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Recap: Ferndale Board of Education Sept. 24 Meeting

Here are some highlights from Monday evening's school board meeting.

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.

Roosevelt

  • 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.

Coolidge

  • 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.
Steven Schoenknecht September 29, 2012 at 02:18 AM
@Ferndale Assassin your comments would carry more weight if you didn't hide behind a alias. Also, I know quite a few parents, unfortunately, who have taken their kid's to other schools including Berkley, and yes they are happy about it.
Woodward&Nine September 29, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Trust me, I spent quite a bit of effort to get to this meeting on time, including a sprint from the parking lot into Harding. You can’t imagine my relief to hear the gavel go down and the meeting open as I was in the building! That is the truth. I didn’t miss a word of the meeting and was there for the Board to permit the legislator a good 10 minutes of talk time (not even on the agenda if we still want to talk about Roberts Rules). I did spend a moment in the back, filling out the form, trying to figure out where to sit--when I reviewed the request card and read "please fill out in advance, if possible". I took my seat and waited for the appropriate time. There is a lot of effort here in trying to discredit me, but when I said I was there at the start of the meeting, I was.
Ferndale Resident September 29, 2012 at 03:33 AM
Before I go a bit more in-depth, I'd like to share a site I found rather shocking and doesn't give the district a very good name to outsiders. It's called greatschools.org and based on test scores and other factors, it gives each school a rating out of 10. Let's review what each school was rated, shall we? Ferndale Middle School- 4/10 Ferndale High School- 5/10 Coolidge- 2/10 Roosevelt- 4/10 University High School- 4/10 Each of those are failing grades, and this is what parents who are looking up our schools are seeing. It's worth a note that community reviews are more favorable, but those are undeniably more biased. I was asked the other day by a friend of mine who sends her children to Berkley if she'd be willing to send them to Ferndale, and she told me no, because she had no confidence in how the Board was spending its money. She added that she had no confidence in the school's special education program and she felt her son with Down's Syndrome wouldn't be well taken care of. That conversation alone points out two things that I've known all along. People don't like the current Board and people have no confidence in Ferndale's special education program. I'm going to make a second post (I'm running out of room) to quote a few quotes from the more interesting peer reviews on Greatschools. Hopefully this will be a good way to continue a positive conversation on how we can improve the school district (and, by extension, our city).
Ferndale Resident September 29, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Ferndale High School: "I am very happy with the academic programs at the school. However, I am very disappointed with the harrassment that goes on there on a daily basis. I should have known something was up when I went to the first day of high school orientation and most of the questions were regarding harrassment! As a parent, it upsets me." I've said for a very long time that that's one of the biggest turnoffs of FHS. There are groups of students who seem to harass and bully and little gets done about it. People see that, and are wary about sending their children here because of that. Coolidge: "I don't know what school the last parent goes to but at this school there is major bullying of students in this school ... they even had to put camera's on the bus due to the bullying and fighting. As one can see just from the scores for the shcool in the last couple years it has gone way down hill ... I have had children in this schools system for 18 years and it is no where near as well as a performance it was even 5 years ago. It is shocking how far down this school system has fallen." Therein lies the harassment problem again, and also brings to light the low test scores. Parents do a lot of research before choosing to send their children to a school district, and this is what they're seeing. All in all, I feel issues such as student harassment and low test scores need to be addressed swiftly, and the Board needs to put more confidence in prospective parents.
linda jackson September 29, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Rob, I was the person who walked into the meeting a few minutes late, not Ericka. She was sitting in front of me the whole time, and got up only when it was her turn. You are misconstruing the facts. Why?

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