Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holland is #7 in Surplus Increase (more than 540 other districts)

Last year the district added $2.8 million to it’s fund surplus (page 10, HPS Annual Financial Report, October 10, 2007). The improved district budget, created by the board’s decision to finally abandon costly, inefficient, and unpopular operations (i.e. Focus Schools), will continue for many years. These cost saving measures will allow the district to yearly add to its fund surplus. With last year’s addition of $2.8 million ($2,778,490 - page 22), the district now has a surplus of 10.4% or $4,389,131 (page 22).

Of the more than 500 public school districts in Michigan, only 6 districts added more money to their fund surplus last year than Holland. If we had fully paid health insurance, like every other teacher group in Ottawa County, HPS’'s surplus increase would still be 8th highest in the state.

Now it appears that the board is positioning to add even more to their surplus. At the September 17, 2007 board meeting, the board revised Board Policy 6105. For at least 12 years, 6105 limited the fund surplus to 10%. The revision has no maximum.

At the November 19, 2007 board meeting, the district’s auditor recommended a 15-20% fund surplus! The state does not require a fund surplus, and there are no state or national accounting principles that call for a fund surplus.

Keep in mind the board’s Strategic Plan for 2006-2011, adopted in August 2006. It states a goal of maintaining a 7-10% surplus for fiscal responsibility. Since at least 1995, a 10% fund surplus goal was enough, but not now.

Last year, the board put more money in the bank than 540 other districts. As we are getting ready to bargain, ask yourself, is it fair for us to continue to pay while the board adds to its surplus?

Monday, December 03, 2007

HPS Surplus $4,389,131

During the last round of bargaining, the board saturated the teachers and the community with their three-year financial plans. The HEA encouraged teachers and community members to ignore the Board's version of the “truth,’ and instead focus on what was the truth. The Board used these plans to justify their illegal imposition, to justify their desire to attack the teacher's insurance, and to justify a below par salary increase. Another look at the Board’s version of the “truth” is warranted. Here are the dates of some of their three-year financial plans and the projected fund surplus amounts for the 2006-07 school year:

Date Fund Surplus
September 2005 $991,124
December 2005 -$43,134
May 2006 $1,199,492

From the Board’s independent audit, the truth is:


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Change the Pattern

Monday, October 08, 2007

Truth about West Michigan's Health Insurance Pool

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Wayne Kuipers is holding up state budget.

Legislators have not yet reached a state budget deal to avoid a partial government shutdown beginning Monday, though negotiations continue.

Senator Wayne Kuipers from Holland is holding up state budget talks to secure passage of SB 418, which would attack MESSA's pools. This legislation would not save the state any money. Please contact your legislators and the governor and tell them not to let Kuipers hold a budget agreement hostage to his political agenda.

Negotiations are at a critical stage and your help is needed immediately. Please contact your legislators.

If you phone your legislators, you should know that most are in caucus meetings and cannot be reached personally. Please leave a message with office staff indicating your concerns and support for adequate revenues for public education.

You can make a difference!

Monday, September 24, 2007

So called "Reforms" are bad for education

Contact your legislator on these issues and bills.

•SB 546 and SB 547 would reform the Public School Employees Retirement Act. SB 546 would reduce the state subsidy for retirement insurance and provide for a graded premium subsidy on health benefits. SB 547 would increase the member contribution to the retirement system, mandate that a retiree must work at least 10 years to be eligible for retirement payments, as well as other technical changes. MEA opposes both bills.
•SB 418-421 is a series of bills commonly known as the "MESSA bills." These bills would require release of claims data and four insurance bids prior to bargaining. The release of claims would allow insurers to "cherry pick" healthier groups, which would then drive up the premium costs for existing pools of insured members. MEA opposes this attack on MESSA.
•SB 549 would mandate a common school calendar within an ISD. The current version only requires winter and spring breaks to be the same within an ISD. This version of the bill was not supported by MEA, but we did support removing the ability of ISDs to determine all aspects of calendar and removing their right to schedule common professional development days.
•HB 4975-4976 would require 10 years of service before being able to purchase service credit and stipulates that purchased service does not count toward health benefits vesting. MEA does not support these bills.

Other reforms being discussed include: banning double-dipping by school retirees who return to work; moving all school elections to November; mandating that no school employee be paid more than the governor; and conducting studies on school consolidation and school employee wages and benefits.

Please contact your legislators today. Tell them to resolve our state's budget crisis by investing in education. Tell them to turn down politically motivated "reforms" that balance the budget on the backs of school employees.

