Ferndale Residents Stand Up, in Place, for Schools
Facebook-inspired "freeze mob" gatherings Saturday were designed to show support for public education in a time of state spending cuts.
Ferndale residents and others stood up for education Saturday afternoon by standing stock-still.
Supporters of the Ferndale School District took part in a “flash freeze mob” – a variation of traditional Facebook-inspired flash mobs.
At 1 p.m., groups gathered at two locations — Woodward Avenue and Nine Mile Road and outside Ferndale High School — then stood motionless for the next five minutes.
“We thought it was a unique way to show our support for schools as they’re facing some tough times,” organizer Debra Wilson said.
Wilson, a Ferndale School District parent, and Pam Bellaver, director of the Ferndale Career Center, decided the freeze mob was something that would allow all types of people to show their support for public education at a time of budget threats from Lansing.
"We were thinking about a flash mob, but that involves singing and dancing, and there just wasn't the time to coordinate something like that," Bellaver said. "So Debra came up with the idea of a freeze mob, and we went on Facebook to get people to come."
Those taking part seemed to enjoy themselves.
"I've never done anything like this before, but it was a blast," said Pat Landry, a school district volunteer.
Jim Forsyth, who stood alongside Landry, agreed. "We're all parents, we all have kids on the local sports teams. So we wanted to show our support."
Student athletes, including members of the high school football team, were among those taking part.
Paul Voss and his wife, Heather Coleman-Voss, brought the family.
"The reason we're here is right there," Voss said, pointing to the couple's daughters, McKenna Voss and Reilly Coleman, both eighth-graders.
The event dovetailed with both the Ferndale Art Walk, set for noon-4 p.m. Saturday at sites throughout the city, as well as the SouthEast Oakland Arts & Crafts Fair, held at the high school.
"The arts fair is a big fundraiser for our PTSA, so we thought this would be a good time," Wilson said.
Ferndale and other Michigan public school districts have struggled with budget issues since they received word in February that Gov. Rick Snyder planned to cut more than $300 per student from next year's state education budget to offset tax breaks for Michigan businesses. Such a move would have cost the local schools roughly $1.2 million.
Although word came this week that the cuts likely will equal only $100 per student, Bellaver said many local parents remained concerned about the strings attached to that budget deal, including retirement payouts and the adoption of financial "best practices," which remain unclear.
"It looks like they're giving money to schools but still might be taking things away from teachers," she said.
Members of the Michigan Education Association were set to rally Saturday in Lansing as the local freeze mob took shape.
But Wilson and Bellaver made it clear that theirs was not a political event.
"It's not political at all," Bellaver said. "It's a chance for all of us to come together and say we support our teachers, our students, our principals and our community."