Although he is not a member of the board, Bill Weckesser is no stranger to the East Lansing Board of education’s 841 Timberlane boardroom.
Weckesser was the most vocal community member present at Monday night’s 7:00p.m. meeting.
“He frequently makes a stir because as a tax payer he’s concerned that we don’t make good decisions concerning the budget,” Board trustee Kay Biddle said.
The community member confronted the board during the meeting’s public comment on various issues concerning the budget. Weckesser voiced his concern surrounding the previous extension teacher contracts, as well as the hiring of Spanish high school teacher Marco Diaz Munoz.
“He was concerned we would pay the Spanish teacher more because he has a PhD degree rather that just a bachelors and he feels the teacher’s benefits are too generous,” Biddle said.
While the board previously approved an extension of teachers’ contracts for the 2010-2011 school year, the decision to pass the extension was not made unanimously.
“I am concerned as a taxpayer when a board member votes against something about affordability,” Weckesser said.
The members of the board suggested Weckesser attend a finance meeting where outlines of spending are discussed in detail. The public comment discussion culminated when voices were raise by some board members in discussion of the budget with Weckesser.
“What else can we do—it’s a democracy so not everyone has to agree and in this case not everyone agreed,” board treasurer George Brookover said.
The board’s differing opinions were evident in their discussion of how to move forward with plans on possible renovations or configuration changes in elementary school facilities. In a lengthy discussion the board along with superintendent David Chapin discussed how to acquire community involvement in the decision making regarding the project.
“This is the biggest thing we’re facing right now,” said board vice president Allyse Anderson, “Our facilities need to be looked at, they are very old and when we look at reconfiguring schools we need to bring them up to code.”
While the district’s high school and middle school facilities were recently renovated none of the six elementary school buildings have been renovated in over twenty years.
“It is time to do something about how to best optimize our use,” board president Babs Krause said, “This is a process that I don’t see ending until nearly March and we may do renovations and we may do nothing, it just needs to be decided.”
While the district has contracted architectural firm Tower Pinkster, it is uncertain whether any renovations will be made, instead the community and board may opt to merely reconfigure and consolidate their school buildings. The board extensively discussed how to involve the community in figuring out the best way to proceed with the elementary schools.
“We need to trust the bright people in our community and the process and just move forward with this,” board secretary Donna Rich Kaplowitz said.
While action on the school is not like to take place for months the district plans to move forward with open forum meetings in the high school union with contractors Tower Pinkster present as early as Oct. 12.
“We need to move forward on this to be more efficient because that’s what’s best for the community,” Chapin said.