** Reminder: Do not communicate with legislators on school time and equipment. Wait until you are away from school to contact your legislators. Thank you.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Insurance Costs

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Important dates

September 14 - First pay. Please check your pay stub to make sure you are at the correct column and step.

September 26 - New teacher orientation. If you are a new teacher to Holland, please talk to your building AR and mentor teacher about attending this event.

September 30 - Sick bank donations are due. Please send donation forms to Jon Toppen at VanRaalte School. Talk to your building AR about the new sick bank donation process.

October 11 - Probationary teacher dinner (Holland DoubleTree Conference Center). All probationary teachers are encouraged to attend this dinner sponsored by MEA. Come and learn how MEA can help you through the probationary status.

October 26 - First deduction of dues.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Holland Would Get Nearly 1 Million!

The House of Representatives has finally started to act on the 2007-08 budget.

On the eve of students returning to school, the House versions of the education budgets were passed just prior to sunrise Thursday as part of a 17-hour legislative session that was at the very least rancorous. The House bills call for:

* a $100 per student increase to the foundation grant for K-12 along with other increases for equity payments, declining enrollment and transportation costs;
* a $36.7 million increase for community colleges, made up mostly of catch-up payments from this summer’s cuts and new investment in nursing programs; and
* research universities and other higher education institutions to be split into two different appropriations bills, each calling for a minimum 2.5 percent increase plus additional funding.

What does this mean for Holland Public Schools?

From the GR Press 8/24/2007
"Sixteen of 20 Kent County districts would get the extra $100, and eight would get between $3,400 and $334,000 for declining enrollment. All Ottawa County districts qualify for the so-called equity payments, and Holland and West Ottawa get money for losing students.

Grand Rapids Public Schools would see a $4.2 million boost, while Holland would get nearly $1 million." Read more here.

Please contact your legislator and tell them to properly fund education.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Common School Calendar Bad for Holland

On June 27th, the Michigan Senate adopted SB 549, a bill that would require a common school calendar and interfere with the rights of schools to negotiate regarding this condition of employment. Specifically, this bill requires that each intermediate school district adopt a calendar that each district within the ISD must follow. The common calendar must include AT LEAST the dates for a winter holiday break, a spring break and professional development days. This must be set for at least the next 5 years and must be posted on the ISD website.

There are no provisions for employee or for constituent school district input in the bill. There are exceptions for districts that run year round programs, "international baccalaureate" programs or trimester programs. There are also exceptions for districts that have an existing collective bargaining agreement until the collective bargaining agreement expires.

If adopted by the House of Representatives, this bill would go into effect July 1, 2008.

The Senate adopted the bill by a 20-17 vote, the minimum number of YES votes needed to adopt a bill. The vote was almost, but not quite, a straight party line vote. All of the Senate Democrats voted against the bill except Sen. Michael Switalski (D-Roseville) who voted for it. All of the Republicans voted for the bill except Sen. Bruce Patterson (R-Canton) who voted against the bill. Sen. John Pappageorge was excused for the day and did not vote.

The HEA opposes the bill. It interferes with the rights of school employees with no gain in efficiency or school The supporters claim that this is needed "government reform" and are pushing it as a way of helping to solve the budget crisis of the State.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives where we will continue to oppose it.

This bill will hurt Holland Public Schools. For the past two years, HPS has made changes to it's calendar and PSD schedule to keep teachers in the classroom and save the district money. If this bill passes, it could COST the district. Please write your local representative and tell him/her to oppose this bill.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Pooling will help save on health costs is NOT proven to work!

This is in response to Sen. Wayne Kuipers and Sen. Patty Birkholz's letter to the editor on May 22, 2007.

Pooling is not the answer.

Sen. Kuipers and Birkholz say pooling is the answer to the State of
Michigan’s public employee insurance costs (HS 5/22/07) and tell us to
support the Michigan Public Employee Health Benefit Act (SB 418).

The bill cited by the senators is just a slightly tweaked version
of Senate bills 895-898 that was defeated last year by a bipartisan

The truth on the new bill is that there is no proof that it will save
employees money while having the same benefits. No actuarial study of
the legislative proposals to substantiate the claims savings has been

The bill proposed is actually anti-pooling because of the requirement
that all pools release group-specific medical claims data upon
request. This is creating the tool by which insurers could tear pools
down. There will be constant churning and adverse selection in the
market as groups come and go from pools as they please. For-profit
insurers will use the data to undercut the pools by agreeing to insure
only the best risk. Pools will be left with the high risk, most
expensive employees. As a result, premiums for many public employers
could actually be higher than they are today.

