Contents of this issue:
  • Holland budget projection off by $6 million

  • DPS limits 'excessive' retreat spending

  • GRPS to look at single-sex classes

  • Carman-Ainsworth magnet could be year-round

  • Privatization vote prompts violent threat against DPS board

HOLLAND, Mich. — A $6 million projection error in the Holland Public Schools budget will make it harder for the teachers union to claim that the district can afford a more expensive health insurance plan, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The union since November has argued that the district could afford the Choices II plan offered through the Michigan Education Special Services Association, The Press reported. MESSA is a third-party administrator affiliated with the Michigan Education Association.

"This absolutely sucks," The Press quoted Charles Bullard, president of the Holland teachers union, as he left a recent closed-door meeting with administrators where the error was announced.

Bullard told The Press that teachers could call for a strike. Teacher strikes are illegal in Michigan under Public Act 112 of 1994.

Bob Fein, business manager for Holland schools, said he discovered his own error while recalculating budget numbers, The Press reported. Fein said he overstated future state aid, the amount schools receive based on the number of students enrolled, by about $2 million a year for the next three years.

"The error has no bearing on the 'what is' state of our district's financial condition," Superintendent Frank Garcia said in a letter to teachers, according to The Press. "It was a prediction miscalculation, not the mismanagement of actual funds."

What appeared to be a three-year surplus of $6 million is now more likely to be a $1.3 million loss by June 2008 if enrollment continues to drop, according to The Press. The district also said it will ask the state to appoint a mediator as contract negotiations have failed to reach an agreement.

The Grand Rapids Press, "Schools' budget error has union enraged," May 17, 2006

The Grand Rapids Press, "Holland teachers weigh next move in talks," May 18, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland union, district still split," Nov. 1, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Holland teachers threaten illegal strike," May 2, 2006

DETROIT — Teachers and administrators from one Detroit high school spent $5,000 on food, including filet mignon dinners, at a recent retreat, prompting officials to impose a $49 daily limit on food per person, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The Chadsey High School retreat, which lasted just over a day, cost taxpayers $19,000 total, the Free Press reported. The money is part of $5.1 million in grants the district is supposed to use for retreats and staff development to help 130 failing schools attempt to meet Adequate Yearly Progress standards. Other DPS schools have held retreats in Frankenmuth and Traverse City, according to the Free Press.

Superintendent William F. Coleman III said no one will be disciplined over the Chadsey event because guidelines were not in place. Speaking at a May 18 press conference, Coleman said the matter was a violation of public trust, the Free Press reported.

Detroit Free Press, "Detroit limits food spending at school retreats," May 19, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Detroit Public Schools enrollment drops again," Nov. 29, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "DPS administrators to get raises," Jan. 10, 2006

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Grand Rapids Public Schools is considering separating boys and girls for certain classes, according to The Grand Rapids Press.

The district could create single-gender programs within one of the district's four existing high schools as early as the fall of 2007, Superintendent Bert Bleke told The Press.

"We need to be able to offer all kinds of opportunities for our students," Bleke told the newspaper. "The research is there that this works for some students, and I think we should at least take a look at it."

The Press said the National Association for Single Sex Public Education lists 209 such programs nationwide, including 44 actual schools. Proponents say such programs improve grades and behavior, The Press noted, while opponents say it leads to negative stereotypes and other forms of "segregation."

"It's not like the Catholic schools when I was growing up, where there was a girls' school on one side of town and the boys' on the other," school board President Amy McGlynn told The Press. "I suspect we'd see the boys and girls separated for the core courses but together for everything else."

The Grand Rapids Press, "GR considers single-sex school programs," May 17, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Detroit single-sex schools," Dec. 15, 2005

Michigan Education Digest, "Saginaw school offers single-sex classrooms," Aug. 31, 2004

FLINT, Mich. — The Carman-Ainsworth school board could consider a magnet school designed with a year-round calendar and non-graded classes, according to a story from The Flint Township News that was reprinted in The Flint Journal.

A study committee came up with the ideas after the school board asked for suggestions to make Carman Park Elementary School a magnet school for students in and out of the district, The News reported.

Non-graded classes group students together based on ability, rather than age, according to The News. A year-round school calendar could mean a one-month break in the summer, with longer breaks at other times of the year.

The changes could occur as early as the 2007-2008 school year, and possibly be implemented in other schools across the district, according to The News.

The Flint Journal, "Carman-Ainsworth to mull year-round calendar," May 14, 2006

Michigan Education Digest, "Grand Rapids board reviews plans for year-round schools," Dec. 21, 2004

DETROIT — A Detroit Public Schools board member filed a police report after callers to a live radio show May 15 made threatening comments, according to The Detroit News.

One caller said voters should "pick up the gun," The News reported. Some calls focused on a DPS board vote to sign a competitive contract with Aramark for food services. Aramark was chosen in a 9-2 vote to receive a $21.7 million contract for one year, bettering other bids including one from union workers.

The News said several callers mentioned board member David Murray by name, prompting him to file the police report against a group known as "Call 'Em-Out." Agnes Hitchcock, a spokeswoman for the group, said it plans to try to recall Murray.

The Detroit News, "DPS board takes heat on the air," May 16, 2006

Michigan Education Report, "Privatization shows signs of growth across the state," Dec. 15, 2005

Michigan Education Report, "New Detroit school board should consider all educational options," March 7, 2006

MICHIGAN EDUCATION DIGEST is a service of Michigan Education Report (, a quarterly newspaper with a circulation of nearly 150,000 published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy (, a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational institute.

Contact Managing Editor Ted O'Neil at

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