Saginaw School Board faces 2 options for cutting budget deficit - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Saginaw School Board faces 2 options for cutting budget deficit

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SAGINAW (WJRT) -

(02/06/14) - The fate of Saginaw High School will most likely be known on Saturday.

That's when a special meeting will be held by the Saginaw school board to decide how to cut into a multi-million dollar budget deficit.

Closing Saginaw High is one option, but it's not the only option.

"The decision I have to make is a tough decision," said Delena Spates-Allen, Saginaw School Board member.

Spates-Allen says that decision is even tougher after Wednesday night's meeting, where one by one, people stepped to the podium in support of saving Saginaw's east side high school, Saginaw High and Saginaw itself.

"The proposal that was presented to our community offers no balance for the community," said Charles Coleman, of Saginaw.

"Regardless of the decision on the schools, we should focus on the community, and what needs to be done to save the city," said Rhonda Farrell-Butler, of Saginaw.

The option of closing Saginaw High School, Heavenrich Elementary and Rueben Daniels Middle School, and the layoffs of 58 employees, would save the district about $4.6 million.

The other option is keeping Saginaw High School open and adding seventh and eighth graders to the building. The savings there - about $3.9 million.

Saginaw High School families were surveyed last year to see if they would like to see Saginaw High turn into a seventh-twelfth grade school. The answer then was 'no,' but now, the answer appears to be 'yes'.

"I think it could be a problem with the young kids mixing with the older kids," said Howard Sharper, 1968 Saginaw High School graduate.

Sharper says, however, if it means saving Saginaw High School, he's all for it.

"I believe the school administration could possibly create a seventh and eighth academy within Saginaw High," he said.

Spates-Allen, a Saginaw High School graduate, was moved by the emotions brought out at Wednesday night's meeting. She hasn't made up her mind on which plan is the best option and is encouraged to hear people are open to making Saginaw High a seventh-twelfth grade school.

"We are doing everything in our power to keep that school open," she said. "Many people look at our schools, in particular, Saginaw High, as a place where we can come together. Should I be looking at this as a place where we can come together, or should we look it at the fact that the taxpayers elected me to sit at this seat to make sure we have a viable school district?"

She says her decision will partly be made by looking at data, which shows a large number of east side families sending their children to west side Arthur Hill High School.

"When you look at 36 percent of the students who attend Arthur Hill come from the east side, that says something. Why not Saginaw High? If we had the 36 percent students over at Saginaw High, Saginaw High wouldn't be on the chopping block," she said.

Despite the emotion that was shown at Wednesday night's meeting, Spates-Allen says her decision will not be based on emotion, but what's best for the school district.

"Should I base my decision based on the fact that I went to Saginaw High School? I have four generations that graduated from Saginaw High School, that is my alma mater. No, I shouldn't," she said.

She also wonders if the Michigan Department of Education will accept the option that doesn't reduce the budget deficit as much as the first.

"If the state doesn't accept this, then it's going to come back and it's going to withhold our state aid payments, if our state aid payment is withheld, we can't make payroll," she said.

The school's administrators are continuing to go over the numbers before Saturday's meeting. The state needs the plan by Monday.

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