The Ferndale Schools Board of Education met on Monday evening at Harding Administration Center. Here are some highlights from the meeting:
Bond projects continue
District architect Bill Weinrauch provided an update on the progress of projects included in the recent school bond issue.
Among the completed projects so far are guardrail replacements at Ferndale High School/Ferndale Middle School and Harding Administration Center, ceiling replacement at Jefferson, technology network equipment replacement and more. Flooring replacement at Roosevelt and bathroom improvements at FHS/FMS had been delayed but are in progress, Weinrauch said.
The district is also getting ready for projects that will be completed next summer, including kitchens at University High School and Roosevelt.
Parents express concerns
During the public comment portion of the meeting, district parent Karen McElgunn said she is concerned about the perception people have of Ferndale Schools and said she often has to explain to people why she sends her children to the district's schools. She said she believes in other communities, "it's not a question that's even asked."
She said she knows four families with school-age children who have left the district. "Perception is a reality that we can't afford to push aside anymore," she said.
Another parent, Erika Pratt, went to speak next but was asked by board president Keith Warnick to hold her comments until the end of the meeting due to handing in her request-to-speak form late and not providing a specific topic on the form.
"I really disagree with that," board member Nan Kerr-Mueller said of Warnick's decision. "I think it's a really unfortunate decision."
When Pratt spoke at the end of the meeting, she said she has moved to a different school district and wanted to follow up with the board since she had expressed concerns in the past. She said she has felt welcomed at her new district with polite staff, an open house before school started and a survey about communication from the superintendent after the first week of school.
"The way it makes you feel ... is that the district values you, that they respect you, that they want to know what your expectations are ... This is really what I want for Ferndale," she said. "I loved Ferndale, I loved the teachers in this district. It wasn't all bad. It's the little things."
Pratt also said she feels the district has "a lot of distractions" including a focus on alternative/adult education programs. "Those are fine if these other details weren't falling through the cracks in my opinion," she said.
Board member Karen Twomey said she was disheartened by Pratt's comments. "I hope we can do better and not make people feel that way," she said.
Warnick said after the meeting that he was simply following policy by asking Pratt to wait until the end of the meeting to speak. "I wasn't denying her an opportunity to speak," he said. "I wanted to get the business of the board done first. We had a lot to talk about."
Digital Learning Center starts strong
The district's new Digital Learning Center is off to a smooth, positive start, said school improvement specialist Renee Heard, who is the director of the program.
The center - which offers an online-based alternative high school program for students aged 15-19 with in-person support at Taft Education Center - has a total of 736 students registered and 17 academic case managers working with the students.
Heard said at the meeting that the program is going very well. "I'm extremely proud of my staff, they are absolutely wonderful," she said, calling the program a "labor of love."
Nick Zajas, a Ferndale teacher and president of the Ferndale Education Association, said earlier during the meeting that the new program is "a breath of fresh air" and said the staff is very dedicated. He thanked the board for taking on the initiative.
"We can't wait to get into the heart of the curriculum," he said.
School improvement plans
School board members voted unanimously to express support for school improvement plans at Roosevelt Primary School, Coolidge Intermediate School and Ferndale Middle School. The Curriculum and Instruction Office has been working to align buildings' school improvement efforts across the district.
Barb Evoe, executive director of curriculum and instruction, presented an overview of the plans.
- Focus on reading and math instruction, including implementation of a team teaching approach, addition of a reading teacher, and a number of interventions for struggling students.
- Extensive professional development plan focused on deepening knowledge of Common Core State Standards and culturally responsive teaching and learning.
- Parent engagement opportunities including parent workshops tied to academic goals and classroom instructional activities.
- Focus on creating a positive and academically focused school culture that incorporates routines, schedules and rewards positive choices.
- Spend time on key reading interventions like Read Naturally, and Reader's and Writer's Workshop.
- Parent engagement opportunities including parent workshops tied to academic goals and class instructional activities.
Ferndale Middle School
- Same goals and objectives as other two schools.
- Continue to build on activities including supplemental reading and math labs classes, after-school tutoring, and assessments to measure students' higher-order thinking skills.
- To address school culture, FMS will focus on creating and sustaining an environment of high expectations while developing a supportive environment.
- Staff to participate in professional development on culturally responsive teaching and learning.
- All teachers will create classroom word walls, posting a "daily focus," and displaying charts and measuring valued traits such as students' participation, attendance and homework completion.