Focus is on Ferndale Schools at CLEAR Kickoff Meeting
About 50 people eager to get to work attended the new political action committee's first gathering Wednesday.
Residents at the kick-off meeting for CLEAR, a new political action committee that aims to serve as a voice for Ferndale Public Schools stakeholders, were eager to talk about concerns such as the district's lottery system for elementary schools, the Taft Education Center and families choosing other districts.
CLEAR aims to foster "a culture of accountability and responsiveness" in the Ferndale Public Schools administration and school board.
About 50 people attended its kickoff meeting Wednesday night at the Ferndale Public Library, where the group's mission, vision and purpose were discussed. "I'm very happy with the turnout and I'm very happy with the conversations we've had so far," CLEAR member Chris Mueller said after the meeting.
CLEAR plans to support efforts to build a stable and inclusive community, promote citizen leadership in school matters, create conditions for educational excellence, guarantee accountability of school leaders and ensure responsiveness to residents' concerns.
During the event, members of the group's steering committee presented information about CLEAR's intent to host regular public meetings, gather information on what issues are most important to its members and be present at school board and other local committee meetings.
The group will also seek out and support school board candidates who align with its vision.
Residents ready to discuss issues
Though leaders from the group mainly discussed how the group would function and ways to get involved, attendees were eager to get down to the specifics.
Greg Pawlica, Ferndale resident and chair of the Ferndale Community Foundation, said he often hears from people who say they have left the school district. "No one ever really tells me why," he said.
CLEAR member Carissa Gaden said future committee meetings will dig deeper into those issues. "We want to have these conversations," she said.
Group to ask school board for strategic planning process
After seeking support from the audience, the group decided to move forward with plans to ask the school board to begin a community-based strategic planning process that would include parents, school staff and administration, business owners, elected officials and more.
A representative from CLEAR is planning to attend the school board's meeting Monday to present the idea.
CLEAR member Kevin Deegan-Krause, who has two elementary-aged students in the district, said the district hasn't engaged in a long-range planning process with communitywide input since 2000. "Twelve years is a long time," he said.
Jim O’Donnell, CLEAR member and parent of three Ferndale students, wrote a two-page proposal about the need for a strategic planning process for the school board to review. He said the board would need to approve the planning process. "Nothing like that will happen unless the board wants it to happen," he said.
Deegan-Krause said the group also plans to host educational forums and events that will provide "focused, positive venues" for community discussion, including forums about broader statewide educational policy issues.
Ferndale resident and parent Lori Kelly attended the meeting and said she will probably try to get involved in the group. "I think this is overdue and much needed," she said. "I think it's a good thing."
Rachel Murray, a resident who has a son entering kindergarten in the fall, also was there. "I wanted to get involved early and see what's going on in the district," she said.
Katrina Collins, a member of the Ferndale Schools Board of Education, said she attended the event to see what the group was all about. She said she thinks the group could be positive. "I still have to digest it," she said after the meeting. "I haven't heard anything that I haven't heard before."
Representatives from the Ferndale School District did not wish to comment on CLEAR when asked last week.
More on CLEAR
The next CLEAR meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 11 at the library.
The group plans to charge a $25 membership fee, but Gaden said it will try to work with people who are unable to pay that amount.