I am also concerned about a major loophole in SB 418. In addition to
allowing public employers to join together to form these new "public
employer pools," SB 418 also contains language in Section 11(d) that
would allow employers to pool together under any "written agreement."
There would be no regulations, state oversight, reserve
requirements or consumer protections required to pool under this
subsection. This is a huge loophole that would allow pools to be
created outside of the state’s existing consumer protections. It would
leave many public employees dangerously unprotected and exposed to
huge liability from unpaid medical bills.

It’s time to set politics aside and address the real health care and
benefit problems Michigan faces – the growing number of uninsured,
cost-shifting from under-funded government programs, quality, family
bankruptcies from medical bills, the long term costs of unhealthy
lifestyles, government mandates, fraud and the ever-increasing cost of
prescription drugs. The Senators have failed to address the real
issues behind the costs. Their bill will only add to the misery and
should be defeated.

AL Friend

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Opportunity Missed!

First, I would like to thank all those that helped in whatever way to make a change in the Holland School District. Your efforts were greatly appreciated and well done!

Final Results:

Holland Schools School Board
2 Candidates to be Elected

Susan DeJong

Stephen Grose
Mary Yedinak
Al Friend

Interesting that Steve and Susan ran as a slate and she got almost 700 votes more than him! If we were running last year, we would have been elected!

Since I have been involved in the politics of Holland I would like to give you my take on what happened.

First, Steve's playing the "Evil Union" card and saying that union members were clock watchers and implying that only non union teachers were professionals last Friday plays well in Holland. I do not think this helps convince any parent that they should send their child to our schools though. Susan says it all about kids/programs and she will always vote for the programs. Imposing is her name of the game and with no plan to keep and attract great teachers, says that anyone can teach her programs. Is privatizing teachers next?

I think the high turnout for a school board election was also driven by some other subtle but very important factors.

The influence of charter and faith based schools parents and Administration was a factor. In my discussions with some of them it was evident they were not for me and for a reason. What better way to keep up enrollments and hold down teachers pay and benefits than watching a public School board and Administration belittle the professionalism of their staff! Great Stuff!

There are also those in the State that had a serious interest in keeping the leadership status quo because they hold up Holland's imposing contracts as the way of the future! I believe some outside money was use to pay for two very expensive mailings and other cards.

Then there were the voters I talked with that did not feel there was a problem and that teachers were HAPPY with the board leadership. They said that only a few teachers spoke out against them and they were the "evil union" types. They also said that most would be NONUNION if given the chance. Interesting.

What do I see for the future? It seems from the statements made in the paper that you are in for four years like the last two. The Board leadership is looking at it is as a mandate to impose more and give less in all areas.

The missed opportunity of this past election will haunt the community because of the attitude of leadership is not one of reconciliation but imposing and without a strong public school system we are in further economic trouble.

Can you make a difference? Bring civility back to the district?


But you, and by you, I mean everyone has to step up to the plate and support the efforts of your leadership. The Board's leadership style is to divide and conquer. From my toadstool, they are winning.

The future of the Holland School District has ALWAYS been in your hands-IF YOU WANT IT!

Thanks again and GOOD LUCK!

AL Friend

Monday, May 07, 2007

Corrections and the Truth (“Negotiations key issue at Holland forum “Holland Sentinel 5/4/07)

Clare Friend’s submitted letter to the editor 5/5/07

First, I spell my name Clare Friend not Clara. For 12 years I proudly served as the chief negotiator for the teachers not the district as stated in the article.

Why was I mentioned at all is confusing to me when you did not mention Steve Grose’s or Susan DeJong’s spouses and their professions. I am not running for office.

In my 12 years of negotiating we had our difference, but we were a community and settled in peaceful ways. Much was given back to the district to retain benefits that the membership felt they needed. This is called negotiating. Steve and Susan do not understand that principle. Maybe that is because in their world they decide what is good for the employees and impose just like they tried to do to the teachers. Playing the “evil union” card, questioning the professionalism of teachers who are members of the union, as they did on their joint radio interview Friday, clearly points out they are the problem not the solution for better relationships.

I can assure you of my husband’s passion for all the children of Holland to have the best education possible and his desire to rebuild the school district’s working relationships that this leadership has destroyed in their two short years. That is his only agenda.

This discord is costing us already in recruiting the best teachers for the future. Other districts have hundreds of candidates for a position where we have only 12 for a similar position as stated in a Holland Sentinel article this week!

Vice-President DeJong wants to save programs at all cost! Does she not realize that it takes great teachers to teach those programs?

My question for President Grose is what “shared sacrifices” is he talking about? The Administration is above average in pay in Ottawa County while the teachers are the lowest.

