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Letter: Financial and Strategic Planning Will Strengthen District, Ferndale School Board Candidate Writes

Ferndale Board of Education candidate Jim O'Donnell submitted this letter to the editor.

Ferndale Patch welcomes letters to the editor.

The following was submitted by Ferndale school board candidate Jim O'Donnell.

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As a candidate for Ferndale School Board with more than 16 years of financial management and strategic planning experience, I propose several initiatives that will improve the financial standing of the school district. These initiatives are supported by the BOLD team of Amy Butters, Jim O’Donnell, Raylon Leaks-May and Kevin Deegan-Krause.

First, we will insist that all new programs will be approved only after board and committee review of budgets, project plans, benchmarks for success, community discussions and extensive staff input. Any new capital investment is approved only after reviews of a business plan that details the assumptions made in creating the plan, the risks that may cause the plan to fail, and includes a discounted cash flow analysis (a standard financial tool to make decisions on large capital spending projects). We question whether this sort of financial analysis has been done in recent years, especially when the district considered buying the contaminated Hayes Lemmerz property at Pinecrest and 8 Mile or when it approved its new Digital Learning Center in the spring. 

Second, we will initiate a risk management and efficiency review using internal auditors. Internal auditing is a valuable tool for identifying risks, monitoring compliance with agreements and contracts, and finding operating efficiencies in administration processes and programs. The district’s current external auditors do excellent work, but their scope is limited. Internal audit can be done for a reasonable cost by an independent firm and nearly always produces cost savings far in excess of the firm’s fees.

Third, we will launch rigorous strategic planning that involves the whole community. These plans will set targets, be used to hold the board and administration accountable, and will integrate the annual budget, mid-range financial plans, building use plans, and other operating decisions in a coherent and stable framework. Strategic plans will be nimble, well-executed and community-oriented. The current board does not do this level of integration with plans, and hasn’t made substantial revisions to its long-range plan in more than 12 years. Doing this doesn’t have to be costly or burdensome. It will help prevent community problems such as the Taft neighborhood’s complaints about the district’s lack of concern for their safety and community.

These financial and strategic issues will work together to strengthen our district, improve academic achievement for all students and improve our retention of resident students. We can rebuild trust between our community and our school district. Please join me in voting for constructive, reasonable change by voting BOLD on November 6: Butters, O’Donnell, Leaks-May and Deegan-Krause.

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