TAWAS CITY – Citing the demands of his new post as Iosco County Prosecutor, Jim Bacarella announced his resignation as trustee and president of the Tawas Area Schools (TAS) Board of Education at its remote meeting on June 8. 

Bacarella, who was sworn in as prosecutor on June 12, replaces former Iosco County Prosecutor Gary Rapp, who has retired.

A vacancy notice was placed on the TAS website dated June 9, which reads, “The Tawas Area Board of Education is seeking qualified and interested candidates to fill a board trustee vacancy. This candidate will fill the vacancy immediately and would serve through the balance of the term, which expires on December 31, 2020…Applicants should submit a notice of their interest, in writing, to Superintendent John Klinger at Tawas Area Schools, 245 W. M-55, Tawas City, MI 48763, no later than June 19, 2020, at 12:00 p.m.”

Bacarella commented that, even though he was not originally from the Tawas area, he has spent “27 years cheering for the Braves.”

At the same meeting, Klinger received his performance evaluation from the board for the first year of his tenure as superintendent. The board assigned Klinger an overall rating of 88.6 percent, which is considered to be “highly effective.” Bacarella complimented Klinger on his performance during this “year of Jumanji,” a reference to the unexpected twists and turns related to the COVID-19 shutdown.

The board unanimously approved a special graduation ceremony to be held on Sunday, June 14, at 1 p.m., for six students who are entering military service (see separate story). The ceremony took place on the football field, with attendance limited to family members, and mandated adherence to social distancing guidelines.

Klinger and TAHS Principal Toby Suttle noted that plans are being developed for a formal graduation ceremony for the entire class of 2020, tentatively scheduled for July 24.

In the positive highlights segment of the meeting, TAHS Band Director Brandon Jerashen showed a video of his students playing the school’s fight song, with each instrumentalist performing individually via remote video conferencing. Jerashen said that the video could be viewed by the general public on the school’s Facebook page.

Athletic Director Matt Unke’s recommendations for fall sports coaching hires via EduStaff were unanimously approved by the Board. In addition to Aaron Hazen, who had previously been recommended and approved to coach varsity football, Ryan Fritz and Marcus Doan were selected as assistant coaches for varsity football. Scott Jorasz was named head JV football coach, and will be assisted by Brent Toska. Gus Oliver and Bill Larion will coach seventh/eighth grade football, Ken Cook will be at the helm for varsity boys’ soccer, and Carol Elowsky will guide the varsity volleyball team. The seventh grade girls’ basketball team will be coached by Anna Dalman, while Reuben Edwards will coach eighth grade girls’ hoops. The varsity competitive cheerleading team will be led by Michelle Cliff. Unke is still seeking to fill open coaching slots for JV volleyball, freshman volleyball and cross country teams.

Unke also received approval to hire Jim Gorman to coach girls’ varsity basketball in the winter. This move will allow Gorman time to assemble his coaching staff and assistants.

By a 7-0 vote, the board approved a resolution to adopt the 2020-2021 budgets (General Fund, Lunch Fund, Debt Retirement, Sinking Fund, and Student/School Activity Funds) and to set the property tax levy. Klinger said that because the State’s 2020-2021 budget has not been signed, the district does not know the exact loss to the foundation grant. He added that assumptions based on a conservative scenario which includes an $800 per pupil decrease in the foundation allowance and a $650 per pupil proration in 2019-2020 was used to build the General Fund Revenue Budget. A drop of 12 students to 1198 from 1210 FTE is also anticipated, Klinger said.

On the expenditure side of the ledger, Klinger noted that salaries and benefits have been accounted for as approximately 82 percent of the budget, while the remaining 18 percent reflect estimates. Deficit spending totaling approximately $1,267,415 is anticipated, Klinger added.

The board’s vote approved an 18-mill tax levy for the General Fund, and a .50 mill levy for the Sinking Fund. A levy of 1.15 mills for the 2020-2021 payment of the construction bond reflects a reduction from the 1.19 mills levied in 2019-2020, Klinger said.

In other matters before the board:

• A Public Hearing on the 2020-2021 budget was held immediately prior to the start of the regular board meeting.

• Members received and unanimously accepted a letter of resignation/retirement from third grade teacher Karen Decker, who has worked for the district for nearly 26 years.

• A second reading of new/revised board policies was held, after which the changers were unanimously approved;

• The 2020-2021 board meeting schedule was unanimously approved and adopted. As in years past, the board’s regular meetings will take place on the second Monday of each month, and special meetings will be called when necessary.

• By a 7-0 vote, the board continued the district’s banking relationship with Huron Community Bank.

• Clara Bolen Elementary School Principal Sarah Danek was unanimously approved to continue as the district’s Federal Programs director.

• A second reading of the 2020-2021 Building Student Handbooks took place. The board unanimously approved the adoption of changes to the handbooks.

• A Membership Resolution for participation in the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) for the 2020-2021 school year was passed without dissent.

• Approved curriculum budget purchases for the 2020-2021 school year by a vote of 6-1, with Trustee Anne Freel casting the sole “no” vote. Freel expressed concerns about purchasing hard copy textbooks when online and electronic materials were also available. TAHS Vice Principal Stacy Mochty explained that most of the publishers bundled those materials as part of package deals for their products.

• As a result of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent executive order which moved the State into Phase 4 of the COVID-19 recovery, schools have been given the ability to open campuses to outdoor training within specified limits. The board authorized Klinger to reopen the campus under those limits, which include guidelines from the MHSAA.

• Since the COVID-19 crisis also shutdown sports participation, the MHSAA issued a ruling to accept all physical examinations from the 2019-2020 school year for the 2020-2021 school year. MHSAA has presented a questionnaire to be accepted in lieu of an annual sports physical for qualifying students. The board voted unanimously to approve the use of the questionnaire.