New school board, revenue concerns greet UCS in 2017

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 18, 2017

 Heritage and Davis junior high schools’ basketball teams compete for the ball during a tipoff.

Heritage and Davis junior high schools’ basketball teams compete for the ball during a tipoff.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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STERLING HEIGHTS — With school back in session and approaching the season for midterms, Utica Community Schools has committed itself to several resolutions and goals for 2017.

On Jan. 9, the Utica Community Schools Board of Education reconvened and picked new officers following the departure of its last president, Carol Klenow, at the end of 2016.

The new board consists of President Gene Klida, Vice President Michele Templeton, Secretary Jennifer Prybys and Treasurer Robert Ross. Trustees Ken Krolczyk, Mary Thomas and the incoming Denyeal Nesovski round out the board.

In a statement, Klida, who lives in Shelby Township, commented on the board’s unanimous vote to promote her from her previous position as vice president. She said she was “extremely honored” to serve as president.

“Our board members are committed to working together to move the district’s vision and mission forward and ensure our students are well-prepared for postsecondary success,” Klida said.

According to an email, UCS Superintendent Christine Johns said she aspires to make the rest of this school year successful for her district’s students.

For instance, UCS is committing to curbing achievement gaps and helping disadvantaged students by encouraging and equipping them to do well in college-level courses. A group called Equal Opportunity Schools and a campaign called the Lead Higher Initiative have been tapped to assist the school district with these goals.

“By all measures, our students are performing at levels that outpace state and national levels,” Johns said. “Our focus remains on increasing the level of rigor of coursework and positioning UCS graduates for success in their postsecondary experiences.”

Among the other actions that the school district is taking this year, it has planned this month to celebrate the completion of auxiliary gyms at Malow and Davis junior high schools. These gyms were funded through a $112.5 million bond issue that voters passed in 2009, which paid for various construction, infrastructure, technology and safety needs in the district.

In addition, school officials have announced a commitment to keep working with pro-computer science nonprofit Code.org to incorporate such concepts in math and science classes, as well as give elementary kids more familiarity with those concepts.

However, the district has been studying its budgetary options in the wake of years of using its fund balance to balance the budget.

“Over the past 10 years, UCS has only received $60 in new (per-pupil) revenue — or an average of $6 per year,” UCS spokesman Tim McAvoy said. “Other districts have received seven times that amount in new resources.”

Johns also said that increases in state funding for UCS have trailed inflation.

“We also will continue to advocate for our students with state lawmakers to address the negative impact the current funding formula has on Utica Community Schools,” she said.

For more information about Utica Community Schools, visit www.uticak12.org.

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