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Dexter Loses 27, Chelsea Gains Zero Students on Count Day

Both school districts are reporting minor changes to the student population for the 2012 school year.

The numbers are in, and unofficial reports show that neither Dexter nor Chelsea had significant gains in student population for the 2012 school year.

Count Day was held across the state on Wednesday, when all public schools in Michigan tallied the number of students enrolled in the district. This is an important day for schools because each student in attendance translates into state funding.

According to Dexter Superintendent Mary Marshall, the district is reporting 3,566, a decline of 27 students from the 2011-2012 school year. Marshall said the number is not surprising, due to data that district officials reviewed over the summer.

"We made a really good projection of our enrollment," Marshall said. "We budgeted a loss of 25 students when we had to pass a budget in June."

Marshall said there are 244 kindergarten and 53 students enrolled in the Young 5's program, which is a good sign of district growth in the future.

"We have one of the largest kindergarten classes in recent years," she said.

Chelsea Superintendent Andy Ingall said enrollment at Chelsea Schools was relatively flat for the school year.

Last year, there were 2,465 students in grades K-12 and the district’s base foundation grant is $7,180 per pupil.

"This is the first time in several years that we have not seen a decline in total enrollment,” he told the Chelsea Update.

The district’s preliminary budget was based on a projected loss of 40 students, so the district could save around $280,000, Ingall said.

Count days and school funding are mandated through the State School Aid Act. The calculation schools receive is based on winter and fall student count data during the same calendar year, according to the Michigan Department of Education. For example, this year's funding will be based on February's count and October's count.

Students must be in attendance and receive instruction in all classes on count day to be included.

