Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 21st Board Meeting - Summary

I want to thank all those who attended the December 21st Board of Education meeting at the Orion Center.  Your interest in the future of Lake Orion Community Schools is greatly appreciated. For members of our community who could not attend or watch on ONTV, I want to provide you with a summary of the discussions that took place and decisions made.  (You can also view this meeting in its entirety by clicking this link

Community member and parent Nate Butki, representing the 40-person Long-Range Planning Committee formed last spring, did an excellent job presenting its ideas for the Board’s consideration to change the district’s infrastructure and footprint in response to continued declining enrollment and state funding.  The Committee also presented ideas for improving the District’s financial situation.  There were a number of concepts introduced with some initial discussion among Board members and the District’s administrative leaders.  Some of these included:

·       Expansion of the district’s shared-time services program
·       Pursuit of a voter-approved building and site fund (sinking fund)
·       Privatization of transportation and other non-instructional services
·       Optimization of building usage
·       Change in the boundaries of school buildings
·       Revisiting of the focus school concept
·       Evaluation of building configurations
·       Aggressive promotion of district’s competitive attributes

The Board recognized the need for much more discussion, information and evaluation of the ideas presented before any changes are made.  A Board workshop is being scheduled in January to continue this process.  This workshop, like regular Board meetings, will be open to the public.   I want to stress that while some of the changes being discussed could be implemented as quickly as the start of the 2016-17 school year, most of them will involve significant planning and community engagement with a rollout over the next couple of years.

The other major discussion during the meeting focused on our $1.9 budget deficit for the current school year.  After an overview of why this materialized, a number of reductions were presented to the Board to help balance the budget.  These reductions could have been made as early as January.  

The Board decided it did not make sense to make mid-year reductions and would rather consider them within the framework of making significant changes to the district’s infrastructure and footprint.  The Board wants to take the Long-Range Planning Committee’s ideas into consideration when making any potential reductions.  This involves taking a more in-depth look at the entire district’s operations over the next several months.  The bottom line, however, is that our district’s Fund Equity account cannot be depleted further and up to $5 million may have to be eliminated from our operational expenses in the coming year to balance the budget moving forward. 

I want to again thank the members of the Long-Range Planning Committee for their hard work over the past several months.  I am very confident all decisions that will be made will position Lake Orion Community Schools to continue to flourish well into the future.  You also have my assurance that we will provide ongoing and frequent communication to all stakeholders as well as solicit your input as discussions unfold. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Challenging Times

Thanks to the talents and hard work of our staff, Lake Orion has become one of the premiere public educational communities in Oakland County and the State of Michigan.  Speaking on behalf of the Board of Education and our administrative team, I strongly believe our district’s commitment to providing an exemplary education for our students has been unmatched.

As you may know, however, these are very challenging times for all public schools in the state from a financial perspective.  Over the past 5 years, Lake Orion has lost more than 600 students and the corresponding amount of state funding.  These students have left for a variety of reasons, most notably because their families have moved out of Oakland County and, in many cases, the state.  As a result of declining enrollment and other financial impacts from the state, the district currently has a deficit of $1.9 million for the current school year.  Based on future student population projections and potential further financial implications, this deficit could increase to $5 million during the 2016-17 school year if nothing is done. 

We have been faced with large deficits in the past and relied on targeted budget reductions and cost savings, as well as tapping the district’s shrinking fund balance to balance the budget. All of our employees have sacrificed for the good of our students during these times.  Unfortunately, nobody expects the financial outlook of this school district or others in this state to improve noticeably in the future.  If anything, the situation may grow worse.  We are now at a point where significant changes need to be made to the district’s footprint and structure if it is to remain financially viable over the long-term with as minimal impact on our students as possible.

Our plan to exit this deficit situation includes making the difficult decision to implement major instructional and operational changes. Those that take place will be the result of recommendations put forth to the Board of Education by the administration and some from the long-range planning committee made up of parents, community members and Lake Orion staff that began meeting last summer.  All of the information used by this committee is available to review on the district’s website. 

The Board will begin reviewing these recommendations and discussing reductions at a special meeting on December 21st, which begins at 6 p.m. and which is open to the public. The meeting will be held at the Orion Center located at 1335 Joslyn Road in Lake Orion.

While this news is unsettling, I am very confident the changes to the district over the next few years will position Lake Orion Community Schools and its students for continued success for many years to come.  Please know that any changes will be communicated to all stakeholders as decisions are made.  If you have specific questions, feel free to contact me.