MAPS may have to pay back grant funding

MARQUETTE – The Marquette Area Public Schools may owe the state and federal governments more than $120,000 due to what Interim Superintendent Bill Saunders called an administrative oversight.

Board President Rich Rossway asked Saunders during a MAPS Board of Education meeting Monday night to update the board on an issue with certification for personnel, which Saunders said could cost the district $124,000.

Saunders said an employee hired at MAPS with out-of-state certification only had a portion of that certification approved by the state of Michigan. However, due to an administrative oversight, Saunders said the rest of the certification was not approved, and the state and federal governments have been paying the district through grants that required the full certification for that employee. The district is currently in negotiations with the state government grant providers to determine a payment schedule.

“It comes down to an error on our part,” Saunders said, adding the problem had been on-going for the past two years, but was being fixed and would not cost the district any further.

Saunders also informed the board of the current enrollment numbers in the district, which he said were in line with projections.

In an effort to keep public discussion rolling on the district’s Strategic Planning Facilities Subcommittee proposal for reconfiguration, a survey has been posted under Superintendent News on MAPS’ website asking for input.

The proposal includes utilizing all the district’s elementary schools and the Graveraet School as kindergarten through fifth grade buildings, Bothwell Middle School as a sixth through eighth grade building and Marquette Senior High School as a ninth through 12th grade building.

The proposal also calls for the use of the Vandenboom Early Childhood Development Center as a home for the district’s alternative education program, which would be displaced if the Graveraet School were used as an elementary building.

This, in turn, would leave the Marquette County YMCA’s early childhood development program without a place to operate.

According to YMCA Executive Director Lisa Coombs-Gerou, the accreditation – the Y has one of only two National Association for the Education of Young Children accredited early childhood education programs in the Upper Peninsula – is not only tied to the curriculum, but also tied to the building being used.

If the Y was forced to move its program, it would lose its accreditation.

Speaking during public comment Monday, Coombs-Gerou implored the board to consider other options.

“We’re committed,” Coombs-Gerou said. “We’re your partner in this process, we want to stay your partner in this process.”

The board has thus far taken no action on implementing a new grade alignment.

However, Saunders said the ideal situation would be approving one soon so it could be implemented by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.

“We need to have a decision this fall,” Saunders said. “We have to build in transition time, allow teachers and principals to plan … The more time the district has to plan for that, the easier it will be.”

In other action, the board approved the purchase of a vehicle not to exceed $12,000, which will be used specifically by the district’s technology department.

To date, employees in that department have been utilizing their own vehicles to transport equipment between school buildings and have not been reimbursed for mileage.

The board also unanimously approved an expenditure of $6,000 to hire two Northern Michigan University graduate assistants as public relations interns for the district. It also approved a budget of $8,000 to be used in that vein.

NMU Director of Education Joe Lubig addressed the board Monday, calling the partnership between NMU and MAPS “a nice, natural connection (where) everybody wins.”

Board member Matt Williams did not attend the meeting.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.