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Ann Arbor to cut 30 teachers from district

At a meeting that lasted until almost 2 a.m., the Ann Arbor School Board voted to cut 27 full-time teachers from schools across the district. The school board also voted to eliminate three teachers from Ann Arbor's reading intervention program.

The board had to make some tough decisions for the 2013-14 school year, according to Board President Deb Mexicotte.

“Ann Arbor has continued to be academically excellent," Mexicotte explained. “With all of our high schools highest in the nation, we have held on to make this the best educational thing we can, but we cannot continue to do this without resources and help from Lansing.”

Making up for the district’s $8.7 million budget shortfall included dipping into the district's fund equity by more than $1.8 million. If the board continues to use this equity, officials say there might not be any more money to be used in the future without more cuts.

"I don't believe Lansing has our back," said board vice president Christine Stead during the discussion. "Because of that, we're looking at money and budgets, not the best interest of our students."

Cathy Sheets is one of the three reading intervention teachers who might lose their job. She talked about the importance of teachers in her position.

"I have been faced with many students who haven't learned how to read," said Sheets. "As I read through all the kid’s files, a patterned emerged. The files went back to early elementary school showing first signs of reading difficulties around fourth grade: behavior problems, truancy."

More than 40 students, parents and faculty spoke during public comment period. Several argued on behalf of Misty Plummer, the technical director of the Theater Guild at Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor. Plummer’s position was targeted to be cut.

"When my son bumped into her [Plummer] in the hallway, and she introduced him to theater," said Kim Johnson, mother of a Pioneer High School theater student, "he found himself. I don't want to lose this child because of the budget cuts."

Luckily for Plummer, she will keep her position leading the Pioneer High School Theater Guild.

30 other Ann Arbor teachers won't be as lucky.

Another topic of discussion during the public comments included concerns about the possible loss of a 7th hour period at Ann Arbor high schools.

This is a period in addition to the regular 6-hour class period day for students to take AP courses, choir, band, and credit recovery classes.

"Eliminating 7th hour," said  Glenn Nelson, school board treasurer during the meeting, "would have a drastic impact on the quality of education for our students."

A decision was made that 7th hour was vital to student education at Ann Arbor schools.

Instead, a compromise was made. To cover the cost of extra courses, a fee will be established for those students who take a 7th hour course. This would be around $100 a semester for a student.

Currently, more than 650 students take a 7th hour period.

Changes will also be made in middle school athletics.

Swimming pools will be closed next year, and there will be a pay-to-play fee for middle school sports up to $150.

These decisions were made in effort to avoid cutting the middle school softball and baseball teams, and women's basketball entirely.

A proposal to end high school bus transportation was not passed.

- Alana Holland, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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