School board approves position elimination

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By Marina Csomor
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

MASON — When Mason resident Deb Wantor heard the Ingham Intermediate Board of Education approve the motion to eliminate her job as student assistance secretary at the Capital Area Career Center, she said she knew the decision was made unfairly.

“I really don’t think they give an awful lot of thought to anything that they go and grunt and say, ‘The motion’s passed,’” Wantor said.

At 6:30 p.m. March 20, the board met at Thorburn Education Center, 2630 W. Howell Road, in Mason, for its monthly meeting, where members discussed and approved issues including the elimination of seven jobs beginning in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

The elimination of these positions — which include a career assessment and work-based learning specialist, director of instructional initiatives, instructional technologist, business/banking finance instructor and two night custodian jobs as well as Wantor’s position — will save the district $600,000, said Board President John Wolenberg, an East Lansing resident.

The layoffs had been in the works by board members since last fall, Wolenberg said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Cindy Anderson gave a final overview of the reason for the eliminations.

Loss in money collected from property taxes and state aid is projected to continue through 2014, the retirement rate expenditure is expected to increase and student enrollment is declining, Anderson said. Position elimination will help curb costs, she said.

Although the meeting had not yet concluded, Wantor walked out of the room immediately after her job was eliminated. She said she was angry.

“My position was for $23,000 with no benefits, so I really made a big difference of their bottom line,” Wantor said sarcastically.

Terry Egerer, attendant secretary at the Capital Area Career Center who accompanied Wantor to the meeting, said eliminating these positions was not logical.

“It would be a totally different whole different scenario if the whole position itself was being eliminated,” Egerer said. “It’s not. The body is being eliminated — personally her. The workload is not changing. So, why?”

The jobs chosen for elimination are programs not receiving enough use, Wolenberg said.

“Usually, it’s a program area that is lacking,” Wolenberg said. “For instance, our money and banking class — the enrollments were real low and have been low for several years. And we have other programs that are just coming up with 40 and 50 students, so something’s gotta give.”

But Wantor said the board did not carefully consider consequences before voting.

“Students are going to suffer, but they don’t know,” Wantor said. “In this building, they don’t know about the students.”

Egerer said people whose positions were eliminated, such as Wantor, have skills that will be hard to replace.

“The people she worked with are going to miss her in that position — the rapport she had with the outside world,” Egerer said. “The support she did was a lot of special ed support. That’s necessary.”

Wolenberg said the board eliminated the positions because, despite personal interests, members felt it was the best policy move to make.

“I have a good friend who has lost their position,” Wolenberg said. “You just have to approach it from the organizational perspective. Unfortunately, they put you in these positions. Despite what people think, you don’t get to come here and advance your own agenda or advance your friends’ agendas.”

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