Manchester Schools facing financial crisis

By Eric Christiansen

NORTH MANCHESTER -- The Manchester Community Schools Board of Trustees met for a special meeting Wednesday evening, June 3, to discuss the financial situation of the school district. 

Within the report by MCS Business Manager Jeremy Markham, the district is facing a potential $1 million cut in funding for the 2020-21 school year that could result in school building consolidation and Reduction in Force (RIF), meaning potential loss of staff, including teachers.

The biggest reason for the loss of funding is the anticipation of MCS losing approximately 65 students for the 2020-21 school year.

The consolidation of school resources would include Manchester Elementary School to house students grades PreK-5 (640 students), Manchester Junior High (current Manchester Administration Office building) to house grades 6-7 (245) and Manchester Junior-Senior High School building to house grades 8-12 (609).

The consolidation of resources (buildings) and the repurpose of Manchester Intermediate School would save $286,000 for the district.

RIF savings, with staff being reinstated as permissible by student enrollment, save $625,411.

Other considerations for cost reduction included savings on utilities and operating costs ($185,256), and eliminate positions not needed due to combining services ($208,143), for a total of $1,522,900.

The board was originally scheduled to vote on the financial savings plan but after discussion between MCS Superintendent Dr. Teresa Gremaux and the Manchester Teachers Association, it was decided to delay the vote and only hear the presentation and the status of MCS.

MTA only recently found out about potential changes in the middle of May with no details, according to MTA Discussion Chairperson Erica Vogel in her public comment to the board.

MTA President Jeff Huber informed the board that MTA asked Gremaux for details of the plans on May 28 and that the administration was not ready to share the details.

“From previous discussions, we were aware that RIFs and other budget cuts were on the table, and that we have [also] have an obligation to discuss them,” Huber said in a written statement. “When pressed for certain details, only non-specific details were given. We were aware about Laketon (MIS) closing was being seriously considered. MTA new we had an obligation to discuss this.”

Huber added that, with the impact of the school taking such drastic measures and voting on them in the same board meeting (June 3), MTA asked Gremaux to consider not having the board vote at that time, which she obliged.

“We thank Dr. Gremaux for acknowledging that and making that change,” Huber said.

Huber added that when MTA found out about the list of teachers who are being considered for a RIF, that also needed to be mutually looked at.

“MTA has been backed into a corner and we are trying to do the right thing and the legal thing,” Huber said. “We would like the board to engage in and direct the administration to engage in a transparent and open process that would take steps to help the state of the district financially.

“We acknowledge that some cuts and RIFs are needed, but nothing approaching the scale that is being put forward at this time,” he added. “We would like to discuss that but haven’t been able to do so. We think teachers and the community would support closing a building if we knew that it would result in savings that could save positions in the district, but we do not know how the proper research has been done.”

Board members Mike Hensley and Dave Terflinger started a discussion on how much time would be needed for the MTA and MCS administration to meet to discuss options that could cut costs and potentially cut RIFs.

Both parties agreed to begin discussions for options that could cut costs and RIFs Thursday, June 4, to bring back to the Board at the next meeting, currently scheduled for June 9.

With the importance of the discussion, Terflinger suggested giving MTA and MCS administration time to meet and work out a plan for what will happen moving forward, which was agreed on by both parties.

In order to give both parties the time needed to come to an agreement to present to the school board, the regular monthly MCS Board meeting has been rescheduled to Tuesday, June 16, at 6 p.m. at the Manchester Administration Building, 404 W. Ninth St.

Posted on 2020 Jun 09