I would like to address a CLEAR position paper, recently released on their website regarding what they consider to be the most pressing issue for our school district--student Retention.
CLEAR’s proposition would have the Ferndale school district realign all of our district personnel and program priorities towards seeking out and winning over families that have made personal choices to attend other schools. They would tie the salaries of our district employees not to academic achievement, but to how many residents can be persuaded to switch back from their current school choice to the Ferndale school district. This is a narrowly-focused and short-sighted proposal that disregards our 3700 students that we should be focusing on, all for the sake of satisfying a perceived need to re-connect with parents who have little or no interest in returning. Improving the academic performance of our 3700 students is what will improve retention rates, not re-defining our employee contracts and sending the board and administrators off on a wild goose chase.
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. We 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 steady 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 in a variety of methods.
I am proud of our school district’s accomplishments and am dis-heartened by the mid-guided and un-substantiated concerns that I hear CLEAR members express. If CLEAR feels the need to improve student retention, they might start by ending the negative comments about the district and instead offer realistic solutions for promoting further improvements in academic achievement. New surveys, exit interviews, and mandated home visits will do nothing in this regard and is not the best course of action, in my opinion.
In November, CLEAR is asking us to put all of our accomplishments at risk, by electing a group of unqualified, inexperienced candidates with a radical agenda. If the CLEAR slate wins all four seats on the school board, they would control 85% of the school board. This is a dangerous proposition. We need people on the Board who will support Adult Education, the University High School, the Digital High School and schools of choice--all the initiatives that help make our district diversified and innovative--- supporting a broad range of student needs as well as bringing in much needed revenues. These programs offer an opportunity to bring in new students and expand enrollment. Let’s not look backwards, but instead, focus on supporting the programs that will be the engine of growth for the district.
I trust that voters will consider carefully the important choice they must make….and choose to elect the board members and candidates that have proven that they care about innovative education and student achievement for ALL the students in our district.
Treasurer – Citizens for a Better Education