Updated: Monday, 23 Nov 2009, 11:24 PM EST
Published : Monday, 23 Nov 2009, 5:56 PM EST
WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) - The board of Wyoming Public Schools approved Monday cutting more than 20 teaching positions and more than four administrative positions mid-year as the district struggles to deal with fewer students and less state revenue.
The unanimous vote would eliminate 57 positions, saving $2.4 million.
But some teachers offered a solution to save some of the jobs: they could give some of their salaries back as a charitable donation to the district.
Teacher Theresa Almonte presented a letter to the board -- signed, she said, by more than 50 teachers -- calling for the union to discuss and vote on the idea.
"It's something that I felt inside that I had to go forward," Almonte told 24 Hour News 8. "To represent the people in the union who don't feel their voices are being heard, maybe, by leadership."
The Oriole Park Elementary School educator told the board "any job cut mid-year will both hinder our students' education as well as disrupt their lives." Not to mention the trouble it will create for teacher morale among those who stay, she said.
The donation move would avoid some of the pitfalls of another job-saving idea 24 Hour News 8 reported on after the last Wyoming board meeting: having everyone take a pay cut.
Taking a pay cut could reduce how much a teacher near retirement would receive for a pension because pension calculations are based on the pay a teacher receives in his or her last years. The new idea -- a donation -- would not affect pensions, administrators said.
A Michigan Education Association representative told the board money-saving talks have happened and will continue to happen.
Saving some of the jobs could ease some of the fears parents such as Caryn Bauman have.
"I think high numbers in classrooms is probably at the top of my concerns," Bauman told 24 Hour News 8. That, and the possibility of any one of her three boys in Wyoming Public Schools losing their teacher mid-year.
"I have children who could manage through that and I have children who absolutely couldn't," she said.
Superintendent Jon Felske said if the cuts do stay in place, staff will try to make the transition for students changing teachers as positive as possible.
As far as class size, he said the average would probably go up about two students per class at the elementary schools with a smaller increase at middle and high schools.
So, can something realistically be done to save some of the jobs?
"The door will close on January 11," Felske told 24 Hour News 8. "Until then, our door's going to be open and we're willing to have two-way dialogue."
Jan. 11 is the last school board meeting before the second semester begins, making it the last chance to undo the job cuts.
School board President Deb Fewless said a meeting Monday afternoon with union leaders was positive.