Barbara Read October 05, 2012 at 03:29 PM
I think it would be good to have information on why the students are no longer enrolled. Are they still living in Dexter, but not choosing public school? Did they move? I know of at least three children who moved from Dexter to Chelsea this year. The parents based this decision on the schools. If Mary would have a conversation with the exiting families, it might help her understand the whole picture better and make some positive changes. Which kids left and why did they leave? Sometimes it just happens, but there may also be things in Dexter that could be improved. It would be good to know what these are.
Barbara Read October 05, 2012 at 03:50 PM
I know that although the district partnered with the Oakland Virtual Learning Academy with the idea that this would support homeschool families and allow them to be concurrently enrolled in the Dexter schools, there was very little outreach. The Academy offers a solid curriculum from the well known Calvert School http://homeschool.calvertschool.org/ at no cost to the families enrolling or to the district. The Calvert tuition would normally be $2000 to 3000 for one school year and offers a quality education. It's a win-win. Yet, I only know of one home school family who enrolled this year. People didn't realize that there was a firm September 7th deadline for enrollment.
villagemom October 07, 2012 at 02:21 AM
As a homeschooling family I can confirm that there was very little outreach made to the community (that I'm aware of) and I'm fairly well plugged in. I had come across some statement made by Mary Marshall that they were considering offering a virtual program but never heard a follow up regarding curriculum choices or deadlines. I never heard how, or when, or even who we should contact if we were interested in enrolling. In fact, I know several families that chose to enroll through the Oxford Virtual Academy because of their Homeschool Connections partnership which did a better job of getting the word out in our area. They also offer free extracurriculars through several partnered educational providers which is extremely enticing.
Mary Marshall October 07, 2012 at 03:35 PM
I am so sorry you missed the information! There was information in the Patch on June 11 and July 10. We sent out a press release in July in hopes of giving families plenty of time to investigate and determine if this was an option for them.
Chris Gordon October 07, 2012 at 05:37 PM
The Board of Education (BoE) decision to join the Oakland Virtual Learning Academy was made in June and was well publicized by our local media including links to the web site with registration information. My understanding is that 7 home school students from our district enrolled in this program. http://dexter.patch.com/announcements/dexter-schools-joins-oakland-virtual-learning-academy-accepting-enrollment http://www.heritage.com/articles/2012/06/10/dexter_leader/news/doc4fce3c6792d8b207965522.txt?viewmode=fullstory http://www.annarbor.com/news/dexter/dexter-schools-to-partner-with-oakland-virtual-learning-academy/ As a member of the BoE Communications Committee, one of the challenges we discussed this year is providing information to district families that do not have children attending our schools. One of the solutions we identified is including school program information in the Community Education brochures that are mailed to district residents twice each year. I would be interested to hear ideas from villagemom and others about how to further improve outreach at one of our Conversation with the Board sessions preceding the first regular BoE Meeting each month (the next opportunity is October 8 at 6 PM at Creekside) or via email. http://dexterschools.org/boardofeducation/board-members/ These views represent my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education or of my colleagues on the Board.
c j 5 October 07, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Why are the athletic fees so high anyway? The highest in Washtenaw County? What's wrong in Dexter that we need to squeeze the families so hard? My children are not in sports yet, but this really seems over the top to me. How are other districts able to charge less? No one I know supports these high fees for athletics.
Barbara Read October 07, 2012 at 06:53 PM
CJ, it's a little complicated. The Dexter school by-laws state that, "Since the primary purpose of the athletic program is to enhance the education of participating students as indicated in this policy, the Board places top priority on maximum student participation . . . ," so we would expect that participation would be the priority and finances would then be arranged to support the program. Instead, the board has put finances first and then is hoping that the program participation will follow. The school board sets the policy for the district. The only school board member not to vote for the increased fees was Julie Schumaker. I spoke several times to the board that the fees are too high and children may choose not to participate in sports based on the higher costs. I am supported in this by an article reporting that "19% of families in a study that earned less than $60,000 per year reported the cost of sports led to at least one of their children not participating."
Barbara Read October 07, 2012 at 06:56 PM
I believe in balanced budgets and I would always put academics first, so I asked the Chelsea school board candidates how they planned to make up the difference in their budget from eliminating their pay to play fees. The response from the candidates was interesting. Not one of them was concerned about making up the difference. They all saw the fee amount as just a small part of the overall budget and felt that the superintendent and administrators (principals) could easily help find a place in the budget to cover the added costs. The candidates also mentioned the benefit of sports to students and that it is an important part of what Chelsea has to offer.
c j 5 October 07, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Well, I think it's wrong. There has to be a better way to raise the money than to squeeze families harder. Now is just not the time for that.
Chris Gordon October 07, 2012 at 08:13 PM
Projections show declining public school enrollment is a trend in Washtenaw County and across the State of Michigan. It would be nice to know why these 25 students out of our 3600 went elsewhere, but obtaining this information might not be valuable in the context of our administrative priorities. According to the most recent Michigan Department of Education financial rankings of the 788 public school districts in our state, Dexter Community Schools ranks 775th in per pupil expenditures for administrative support. Stated another way, only 13 districts in the state have leaner administrative structures than Dexter. Our core mission of educating and inspiring enrolled students is a higher priority for our limited resources. This priority is reflected in our contrasting ranking in the top third of districts for per pupil expenditures on instructional programs. Success at this mission promotes enrollment more than reacting to why students leave the district. Being dedicated professional educators, our district teachers and administrators have both objective and subjective information about why students leave the district because these decisions are rarely made on a whim, and I’m confident this knowledge factors into their decisions and recommendations about how to improve our educational programs. These views represent my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education or of my colleagues on the Board.
Barbara Read October 07, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Chris, 27 students represent nearly $200,000 to the budget. This may not be important to you, but it should be--particularly if limited resources are a concern. It does matter why students leave, and in the past, Mary has expressed an interest in contacting families individually to address their concerns. This is an interest I support. Every student and every family matter. If they don't matter to you as individuals, then they should at least speak to the school "pocketbook."
Chris Gordon October 08, 2012 at 01:49 AM
Barbara, these students represent more than revenue to me as they do to our dedicated staff. When I speak of resources I refer to the time and talent of our professional teachers and administrators in addition to financial resources provided by our taxpayers and supporters of public education. I can’t speak for our superintendent, but given the finite hours in a day and the exceptional commitment demonstrated by everybody in our district on a daily basis, choices have to be made in a constrained environment. Given these constraints, our 3566 students demand our full level of effort. Case in point, the reshuffling of kindergarten class assignments and additional staffing decisions just before the start of this school year as enrollment exceeded expectations. I also made the point that our personally engaged educators often know “why” and have the opportunity to address family concerns as the choice to leave our schools unfolds without setting the expectation for a redundant exit interview, and this knowledge already informs program decisions. I affirm my commitment to every family and student as a parent of four, a perennial school volunteer, the spouse of a professional educator, a staff member at a public university, and last but not least as a dedicated public servant on the Board of Education. These views represent my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Dexter Community Schools Board of Education or of my colleagues on the Board.
villagemom October 08, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Chris Gordon, Listing an announcement in the Dexter Community Ed flyer is a good idea. Unfortunately relying on The Patch and The Leader to communicate the news only works if you happen to be reading the day it's announced. Program information posted at the library is also a good place to reach out to homeschoolers. I'd love to see an informational meeting that explains the program, curriculum, and maybe even covers additional district opportunities (specials and sports, etc) available to homeschoolers. Getting that kind of information out in late spring would give people time to spread the word within the community before the fall registration deadline.
Chris Gordon October 09, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Villagemom, thanks for your suggestions to improve outreach to homeschool families! I'll bring these up at our next Board of Education Communications Committee meeting (Monday, October 15, 4:30 PM at the Copeland Administration Building if you would like to attend). I welcome any additional suggestions for how we can publicize district information to a wider audience - my email is gordonc@dexterschools.org
Barbara Read October 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Chris, Could you be more specific about being a perennial school volunteer? Dick Lundy and Gordon Darr are often seen at the schools and I've chaperoned a high school dance with Julie Schumacher. I know Bonnie is very involved with the band, but where are you volunteering regularly? I haven't seen you around the schools or at the parent group meetings.
Barbara Read October 17, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Follow up: Mary Marshall will be sending a survey to students who left the district, but are still in a 30 mile radius to see why they left and if there is something Dexter can do to retain more students. At the board meeting, Mary said it was fairly easy to find out where most students have gone. Each student enrolled in the district brings $7000. That's money we can use. In total, 153 students left the district and 126 new or returning students enrolled for a net loss of 27.
Dexter Mom November 19, 2012 at 06:55 PM
I personally know of 7 students who left the district because of bullying problems in middle and high school. How do I get surveys for them?
Barbara Read November 19, 2012 at 09:49 PM
I would suggest they go ahead send Mary Marshall an email with the details. Although she's leaving, it would then be on record. I'm sorry to hear about the bullying. Parents have to do what's best for their kids and sometimes that means a new school. marshallm@dexterschools.org

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