It is election season again…..
Even if I didn’t have a calendar, I would know it. For several years now, Ferndale parents and students have been expressing pride and admiration for our Ferndale schools and our academic progress. Suddenly, as the elections approach, I have been hearing a vocal minority express unsubstantiated concerns about various aspects of the administration and operation of the Ferndale schools……concerns about student retention, transparency, non-core programs, academic achievement, among other things
I appreciate their interest and passion, but I do not share their concerns or negativity.
I have lived in the Ferndale school district for 18 years. My children have gone to school here for over 10 years, both are A students, both are developing into mature, tolerant teenagers because of their diverse experiences in school. I have watched this district go from being on the brink of bankruptcy with less than $100,000 in its rainy day fund, to having a balanced budget every year, and over $4 million dollars in our rainy day fund. I have watched our test scores improve to the point when this year we were recognized by the Michigan Department of Education for the rapid increases in student achievement at Ferndale High School, --one of only four high schools designated as a Rewards School in Oakland County. I have seen our marching band win state championship after state championship, I have seen our enrollment stabilize. I have seen un-waivering community support for bond funding. I have seen a school administration committed to educating a broad range of students using a variety of methodologies.
I am proud of our school district’s accomplishments and I am dis-heartened by these negative comments about the district that seem to be driven more by political motivations than constructive engagement.
For those that have heard these claims and wonder whether they have any merit, I would encourage you to attend the district’s school board committees and board meetings (where all are welcome), where you can discover for yourself what the district is doing about these “concerns”.
Here are some topics you might hear discussion on:
-the new investments in IT technology that will re-define our educational tools and teaching methods to improve student engagement with technologies they are comfortable with. Imagine being able to go on-line, if you missed something in class, or wanted to download homework assignments.....oh wait, we can do that now !
-the district-wide, building-specific improvement plans, based on extensive research and successful models like the 90/90/90 educational plan, to accelerate our improvements in academic achievement by drilling down to the student level to create flexible teaching plans to improve proficiency for all students, even the children at the top end of the bell curve.
-the flawless audit by Yeo and Yeo that praised the administration for demonstrating prudent management. The audit offered an unqualified opinion that all financial transactions were properly accounted for (i.e.…no auditor management comments). In comparison, take a look at Berkley’s audit on-line and view their management comments !
-the summer free-lunch program that has been increasing the number of children served,
-the innovative marketing and community outreach initiatives that are targeting new residents and potential students.
-the on-going over-site meetings on the bond-funded investments that will transform our capital assets to provide a more modern, comfortable and safe school environment
These represent just some of the positive and important activities that are driven by the district’s strategic plans and inform my confidence in the direction of the district.
Can the district do better, can they do more, can they improve? Of course ! But does the district need the kind of radical change proposed by the challenging candidates, who have a 30 day plan that they would like to force on our board and administrators the minute they should take office, without a single thought about collaboration, consultation, negotiation? What I am concerned about is the "our way or the highway" elitist approach that implies they know what's best, that only they have the correct solutons, that they don't need any help or cooperation from the administration. Yet they have no previous school board experience and little board committe experience among the slate.
This is how I define radical change and it wouldn't be constructive or effective. In fact, their approach is slap in the face to every school administor, teacher and parent who has dedicated their career or personal time to move our schools forward, who believe in what the district has and is trying to accomplish and in fact, have a pretty good idea about how to run a school district.
We can not afford to radicalize our school board agenda, not when we have so much work to be finished. Tough questions are required, but disruption and obstruction....well, that is why we have a committee-based structure; to take that aspect of legitimate policy debate down a level. Maybe the candidates should consider building their resumes and participating at this level; more suited for addressing their policy concerns and tactical ideas. We need school board members who are willing to work cooperatively, productively, towards common goals and I believe that the CBE slate of incumbents offers that rational alternative.
Treasurer - Citizens for a Better Education