2012-11-22 / Front Page

HISD dealing with ‘fiscal cliff,’ turbine revenues

BY JOHN BONKE
Staff Writer • 810-452-2668 • jbonke@mihomepaper.com and
KELLY TAYLOR-JEROME
News & Sports Editor • 810-452-2617 • kjerome@mihomepaper.com

HURON COUNTY — With the “fiscal cliff” looming ahead, Huron Intermediate School District Superintendent Joseph Murphy told the board that if no agreement is reached yet this year in Washington, D.C., it could mean an 8.2 percent across-the-board cut locally. Murphy, during his report at the Nov. 15 regular meeting, recommended sending a letter, upon the recommendation of the National School Boards Association (NSBA), to Congresswoman Candice Miller (MI-10) to inform her of the importance of a solution being found. Murphy said the impact would be felt here through changes in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Special Education funding. IDEA was passed in 1975 by the U.S. Congress and known then as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Murphy said any such cuts would come in the 2013- 2014 school year. The board approved the resolution to contact Congresswoman Miller.

In another matter, Murphy updated the board on the efforts of MREC (Michigan Renewable Energy Collaborative) in setting a tax revenue rate on wind turbines. The five-county coalition, comprised of Gratiot, Huron, Mason, Sanilac and Tuscola, have joined together to fight for a higher tax rate than what has been set by the state. Murphy pointed out that although the district pays for a share of the work based partly on number of turbines in the local area, the numbers have shown that there already has been a good return on the investment with some revenue having been recouped.

Murphy also reported to the board that because of the efforts of all Huron County school districts using the Skyward software and the fiber optic work being done across the county, the HISD will be applying for technology-related grants that could add up to around $50,000.

The board also heard that Sobczak Construction will be installing new gutters, runoffs and a drain line in order to improve drainage in a playground area. Superintendent Murphy said the work will include re-doing some soil and grass.

In Directors Reports, General Education Director and Special Education Supervisor Karen Currie said that professional development programs continue to receive good support. She noted that feedback indicates area teachers are struggling with how to adapt to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The standards were adopted in July 2010 by the state and schools will need to align curriculum, instruction and assessments with them.

Currie also told the board that the Mother Nature’s Classroom program, spearheaded by Scott Whipple, who oversees science outreach for the HISD, went very well as is looking to expand.

DECA members and North Huron High School students Alyssa Bambach and Carole Rice gave a presentation on activities of the marketing student organization at the HISD. During the presentation, the students said that the national group is comprised of approximately 188,000 marketing, finance, hospitality and management students, with some 7,000 in Michigan. Students from the local chapter recently went to a national gathering in Salt Lake City through its achievements in school and community outreach as well as alumni contact. The students said that the national event was an opportunity learn about marketing, network and hear from leading experts.

In other business, the board re-signed with Anderson, Tuckey, Bernhardt & Doran for auditing services for 2013 through 2015.

The board also paid bills of $200,936.

During the board’s Oct. 11 meeting, accountant Jerry Bernhardt reported the HISD’s annual audit was positive, showing the district profited $607,062 during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The district’s total net assets at the end of the year were $13,521,963.

Bernhardt, of Anderson, Tuckey, Bernhardt & Doran, P.C., said the district maintained a fund balance of $1.4 million, which he said is very healthy.

“The Huron ISD does a really good job,” he said. “On a scale of one to 10, we really put this one up at the 10 spot.”

He said the audit went smoothly and there were no issues, which has been the case with the district’s audits for the past several years.

“We believe your financial statements are accurate and they conform to generally accepted accounting principles,” Bernhardt said.

Additionally during the board’s October meeting, it heard a presentation about the district’s reproductive health class and an update about science kits used by students throughout the district.

Scott Whipple, district science teacher, demonstrated the science kits, which challenge students to light a bulb using one piece of wire and a battery.

“I know if I gave you two wires, you could probably do it pretty easily, but I’m only going to give you one wire,” he told the board.

It took several minutes for most people in the room to figure out the solution. Whipple told those who struggled not to feel bad, as most Harvard and MIT graduates also had difficulty with the task when they were asked as part of a study.

He said the kit teaches science in a practical way that will benefit students.

“Our fourth graders in Huron County (are able to light the bulb),” he said. “We can’t have engineering graduates who can’t light a bulb with a battery and a wire.”

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