Board of Education
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question 1: When and where are the Board of Education meetings held?
Answer: Board of Education meeting are usually held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. The meeting on the second Tuesday is the work-study session and is held in the East River conference room in the administration building. The meeting on the fourth Tuesday is the regular business meeting (televised) and is held in the board room in the administration building. Both meetings of the Board of Education are open to the public and public participation is included. The meeting schedule of the Board of Education is available on the Grosse Ile Township Schools district website.
Question 2: Do Board of Education members receive any stipend, salary or benefits?
Question 3: Are all Board of Education meetings open to the public?
Answer: Yes, meetings of the full Board of Education are open to the public as are meetings of the Board of Education's sub committee meetings (e.g., policy, finance, curriculum and communication). It is important to emphasize that Board of Education meetings (full board or board committees) are meetings of the Board of Education conducted in public and are not community forums or "town hall" type meetings. The Board of Education is committed to responding to questions or concerns raised during public participation and usually does so at the next regular business (televised) meeting of the Board of Education.
Question 4: What does the Board of Education do?
Answer: The overall job of the Board of Education is to govern the district. This task is distinct from managing or "running" the district. The Board of Education performs its governance role by establishing policies to guide all of the activities of the district. The Board of Education is responsible for hiring one employee, the superintendent. It is the superintendent's responsibility to hire all district staff and to manage or "run" the district in compliance with Board of Education policy. Finally, the Board of Education is responsible for monitoring the various activities of the district (e.g., student achievement, curriculum development, budget, etc.) to insure that Board of Education policy is being appropriately implemented.
Question 5: What should I do if I have a complaint about a teacher, coach, building principal or any school district employee?
Answer: The best way to address a problem is to speak first with the individual involved. Often times, problems are the result of a misunderstanding or misinformation and an informal conversation will clarify the situation. If unsatisfied with this initial conversation, the next appropriate step would be to schedule a meeting with the individual's supervisor. If a teacher is involved, the next step would be to meet with the building principal. If a coach is involved, the next step would be to meet with the athletic director. If this second meeting does not resolve the issue satisfactorily, the next step would be to speak with the next person higher in the "chain-of-command" (e.g. building principal-superintendent, athletic director-building principal, etc.). It is important to emphasize that while Board of Education members are always available to listen to questions or concerns regarding district activities, individual Board of Education members have no independent authority and cannot make any promises regarding the disposition of a particular complaint or concern until the issue has been appropriately addressed as outlined above.
Question 6: How are Grosse Ile schools funded?
Answer: Prior to 1994, K-12 public schools in Michigan were largely funded through a local property tax millage. The local millage funded both operations and infrastructure of the district. Proposal A, adopted by the voters of Michigan, went into effect for the 1994-95 school year and dramatically changed the way that schools are funded. While Proposal A provided homeowners significant property tax relief, for schools it was a new funding mechanism that distributes state funds on a per pupil basis to each school district. This per pupil payment from the state is commonly called the school's foundation allowance.
Under Proposal A, school districts must still raise local revenue for building projects via bonds or sinking funds, but these are the only options currently available for individual districts to raise money. Public schools are now mostly funded through the combination of a statewide 6-mil tax, the State Education Tax (SET), an 18-mil local tax on non-homestead property (businesses), and other state collected taxes including the state income tax and sales tax. An approximate breakdown for the source of public school funding is 42% from the state sales tax, 19% from the state income tax, 16% from the SET, and the remainder from other sources including the state lottery. Surprising to some, proceeds from the state lottery fund only a small percentage of the K-12 budget (approximately 6%).
The foundation allowance for each student comprises about 90% of most school districts' general fund revenues. The remainder comes from other state or federal programs plus local revenue from interest earned, tuition, and fund transfers. Funds from state and federal programs are often designated as categoricals, meaning that they are designated for a particular category of expenditure (e.g. at-risk students, Title I, districts with declining enrollment, etc.).