My husband understands the real issue. It is about quality working relationships that will attract and keep great teachers. Steve and Susan have no plans to build for the future.

I do not want another four years like the last two that is why Clare Friend will NOT be voting for Steve Grose and Susan DeJong.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Holland Public Schools Needs New Leadership

On Tuesday, the Holland community has a significant opportunity and responsibility to ensure that Holland Public Schools regains its reputation of excellence within our community.

We certainly have the exceptional teachers, programs, parents and community support to do that, but a lack of leadership has kept us from fully realizing that potential.

What better way to make sure we do what is right for the students than by electing leaders who recognize and want to utilize those strengths? Recent decisions by the school board have undermined the unity necessary for Holland Public Schools to overcome the challenge and demonstrate the excellence that has never stopped being a daily focus for teachers and students.

Al Friend and Mary Yedinak have the experience and ability to bring new ideas to the school board. Their experience in the classroom as well as Friend's as a parent and administrator gives them the insight necessary to navigate the tough decisions ahead. They will help create a common vision and long-range planning process that includes all members of the school community and will help us to move forward together.

It's time to make sure that Holland Public Schools builds on our many student successes instead of diverting attention from what matters by magnifying unnecessary conflicts. It's time for a change. It's time to allow new voices and new ideas to impact the direction of our schools. It's time to roll up our sleeves and face the problems together. It's time to vote for Al Friend and Mary Yedinak.

Lisa Hofman

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Election information

Don't forget to vote "YES" on May 8.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Do private employees in public schools provide the same quality of service as public employees in public schools? No

Michigan Education Report
Spring 2007

Schools that spend less usually get less
By Mr. Charles Bullard

School boards don’t typically decide to hire outside companies to do work historically performed by their own employees in order to boost quality.

Or to find more loyal workers.

Or to help students.

They do it because they’ve bought into the scam that they might spend less for the same (or better) services. But, this isn’t an article about money.

It’s an article about service. And, when you spend less, you usually get less.

You get less service. Or poorer quality. Or fewer "intangibles" – like loyalty and pride in one’s work, that, while difficult to measure, are still important.

Like most teachers, I’ve devoted my career to helping students. I believe that every decision in education should answer the simple question: Will this help students?

Outsourcing the work of dedicated public school employees — custodians, bus drivers, teachers, food service workers, and other important people who work together to educate students — doesn’t help children. In fact, it can negatively impact students.

In Holland, where I work, the school board decided to outsource, or privatize, the jobs of people who cleaned and took care of our facilities and the people who operated our printing services.

Things haven’t been better — or even the same — since.

It’s safe to say that many people, including some school board members, don’t understand the roles that custodians play in educating our students. They do more than "just" clean classrooms and mop floors, to be sure.

Custodians strive to provide a safe, clean and healthy environment for children to learn. Without such an environment, students and teachers can be sidetracked from their work by anything from needing to empty a trash can to getting sick due to unsanitary conditions.

Since our school custodians were fired, teachers have noticed many problems, including some that have gone unaddressed for long periods.

Teachers don’t know from day to day or week to week who the custodian assigned to their building will be. Therefore, we can’t rely on touching base with the building custodian on various day-to-day issues that arise in our schools. To the detriment of students and staff, the private company hired to handle custodial needs schedules different employees to different buildings, according to their wishes and employee availability. When the custodians were employed by the district, they were assigned to a specific building and other staff (and students and parents, too) knew who the custodian was for that job site.

Holland teachers now have to type up formal requests for any and all custodial needs, a burdensome task that takes time away from teacher planning and preparation. What’s more, many teachers opt to "just do it themselves" to ensure the work gets done instead of submitting a formal request and hoping the work will get done eventually.

Scheduling changes have hurt quality, too. Teachers report that student bathrooms often smell and are not cleaned from time to time, that classrooms aren’t thoroughly vacuumed regularly and that it can take weeks before desks or tables are moved for vacuuming.

Since each building doesn’t have a consistent custodian, employees of the district’s maintenance department are now called on to attend to mishaps.

Last year, a vomit mess in one of our elementary buildings was left in a hallway for more than two days because maintenance staff members weren’t able to free themselves from jobs elsewhere. The spot was simply sprinkled with absorbing pellets and covered with a chair so people would walk around it and not through it until it was cleaned up.

Another problem is noticeable at the high school, where mold in one classroom is visible across several ceiling tiles. The mold has been reported during each of the past two years, yet the odor and discoloration remain.

These are just a few examples of how outsourcing the custodians’ jobs has negatively impacted quality.

