2012-03-22 / Front Page

Manistique Area Schools to save $440,000 with bond refinancing

Recent change in MEAP scores reviewed

The Manistique Area Schools this week announced the successful sale of its $2,050,000 2012 Refunding Bonds. The district sold the bonds on March 14 through a negotiated sale with Fifth Third Securities Inc. The new bonds refunded the callable portion of the district’s 2002- 2006 building and site bond issues.

Craig Kahler, vice president of Fifth Third Securities, was at Monday night’s regular MAS Board of Education Board meeting to close the transaction, which will result in a savings of over $400,000 in interest over the remaining life of the bonds.

“Manistique Area Schools is very pleased with the results of this sale, which will save our taxpayers over $440,000 in interest,” said Superintendent Kathy McDonough. “We are especially grateful to the Upper Peninsula-based banks that participated in the transaction, including State Savings Bank. We appreciate the effort of our underwriter, Fifth Third Securities, to bring our bonds to the market, reach out to local investors and secure these savings for our taxpayers.”

Kahler, the lead investment banker on the financing, said, “The Manistique Area School bonds were well received on a challenging day in the municipal bond market. I congratulate the board and administration for their commitment to taking advantage of the opportunity available in the market and responsibly managing their debt obligations and extend our thanks for the opportunity to serve the district as underwriter.”

As a result of the savings, the district will lower the amount of mills necessary to retire the debt, resulting in some future savings to taxpayers.

In other business Monday, the board heard a presentation from middle and high school teacher Michelle LaVigne and Emerald Elementary Lead Teacher Linda Levin on the impact of new state “cut scores” to the district’s Michigan Education Assessment Program (MEAP) numbers.

The state of Michigan is continuing its quest to qualify for “Race to the Top” educational funding from the federal government, and therefore raised the proficiency bar this year.

By requiring students to perform better on the annual MEAP tests in order to be deemed “proficient”, the state hopes to place itself in a better position to compete for the federal dollars.

Monday’s PowerPoint presentation from LaVigne and Levin applied the new state formula to the scores from previous years in order to show the effects of the changes.

Under the new cut-score formula, in order for a student to be considered proficient on the MEAP tests, they need to get approximately 30 percent more questions correct in each subject area than they did in prior years.

LaVigne said the initial results were “very alarming,” but were in line when compared to the averages for the state and the Delta-Schoolcraft Intermediate School District.

Because of the radical change in scoring, LaVigne said, one of the heaviest indicators of how students are doing now is based on “slope” – the improvement from last year to this year.

“If you look at these scores, because they have applied the new formula to last year, you can see we improved in reading, math and science. We are in a positive slope, even with the new cut scores,” said LaVigne.

While frustrated at times with the changes handed down by the state, the fact that the MEAP tests measure performance on just one day of the year, and are administered in the fall when the students are just coming off summer break, LaVigne said it is a way to measure how the district compares to the ISD and other schools across the state.

McDonough echoed those comments, saying it’s hard to improve what you don’t measure.

“We could just not take the MEAPS anymore, but then we would not know where we stand,” she said. “It’s good to have that measure and it’s good to know where we stand, but don’t put the whole hopes and dreams of the district on one test.”

The 2011 MEAP test results, which the district received in December, were not available to the public until mid February.

Also Monday, the board approved two job descriptions for the posting of an elementary principal and a middle and high school principal for the 2012-13 school year, replacing current K-12 Principal Butch Yurk, who will be retiring at the end of June.

Both positions are being scaled back to 195 working days from the previous 12-month contracts that existed last year, when Jason Lockwood departed to become the superintendent at Bark River-Harris.

Since that time, Yurk has been serving as the district’s only principal, under a one-year pilot program.

The job descriptions will be posted both internally and externally, with application deadlines of 4 p.m. on April 20. Scheduled interviews will be open to the public.

McDonough also distributed a PowerPoint network memo from Alternative Revenue Development of Troy, Mich.

At no cost to the district, the company solicits banner advertising for school Web sites. Revenue is paid to districts via the number of clicks to their site.

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