Proposal A also included provisions that categorized local districts as being either below average, average, or above average with respect to per pupil spending before the implementation of Proposal A. The Grosse Ile schools were one of 48 districts designated as a "Tier 3," "out of formula," or "rich" district. This designation meant that the school district could increase the per pupil foundation allowance through a local tax levy. This component of the foundation allowance is referred to as the local Hold Harmless provision or the Hold Harmless as it relates to Proposal A and has amounted to approximately $585/student annually for Grosse Ile.
Another "hold harmless" provision was added to Proposal A by the legislature in the fiscal year 1999-2000. These funds are often referred to as "20j" or "State Hold Harmless" monies and represented, at the time, an effort to limit the amount of increase in the state foundation allowance of "rich" districts to a 1.6% inflationary increase when districts with smaller foundation grants received larger increases. Currently, Grosse Ile receives approximately $280/student in 20j funds.
Finally, another factor that deserves explanation is the Headlee Amendment to the state constitution. This amendment limits the increase in the amount of money that a unit of government (i.e. school district) can raise annually to no more than the rate of inflation. The effect on school funding is that when a school district levies the 18-mils on non-homestead property, and property values go up faster than the rate of inflation, there must be a millage reduction so that revenue doesn't grow at a rate greater than inflation. If the reduction reduces the non-homestead millage below 18 mills, this would result in a reduction of the district's foundation grant because the state requires districts to levy the full 18-mills in order to receive the full foundation grant. The result is that after such a millage rollback, school districts must return to the voters seeking to return the millage to 18-mils.
Question 7: What is the school district's Fund Balance or Fund Equity?
Answer: The school district's fund balance or fund equity is the district's emergency fund or rainy day money. Essentially, it represents the amount of money that a school district has remaining after all revenues have been received and after all bills have been paid. Just like a family budget needs to have an emergency fund, so does a school district. Most school finance authorities recommend that a school district maintain a fund balance of 10-15%.
Maintenance of an appropriate fund balance is important for several reasons. First, it provides a cushion, or reserve, in the event that unexpected costs arise (e.g. roof collapse, boiler failure, etc.). Further, in the event that the State of Michigan issues an executive order in the middle of a school year reducing the district's per pupil foundation grant, the district is much better able to weather the storm and not disrupt educational programs (e.g. teacher layoffs, etc.) in the midst of the academic year.
A healthy fund balance also reduces the district's financial costs during the summer months. The state's fiscal calendar begins in October of each year, but the district's financial year runs from July 1 to June 30. Since the school district does not receive the academic year's funding until late in October, the district must obtain a bridge loan from the state to meet payroll during the summer months. An appropriate fund balance translates into a smaller bridge loan and, thus, lower interest charges.
Question 8: In addition to being student-centered, what guiding principles do the Board of Education rely upon?
- The BOE directs the activities of the district and its personnel by the establishment of BOE policies. It is the role of the BOE to monitor adherence to these policies (including relevant administrative guidelines) to ensure that the GITS district is managed well by the superintendent and staff.
- The BOE will govern with an emphasis on the future based upon a foundation of the past and the present.
- The BOE will exercise decision making by striving toward consensus.
- In all of its actions, the BOE will demonstrate a clear distinction between the role of the BOE and the role of the administration.
- The BOE will take actions that promote strategic leadership.
- Board of Education members will speak as one voice (the majority), not as individuals, when giving direction to the superintendent. BOE directives to the staff are communicated exclusively through the superintendent.
- As individuals, BOE members have no authority and should not direct actions or request information that requires significant amounts of additional work or time from the superintendent or staff.
- One role of the BOE is to be "eyes and ears" within the community and to communicate information that may not be well known to the administration. The sharing of general information with the superintendent, and appropriate staff members, in the form of a non-directive "heads up" is to be encouraged.
- In contrast, when an individual BOE member is approached regarding a complaint or concern regarding district activities, the BOE member may actively listen to the community member and then advise the individual how best to proceed. The individual BOE member will make no promises regarding disposition of the concern and will inform the superintendent of the conversation as appropriate.
The BOE will govern in an atmosphere that encourages and respects free expression of opinions and ideas whether in the minority or the majority.