Four of the seven members of the Gwinn Area Community Schools Board of Education are being targeted in a recall effort. The district is facing a $1.2 million deficit for next school year.
School board President Gloria Bigelow is one of the recall targets. She says the district has a revenue problem, not a spending problem.
Bigelow said, “We’ve had a decrease in enrollment and a decrease in our funding allowance, which has necessitated in a lesser amount of revenue then we should have been receiving.”
The recall effort began shortly after the Gwinn Area School Board voted to close Gilbert Elementary this summer and move its students to the larger K.I. Sawyer Elementary.
The board voted to close Gilbert to help make up the deficit.
Board Trustee Ron Libey, another recall target, says the district has known for years that this step might eventually be necessary.
Libey said, “When we added on to the Sawyer building a number of years ago, that was one of the things to consider, that at some point we may have to house all of the elementary students into one building.”
The board went through a similar situation in 2010, when Gwinn Middle School closed as a cost-cutting move.
The district built a middle school wing onto the high school, which is next door.
Bigelow said, “I think the biggest difference is the fact that the community wants to maintain an elementary school in the Gwinn area. However, Sawyer has 10 additional rooms that Gilbert does not have. Sawyer also has an extra gym.”
“I understand the passion about closing schools, about closing a school in a little community. I served on the board when Skandia School was closed and they exhibited the same passion,” Libey said.
The next step in the recall process takes place on May 8th.
That’s when the Marquette County Election Commission will decide if the recall language is clearly worded enough and factual enough to force the board seats to be vacated.