending their kids to other schools like Waypoint Academy.

Despite over a dozen public comments from teachers, students, staff and parents, the board voted unanimously to pass the budget in its most recent draft.

Acting in the absence of board president Reverend Charles Poole, vice president Reverend Louis Churchwell spoke to all present immediately after the vote, urging the public to contact their elected officials to work to end continued cuts to education:

“This is the first time the economy has begun to dictate how business is run in education. We need to reach out to our legislators and senators.”

Board Treasurer Billie Bruce spoke highly of the organization of the large amount of people at Tuesday’s meeting, and asked the group’s organizers to help stave off any enrollment losses to other school districts.

“Whoever organized [this amount of people], get everyone together and go door to door and keep our students. I’ll go with you.”

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