Board approves shared band teacher contract

by Angie Asam – Staff Writer

The contract for band teacher Jen Smercina, who is now a shared teacher between Onaway and Pellston, was approved Tuesday evening after Pellston agreed to pay mileage for Smercina when she is required to travel back to Onaway for an evening activity.

At the last meeting of the Onaway Area Community Schools Board of Education the contract was ready to be approved before some board members raised concern over the part of the contract that stated Onaway Schools would pay mileage one way for Smercina when she had to return for an evening activity.

Jen Smercina new band teacher

After plenty of discussion at that meeting they asked superintendent Rod Fullerton to see if Pellston would pay that mileage as they felt they were helping Pellston by sharing their band teacher with them.

Smercina was hired to teach band at the high school and middle school level in 2010 but the board was only able to offer her half-time work. It has remained that way until now as she will be working full time, half of the time in Onaway and the other half in Pellston.

Fullerton has been working on the contract with Pellston for the past few months while Smercina has already been teaching at both schools since school started.

Tuesday Fullerton told the board that he has been in discussions with Smercina on how the shared teaching was going. “She has had a bit of a struggle as Pellston’s band program is 8-12 grade and most of her students are young, but she said it is going well,” said Fullerton.

Smercina was hired after Lexi Signor left the district. She has been fighting a numbers battle since taking over, since when a band teacher leaves the number of students in band usually falls. Fullerton said Pellston is battling the same thing as they have been without band and now both schools and Smercina will work to build the programs back up in numbers.

“Hopefully we can get her settled in both buildings and keep her here for a while to help us both rebuild the programs,” said Fullerton.


• The board unanimously approved the property tax levy request as they do every year for operating costs. The district will collect 18 mils.

• Fullerton shared information with the board on the Michigan Education Finance Project, which plans to look at a total revamp of the state school aid act. “There could be some major changes and we will have to wait to see where it goes. There are going to be some real winners and some real losers,” said Fullerton. Fullerton shared the information with the board and was not looking for any action.

• Fullerton also passed information along to the board on the retirement packet for school staff. The board was pleased to have the information to gain a better understanding of what is going on with the staff.

• A bid to purchase the old propane tank from the school was received and accepted in the amount of $16,000. It was the only sealed bid received after many expressed interest in the tank. Fullerton verified the purchaser’s insurance and the tank is to be moved by Dec. 1.