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Posted on Thu, Dec 17, 2009 : 9:07 p.m.

Willow Run school board lays off teachers, eliminates some sports programs, athletic director

By David Jesse



A Willow Run Flyer cross-country runner is among the pack in a multi-school meet earlier this year. The school board eliminated funding for cross country and several other sports Thursday night.

File photo

The budget axe fell hard in the Willow Run school district Thursday night.

The school board approved nearly $2 million in cuts for the remainder of the school year that will include eliminating several sports, such as high school swimming, cross-country and tennis, laying off 10 teachers and a 5 percent pay cut for remaining teachers.The cuts are expected to take place in January, district officials said.

Although all school districts are struggling to make ends meet, Willow Run is the first in Washtenaw County to cut all funding for certain sports from its budget.

Following cuts this fall to school districts' per-pupil state aid and the failure of a countywide enhancement millage, all county districts are shearing millions of dollars from their budgets. Several districts are looking at layoffs for teachers, elimination of programs and even cuts to athletic programs.

Willow Run has been struggling for years with budget issues and is operating under a state-mandated deficit elimination plan.

However, these moves are aimed at countering cuts from the state earlier this year in the district’s per-pupil aid, which is its main source of revenue.

Several of the proposed cuts would have to be negotiated with the teachers union.

This is likely the first wave of cuts headed for the district. The second phase, which wasn’t detailed by the board, would be implemented in July for next school year. The board has yet to approve those cuts.

The cuts approved Thursday include:

- Cutting $90,875 from the Athletic Department by eliminating funding for the boys and girls swimming teams; the cross-country team; the middle school cross-country team; the junior varsity basketball team; the hockey team; the junior varsity baseball and the junior varsity softball teams; the boys and girls tennis team; the middle schools boys and girls track team; and the golf team. - Laying off 10 teachers - Eliminating the athletic director’s position and assigning duties to an assistant principal. - Opening contracts and seeking a 5 percent pay cut. - Reducing the number of part-time dean of student’s positions. - Eliminating one band instructor position - Laying off elementary media paraprofessionals. - Using Durant funds of $310,000 - Using at-risk funds of $293,000. - Eliminating a custodial position through attrition. - Eliminating the central administration administrative assistant. - Eliminating a supervisor in the maintenance department. - Negotiating health insurance savings.

In total, the cuts would save the district $1,936,054 this school year. The district has a $23.3 million budget this year. It has a total general fund subsidy to athletics of $358,000.

Board members encouraged the district’s athletic council and the teams affected to look to raise funds to keep the sports going.

Teacher Charlotte Tillson said she’s concerned about the health insurance cuts. But she also said that she’s concerned about where the 10 teachers will come from. She said at the elementary level, many classrooms are already crowded due to previous staff cuts.

“We have to scale down,”Acting Superintendent Laura Lisiscki told those at the board meeting, but if the scale down is accompanied by creative thinking, the district can grow, she said.

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.