August 09, 2017ALMONT — Schools Supt. Dr. William Kalmar is generally optimistic about the district's present state and its future.
The reasons for his optimism?
Kalmar noted the Almont Board of Education's recent approval of a 2017-2018 budget that projects a surplus of $55,000.
From a financial standpoint, Kalmar said the district plans to apply $56,502 from the 2016-2017 budget; leaving the district with a fund balance of $837,730—or 6.64 percent.
"This actually is better than we expected," he said, "because we had some unanticipated expenses in our 2016-2017 budget."
The unexpected expenses included the cost of hiring an interim principal—Rob Watt—at the high school; an interim superintendent—Tim Edwards—following Joe Candela's resignation; and a severance package awarded to Candela.
Meanwhile, Kalmar said the district has settled a three-year contract with support staff and is currently in negotiations with the teacher's union.
An employee of Barnes Concrete evens out freshly laid cement at the entranceway of the Almont Middle School on Tuesday morning. The project has been near the top of the district's must-do list for some time. photo by Tom Wearing.
Kalmar said per-pupil increases from the State of Michigan are expected, which bodes well for the district.
"We budgeted for a $100 increase per pupil," said Kalmar, "but we think we should get a bit more than that.
"We may be looking at $120 a pupil; and we should also be getting a $25 'bonus' at the high school level."
Kalmar added that "At-Risk" funding is expected to increase.
Kalmar was also pleased to report that the district has experienced limited turnover among the staff.
"We've had a resignation of one fourth-grade teacher (Kristin Zichichi) and some coaching changes are are still up in the air," he said.
"We are in the process of hiring a part-time teacher at the high school and a business manager to be shared between Almont Schools and the Lapeer County ISD.
Kalmar added that ailing high school principal Tim Woelkers remains on medical leave.
"We'll need to start the year with an interim principal," he said.
He said the hiring of an interim principal is expected to take place in the near future.
Now the bad news
While the aforementioned funding increases are encouraging, Kalmar pointed to what is expected to be a significant reduction in Federal Title II funding.
"That money is used to offset the cost of teacher training and curricular development—which is part of the Federal budget," said Kalmar. "This will not directly affect
student services, but it
limits our ability to continue to provide teacher training.
"When the state passes a law like the 'third grade reading bill,' which means we need to be sure our literacy instruction is following best practices, and then the Federal government eliminates the funding to train teachers to be more effective, it becomes challenging," Kalmar lamented.
He is nevertheless encouraged by some of
the positive signs he is
"I think the per-pupil increase is a sign the state is trying to address the gap between what we are provided to teach students, and the true costs doing that," said Kalmar.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.