Ferndale School Board Candidate Profile: Jim Pfleger
Pfleger is one of eight seeking election to the school board in November.
Eight people are vying for four seats on Ferndale's school board in the November election and Ferndale Patch is bringing you Q&A profiles with each of the candidates.
We asked the candidates about why they want to be on the board of education, their backgrounds, what they consider the biggest areas for improvement and more.
Below are the replies of current board member Jim Pfleger.
Q: Number of years a resident of the Ferndale school district?
My family and I have lived in the District for 17 years - my wife Liz is the long timer, having been born and raised here and graduating from Ferndale High School.
Q: Do you or did you have children in Ferndale schools?
Both my girls graduated from the Ferndale Schools, Mariah in 2008 after attending Roosevelt, Kennedy, Ferndale Middle School and High School and Paige in 2011 after attending Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, Ferndale Middle School and High School. Mariah graduated this year from Florida State University with a BS in Biology, minor in Chemistry, and a Certificate with Honors in Marine Biology. Paige is a Sophomore at the University of Michigan.
Q: What prompted you to run for a seat on Ferndale's school board?
In 2006 I volunteered to become a member of the School District’s Finance Committee, charged with reviewing the District’s finances, because I believed in the Board's policy that citizens should be involved in setting spending priorities for the schools . I served in that capacity until March 2010, when I was appointed to fill an unfinished School Board Trustee term. I served as the Secretary of the Board in 2011 and am currently the Treasurer of the School Board. I have found the opportunity to have a part in insuring that the children that attend our schools get a first rate educational opportunity as both my girls did to be tremendously rewarding so I am now seeking a full term.
Q: What kinds of experiences – professional, educational or otherwise – make you a unique and qualified candidate?
Beyond my School Board experience, which includes the past two years as Chair of the Program/Technology Committee as well as Chair of the Finance Committee, I have served on the Boards of the Ferndale Schools Fine Arts Boosters as Secretary, Vice President, and President, on the FHS Marching Band Committee as Vice President, on the FHS Musical Boosters for 11 years including the last 3 years as Set Construction Head, so I am well versed on the needs of some of our Schools most successful programs. I have also served on the Pleasant Ridge Pool Board as Secretary and Vice President, and on the Indian Village Board of Directors when we lived in Detroit.
My academic training includes a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Michigan State University’s Advanced Management Program. For part of my career at General Motors, I was responsible for the Budget / Forecast and spending reconciliations for a number of Corporate Staffs, each of whose budgets were as large as or larger than the School District’s so I am familiar with Budgets, Audits, and the need for financial discipline.
Q: What new ideas do you hope to bring to the table?
This District already has lots of new innovative ideas; School Improvement Plans for each school to improve Math, Reading, & Writing skills, Data Teams to focus academic improvement efforts for each individual student, and a completely new Digital High School program that blends on line computer classes with academic advisers assigned as case workers and counselors for each student. The responsibility of the Board is to continue to provide the direction and support to make these programs successful. What I bring to the table is consistency and a focus on increased student achievement as the most important goal of the Board, Administration, and Staff. In a new term on the Board, I would like to see us build a better “brand” awareness of all the great things going on in ours schools. As an involved parent, I would also like to work on better parent involvement in the School District. There are still parents that do not seem comfortable with participation in their children’s school life and their involvement is the most critical factor in educational success for their students.
Q: What do you think are the biggest issues facing the school district? How would you handle them?
There are a lot of challenges facing the Ferndale Schools , including Budget pressures, curriculum mandates like the common core program, and student retention. These I think we have the Staff, Administration, and Board expertise to handle. What concerns me the most is potential state law changes that will greatly incentivize or outright mandate School District consolidations. Small school districts, those that are not in sound financial condition, and those that have not shown the willingness to be innovative will I believe be at serious risk of losing control of their own destinies. My focus on the Board for the past two years has been toward improving Student Achievement and financial prudence and they will remain my top priorities so we are a model inner suburban school district.
Q: What do you regard as the district's successes? How would you continue or improve upon these areas, if elected?
Financially, we are in good shape, in spite of the tough economic times and the reductions in aid from the State. Unlike a majority of Districts around us, the Board and the Administration of Ferndale Schools have been successful at keeping spending in check and in actually building up a fund balance thru conservative budgeting, innovative programming, service sharing with other Districts and the City of Ferndale, along with consulting for other school organizations. There have been improvements in test scores, with the Michigan Department of Education announcing on August 2, 2102, that Ferndale High School was named as a "Reward Schools. a designation identifying schools that are among the top 5% of schools statewide or that have seen the biggest jump in their state rankings. We need to maintain our focus on student achievement because there are still some students that are not improving far enough or fast enough as well as successful students that continue to need more than the average academic challenge. We need to manage the recently received Bond money to get the most physical plant improvements achievable to support student learning and and maintain a real focus on innovative change to do more.
Q: Around the country, state and in Ferndale, school budgets continue to be an issue districts grapple with. What areas of the budget would be your biggest priority, if elected? Where do you see the most room for cuts, if needed?
The root cause of overspending is a poor budgeting process combined with lack of spending discipline. This Administration and Board have fostered an expectation of balanced budgets thru realistic funding projections, innovative revenue generation, and disciplined spending by our staff. While we have not been able to do as much for our staff as we would have liked, we have been able to provide some raises that we could realistically afford and are not in a position that require cuts or give backs from our employees now or in the foreseeable future.
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
A successful education is critical to the ability of our children to grow into successful adults. The responsibility for providing a quality education from kindergarten through high school lies not just with the School Administration and teachers, but also with concerned parents. As a parent of children who attended the Ferndale schools, I volunteered my time and efforts to help support opportunities for our District’s students. I continue to volunteer because there are children beyond my own who also will benefit from the opportunities that our schools and our parent support organizations help provide. I want to continue serving on the Ferndale School Board of Education because there are critical issues that this Board will face that require broad understanding of all the schools issues as well as experienced financial oversight that I believe I have the training and background to provide. I would appreciate the voters examining what I have already done, along with my promise that my priority will always be what is best for the children of this school district. I have no political aspirations to any office beyond this and will serve the full term that I am elected to.