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Posted on Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 5:53 a.m.

Chelsea schools to close Pierce Lake Elementary, cut teachers to reduce deficit

By Erica Hobbs

Facing a $2.8 million budget deficit, the Chelsea Board of Education is making sweeping cuts for the 2010-11 school year to balance the budget.

Those cuts include closing Pierce Lake Elementary School, cutting 10 teaching positions, instituting pay to participate and using fund equity.

Chelsea School District
Deficit Reduction Plan

  • Close Pierce Lake: $400,000
  • Increase class size: $550,000
  • Pay to participate: $100,000
  • Relocate WSEC programs: $40,000
  • Transportation adjustments: $130,000
  • Contract administration: $40,000
  • Wage/insurance concessions: $750,000
  • Music adjustment: $30,000
  • Tech. assistant - Contracted: $70,000
  • Maintenance position reduction: $70,000
  • Decrease in general fund to athletics: $60,000
  • Modify specials : $70,000
  • Use of fund equity: $505,000
  • TOTAL DEFICIT: $2,815,000

Superintendent David Killips said Pierce Lake school, which currently houses grades three and four, has the fewest number of classrooms, making it easier for the larger schools to take them on.

With the closing, South Meadows School will hold grades three through five and Beach Middle School will hold grades six through eight. South Meadows currently holds grades five and six, while Beach contains grades seven and eight. The closing is expected to save the district $400,000.

“Even though it’s one of our newest elementaries, the utilities run almost twice as much there compared to the other buildings,” Killips said. “We have better technology and better savings in older buildings because we’ve had upgrades take place.”

The board’s deficit reduction plan would also cut about 10 full-time teachers, a move that is expected to raise class sizes and save the district $550,000. Killips said the increase would be slight, raising most rooms by only a couple students and keeping student numbers in the mid-to-upper 20s per classroom.

“They’re slightly larger class sizes, but we think we’re still going to have very manageable class sizes,” he said.

The reduction plan also introduces pay-to-participate, which would charge students a fee to participate in extra-curricular activities. Killips said a policy committee is working on the details of the plan, which could either impose one flat rate to participate in any activity or charge each program individually. Killips said he didn't yet have an estimate on how much students would be expected to pay, but said the number would be “reasonable.”

Other changes include imposing wage and insurance concessions on non-unionized employees and negotiating with the teachers union and transportation union for possible savings.

“A good portion of (savings) is working toward wage and insurance concessions,” Killips said. “We are going to need the employees help to get through this.”


Superintendent David Killips

Chelsea parents and teachers had mixed reactions to the cuts.

Regina Maynard, vice president of the North Creek Parent Teacher Organization, has a child at North Creek Elementary School and another at South Meadows School. She said she’s concerned closing Pierce Lake will make the other schools too crowded.

“The classrooms are already so tiny with the students in (South Meadows) now, I don’t see how they can make room to make bigger classes,” she said.

Elise Merkel, who teaches special education at Pierce Lake, said she’s concerned the students won’t get enough attention with larger class sizes.

“When it comes to early elementary, a few more kids in a class room makes a huge difference,” she said. “It makes a huge difference in the teaching environment and how much time a teacher can spend with the kids.”

Merkel said she thinks the cuts are premature, and the district should have used its fund equity to balance its budget. Though Killips said the reductions are based off public input, both Merkel and Maynard said budget meetings weren't well-publicized, and they felt decisions were made without the opinions of parents and teachers.

“I haven’t had the feeling that they really wanted us to be a part of it,” Maynard said. “I think there’s different options out there that could be explored, but I don’t feel like they have been.”

Dana Emmert, who has four children in the district’s pre-school and elementary schools, said she supports the district’s decisions.

“I trust that the school board has, is and will make decisions with our children's best interest as the top goal,” she said. “Pierce's closing will not have a significant impact on our children, in my opinion, because we have such amazing teachers and staff that will continue to be amazing no matter what building they are in.”

Erica Hobbs is a reporter for Reach her at 734-623-2537 or via e-mail at



Thu, Mar 11, 2010 : 8:53 p.m.

as a chelsea resident and student, and a member of the only group to go k through 5 at pierce lake, i would just like to say as an individual on the inside track that this is all a bunch of bull. firstly, the manner in which the meetings to get these cuts pushed through and approved by the school board was despicable at the least. it's not that they were poorly publicized, it's that they weren't publicized. no one in the community had any input whatsoever in this decision, and i'm pretty sure that the majority of individuals affected by these cuts, outside of district employees,don't even know what is going to become of the district next year. secondly, these weren't the initial, but the only avenues explored for a reduction in cost. it doesn't matter that there are in the very least 4 administrative positions that are unnecessary, the elimination of which would free up $400000 that we as a district desperately need. apparently, somehow there was still $90000 for soccer bleachers though, which was a decision made immediately after the closure of pierce lake was ok'd. dave killips aside, i'd like to say shame on every one of you who insist on bad mouthing the teachers who work day in and out to do nothing but help the kids in this district. i know for a fact the last thing elise merkel cares about is her salary, and really that goes for every other teacher i know also. all the teachers want is what's best for the kids, not themselves. teachers are teachers for a reason, and it aint cause they love huge salaries. then they become administration instead.


Tue, Mar 9, 2010 : 7:29 a.m.

People should of voted yes on the milleage. There is no reason to blame Chelsea for what they are doing as the public had the opportunity to vote and chose not to support an increase mileage tax.


Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 11:06 p.m.

stunhsif, I agree with you. Unions could ensure no layoffs with salary reductions. Lisa, School closing are another matter entirely. I'd like to see these labor union negotiations open to the public. Then we'd know for sure what took place.

The Grinch

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 3:41 p.m.

Evidence from Fishnuts? Come on, Lisa. You know better than that!


Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 3 p.m.

Many years back it was called: South School And North School. My Daughter went to South. It did not seem that crowed then. Fair amount for head count for a class. Students got very good Special Ed. Because I loved the way Chelsea did Special Ed. It was much better program then what I got in Ann Arbor Public Schools for her.

Susie Q

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 1:31 p.m.

This article indicates that teacher's union is bargaining wage/benefit reductions. It is very difficult for the school districts and the various bargaining units to negotiate pay and benefits when no one knows what the politicians in Lansing are going to do. It is very likely that ALL school employees and maybe ALL public employees will receive pay/benefit cuts from Lansing. Until the jokers in Lansing get their job done on school budgets for 2010-2011, the local districts are hampered in their planning.

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 12:03 p.m.

Smiley, Union concessions are part of this budget plan already. The assumption of Stunshlf that if the Union had only taken a 'reasonable' cut the building wouldn't have to be closed, jobs wouldn't be lost and the kids wouldn't be affected. There is no evidence of that... especially given that this budget calls for $750,000 in wage concessions from the unions.


Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 11:57 a.m.

Lisa, Are you saying the union lacks the ability to provide input on solutions to the budget woes, and therefore cannot propose cuts to pay and benefits as an alternative?

Lisa Starrfield

Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 10:11 a.m.

Stunshlf, Do you have any evidence that the cut in 10 teaching positions (which does not always mean layoffs - retirements often cover this kind of loss) was solely the decision of the union to 'sacrifice their young'?


Mon, Mar 8, 2010 : 8:44 a.m.

Here we go again. The teachers union throws 10 of their own, (the youngest,lowest paid, and most vulnerable) under the bus rather than take reasonable cuts to pay/pension and healthcare. Fewer teachers hurt the kids as well. When push comes to shove, we know where the MEA stands. Protect their own, keep the status quo and to heck with everyone else!