In my school district, the jobs of people who print and copy materials for students were also outsourced. The district hired a major private company to do the work. Yet this company doesn’t have the same expertise as our in-house employees. Outside companies hold no loyalty to individual school districts; they are for-profit companies that need to sell more copies to make a profit.

About a year after taking over the copying work in my school district, staff completed a survey of the company’s performance; it included questions about professionalism, responsiveness and overall satisfaction. The survey revealed high levels of dissatisfaction. Nearly half rated their overall satisfaction "below average" or "poor." They also said their orders weren’t produced as requested or when requested.

At a time when more is expected of our students and our schools, we shouldn’t accept less from the people and companies with whom we do business.

In the debate over outsourcing the work of local school employees, I hope that more school boards will consider the quality of work needed to ensure that students have a safe, clean environment that is conducive to learning.

Anything less is unacceptable.

Charles Bullard is a teacher and high school band director with Holland Public Schools.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Budget Talking Points

The Governor has proposed a package of revenue enhancements and budget cuts to balance the budget for this year and into the future. Below are some talking points to support the Governor’s proposal.

• The governor’s budget proposals provide the right balance between investment, budget cuts, reforms and revenue increases. It is a package that MEA supports.

• Gov. Granholm’s vow to invest in education and her refusal to make mid-year cuts reinforce what MEA members have believed for years: an investment in education is an investment in Michigan’s economic future. It shows our students – and every other Michigan citizen – that education is the foundation of our economic plan. Education today will lead to jobs tomorrow.

• Education has suffered enough cuts. Additional cuts will mean even larger class sizes, fewer critical educational programs and further reductions in the number of qualified staff to help students achieve.

• Since 1994 when Proposal A was adopted, the Legislature has enacted some $3 billion in tax cuts, always with the promise that these tax cuts would result in economic development, job growth and a healthier, more diverse economy. Obviously is hasn’t worked

• The $3 billion of tax cuts has resulted in an enormous structural budget deficit. For four years K-12 has taken hits every year while higher education has had huge reductions over the past five years. It is time for the Legislature to step up and find sufficient revenue to provide the education that will be the engine of growth for the future.

• If the governor’s budget package is not enacted by this spring, the future of public education in Michigan is doomed. Legislators must solve our state’s financial crisis now – and not leave it for future lawmakers to fix.

• The Michigan economy now depends more on services than on manufacturing. We must look to the service industry to generate more revenue. The new 2-cent tax on services is set up to do just that.

• The proposed Michigan Business Tax includes a tax break for Michigan businesses to help offset increases they would experience under the 2-cent service tax.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Governor's Budget Proposal

In February, the Governor presented her proposal for adjustments to the 2006-07 budget and for the 2007-08 budget to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees. Below are the highlights that have an effect on education.

Implement a 2% sales tax on nearly all services in the State, to commence in June, 2007. The exceptions to this sales tax would be for educational and medical services.

Implement a new business tax to replace $1.5 billion of the $1.9 billion lost by repeal of the Single Business Tax.

Meet the shortfall in the School Aid Fund (SAF) in two ways:
• First, revalue the pension assets and reduce the pension contribution from school districts by $180 million, and then reduce state aid by a like $180 million
• Second, apply some $180 million of the revenue raised by the sales tax on services to the SAF to make up the remainder of the shortfall.

For community colleges, reduce the pension contribution by $10.9 million and reduce state funding to community colleges by the same amount.

For community colleges and universities delay the August state payment until October.

For 2007-08, increase aid to education at all levels (K-12, community colleges and universities) by 2.5%. For K-12 this means an increase of $178 per pupil with the basic foundations allowance going to $7,286 per pupil. The 07-08 proposal also contains $36 million for declining enrollment districts, increase pre-school funding by $200 million (targeted to full day kindergarten and pre-school programs), $1.4 billion for special education, $750 million for at risk programs, and $10 million for promoting cost sharing agreements and consolidation of service.

It is important to promote this budget and revenue proposal. Without them the state faces huge shortfalls this year and catastrophic deficits next year. The deficits will result in massive reductions in funding for education at all levels. It is finally becoming apparent to most responsible leaders in the state that the enormous permanent tax cuts enacted when the economy was thriving did nothing to enhance economic growth in Michigan. All they did was starve the state when the economy turned down and make it impossible to provide essential services to our citizens.

As more detail is available, we will disseminate it to you. In the meantime, here are links to the 2007-08 budget proposal of the Governor.,1607,7-157--134602--,00.html

Friday, January 12, 2007

Compare 500 Districts Administration

Click on image to enlarge.