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Ishpeming schools mulling new millage request

If OK’d, it would be the second time district has asked for tax hike

January 11, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE Journal Ishpeming Bureau

ISHPEMING - With the recent shift of students from the former C.L. Phelps Middle School into the Central School portion of Ishpeming High School, the Ishpeming School Board and some parents plan to gauge community support for another millage request for an expansion project at the Birchview Elementary School.

The board voted Monday to schedule a public input meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 24 in the Ishpeming High School auditorium.

Board members and Superintendent Stephen Piereson will present information on the previous millage, which failed in 2010.

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That millage request would have used around $11 million to add classrooms, a gymnasium, kitchen area and library, among other additions.

At the meeting, the board and superintendent will also present rough breakdowns of available building options.

The goal of the public meeting is to get input from those who would support another millage as well as those who would not.

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"I think the best thing we could come out of there with is an idea of what the public would like," said board member Lyle Warner.

Closing the Phelps school has meant the loss of Ishpeming's main kitchen facilities. To provide food services, the board held discussion on contracting with the Negaunee Public Schools to take over Ishpeming's food services.

The board did not take any action on the contract, pending clarification and definition on certain points. The contract would be for five years beginning in September and would be funded through lunch ticket sales to students.

"If they can run it and turn a profit, the profit is theirs," Piereson said of Negaunee's management of the food program.

In other action, the board voted to put out bids for a full-time day shift custodian at the high school building - a move that was opposed by a labor union representative.

In October 2010, the board voted to privatize custodial services within the district. Stu Skauge, UniServe director for the Michigan Education Association, then began the process of bringing unfair labor practice charges against the board.

In exchange for a buyout option for custodial staff, those charges were dropped with the understanding that day shift custodians would not be privatized, Skauge said.

"I was told at the time that the board would not privatize the day shift custodians at Birchview or the high school," he said. "There's nothing in writing, but at some point I took you at your word... If that's not going to be the case, we're back to square one."

The board also took action on several housekeeping items such as designating financial institutions, legal firms and the dates for meetings in 2011.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her e-mail address is



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