TAWAS CITY – The recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court which rendered all executive orders issued after April 30 by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to be unconstitutional has placed public boards in the state, including the Tawas Area Schools (TAS) Board of Education, in a form of “legal limbo,” according to TAS Superintendent John Klinger.
At issue, Klinger said, are the executive orders that issued waivers from the provisions of the Michigan Open Meetings Act, which have allowed public bodies to meet remotely in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerns that an electronic meeting might violate the Open Meetings Act led the district to hold a “hybrid model” session on Oct. 12, with a quorum of the board attending in person, along with a teleconferencing method for the remainder of the board, staff members,and the general public.
Trustees attending in person were TAS Board President Julie Ulman, Greg VanderVeen, Jennifer Bruning and Shannon Klenow, while Anne Freel, Connie O’Connor and Ami Edmonds participated using Google Meets. Klinger and State Reporting Coordinator Nancy Bielby also attended in person, and Technology Director Antonio Huizar provided support for the electronic broadcast.
Seating for in-person participants was configured to comply with social distancing guidelines, and, since all attendees were located more than six feet from each other, the used of face masks while seated was not required.
In his legislative report to the board, Klinger noted that the district was “waiting for guidance,” while measures were under consideration in both houses of the Michigan legislature to restore the waivers to the Open Meetings Act.
Ulman presided over her first meeting after Freel, who remains on the board as trustee, stepped down as president. By separate 7-0 votes, Klenow was elected vice president, and VanderVeen was chosen to be treasurer. O’Connor remains as secretary.
Matters before the board at this meeting included accepting letters of resignation from two cook’s helpers. Janet Macha resigned as of Sept. 18, and Tammy Jameson left her post on Oct. 9.
The board unanimously approved the recommendations from interim Athletic Director Lynn Kosto to hire coaches for winter sports. Reuben Edwards will coach boys’ JV basketball, Gordon Wallace will lead girls’ JV basketball and Chase Blackmore will be at the helm for 8th grade boys’ basketball, while Chris Jagelewski will be the wrestling coach. Todd Kaems (boys’ varsity basketball), Kim Miller (girls’ bowling), Allen Miller (boys’ bowling), and Mel Rettell (varsity hockey) will fill non-paid coaching positions. According to Kosto, openings have been posted to fill coaching vacancies for 7th grade boys’ basketball and varsity cheer.
A first reading of new and revised board policies was presented to the Board by the Policy Committee, which will be voted on at a future session. Subjects reviewed included nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in education programs and activities, sexual violence, threatening behavior toward staff members, emergency removal suspension, and expulsion of students, due process rights, and facility security.
As part of his legislative update, Klinger also reported that the state budget has been approved, and was pleased to relate that the effect on the district would be a reduction of the original deficit spending amount from $900,000 to $275,000.
The fall count day took place on Oct. 7. Klinger said that the District’s headcount appears to be down by about 45 students from last year.
The board unanimously approved the District’s Extended COVID-19 Learning Plan, which was updated to meet the new requirements of Senate Bill 927.
By a 6-1 vote with Trustee Shannon Klenow dissenting, the Board approved the Superintendent Merit Goal for 2020-21. This function is normally performed during the summer months, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
A Resolution to Grant Emergency Powers to the Superintendent During the 2020-21 School Year was approved 6-0 by the board. Trustee Ami Edmonds experienced technical difficulties with her remote connection at the time of the vote, and was unable to cast her vote on this matter.
An addendum to the superintendent’s contract was approved 7-0 by the board, which resulted in a 2 percent wage increase for Klinger. This increase was consistent with wage increases received by other employees in the district.