Mt Pleasant school crossing safety
(The Morning Sun)

article courtesy of 9and10News

“The decisions that we have been making are decisions that should have been made a long time ago.”

Grand Traverse Academy leaders are making big decisions that include laying off teachers.

Board members say it began with declining in enrollment and a big loss in state funding.

At the beginning of October, the charter school had to make a decision.

They lost about $500,000 of state funding because they had fewer students.

Departments saw cuts across the board and three teachers were let go.

The meeting in Grand Traverse Academy’s Onyx Hall was filled with numbers and parents Thursday night following a diving student headcount.

“I think the official student count ended up being about 1,110 [students],” says Lesley Werth, board president. “That is what our state aid for the year is based on. Our current budget is based on 1,160.”

That led to big financial consequences.

“We have a $10 million budget,” Werth says. “Based on our student count and what the state aid, the amount of state aid we get, we’re getting maybe four to $500,000 less than we did last year.”

It also led to drastic cuts.

“It did result in three teachers having to be let go,” Werth says.

The board did pay off a decade-old debt of $2.33 million with Traverse City State Bank.

Steve Peacock, Grand Traverse Academy’s chief financial officer, says the board sought all other options before cutting staff.

“The human factor is always the last item to cut when it comes to expenditures because it affects people and it affects the whole train of folks beyond just the people working in the building,” Peacock says. “You would have professional development, you would have supplies, you would have all of the different office expenditures that would need to be evaluated and trimmed to decide whether or not we could cut there.”

I spoke with several parents who did not want to be on-camera, but they told me their concerns lie in two different areas.

One, how long it took for the teachers to be laid off and, two, if this is, indeed, the end of the cuts.

“Based on our budget, we needed to find $300,000,” Werth says. “In order to get to that number, unfortunately the staff piece was what we ultimately had to do.”

An audit revealed a low fund balance, around $190,000.

Still, the board president says things are improving.

“We are probably in the best financial spot that we’ve been in the history of our school,” Werth says. “Yes, we’ve had to make some very difficult choices but it’s necessary for this school to continue on into the future.”