Ontonagon sets bond proposal for buses, improvements
ONTONAGON — The Ontonagon Area Board of Education Monday approved placing a millage request on the November ballot. The request, if approved, would cost voters less in taxes than they are presently paying.
Superintendent Jim Bobula said, if approved, .5 mill would be used to purchase four new buses over the next one to two years. The district is also asking for 1.5 mills for building and facility upgrades. Since two present millage proposals will expire this year and in 2017, if approved, the millage would be one-tenth less than what Ontonagon area voters, except for White Pine, are presently paying. A White Pine millage, passed prior to closing of that school will expire in another year.
The district would purchase four new buses and the other millage could be use for heating system conversion, restroom upgrades, security system upgrades, addition of a multi purpose room to be used for elementary age children as well as other needs.
At last month’s board session, the board laid off fifth-grade teacher Linda Johanson. Two women spoke to that issue Monday and a letter was read from a third.
Sharon Cherava protested the laying off of a veteran. She said she did not know Johanson, but she is a veteran and the motto of veterans is “leave no one behind.” She added people have been encouraged to hire veterans. Charava said, “there must be another way.”
Trish McIntyre, told the board that her son had a difficult time in school and Johanson worked with the boy, and they established “mutual respect.” She said the teacher pressed the child to do better with very good results.
The board also entered a letter from Sheryl Cherava of Wyoming, which decried the lay-off of the 16-year veteran teacher. She said she was saddened that the town radiated recession.
Board President Dean Juntunen said that Johanson is a good teacher and respected by the board, “but we are required to pass a balanced budget.” Sharon Cherava said the government does not have a balanced budget, why should the schools? Juntunen said if the budget is not balanced, the state could take away its funding.
Bus millage money cannot be used to pay teachers, but Juntunen hinted that if that millage passed, it might free up some money in the general fund which could be used. Board member Bruce Johanson approved asking for millage if the board “takes that opportunity to evaluate the priorities of the school district.”
Juntunen said the fortunes of the school district remain tied to student population which has gone from 631 in 2005 to 316 in 2015. He said the district has “strong teachers” but the bad news is they also have had to lay off “strong teachers.” The closing of the Ontonagon pulp mill resulted in loss of 100 students over a two year time frame.
The board president urged the public to write their legislators to increase the funding, particularly for small rural schools.
Bobula also noted a letter will be sent out to local businesses to solicit financial sponsorship for extra curricular activities and events related to the curriculum, such as honors night, musical performances and athletic events.
The board Monday approved students starting school a little later in the morning: 8:30 a.m. for both elementary and high school, with elementary discharge at 3:11 and high school at 3:13.
The board is also approved the first reading of the student handbook which would reduce the number of absentee days for students each semester. The new regulation would permit six absentee days per semester with 12 for the year. Parents and students will be warned as the days near six and when six is reached, school and court officials will be contacted.
In other action, the board:
—Accepted the bid of Twin City Dairy for dairy products and Bimbo Bakeries for bakery products.
—Heard that the school has 25 backpacks that contain school supplies which have been donated over the years and they will be given out on a first come first serve basis from the school office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
—Heard that five seats are up for the board election in November and petitions can be turned in at the County Clerk’s office.
—Tabled the Forest Management Plan proposals.