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What Do Ferndale School Board Candidates Have to Say About Retention?

We'll recap some of the candidates' recent forum responses in advance of two more upcoming forums.

Eight people are running in the Nov. 6 election to fill four seats on the Ferndale Board of Education.

Last week, all eight candidates participated in their first candidate forum at Ferndale City Hall, hosted by the League of Women Voters. Two more forums are planned Oct. 28 and Oct. 29.

In the meantime, let's take a look back at some of their individual responses, in case you missed it last week.

Student retention

Question: Describe in detail the problem of student attrition and its cures.

Amy Butters said it's something the district has trouble with. "It's hard for there to be any sort of consistency in the education of that child and also it takes away from the community," she said. "We don't want to lose kids."

She said addressing academic achievement is part of the solution - "improving the performance of the students in our schools to make it easier for kids to stay, for parents to be comfortable keeping our kids in the schools all the way through senior year."

Katrina Collins said she has gone door-to-door talking to parents and found that for some parents, it isn't all about test scores. One parent who asked not to be named told her that she "didn't feel there was a good element of children that went to our school district," Collins said. "I told her I had three sons that go to school here," including two who have graduated and gone on to excellent colleges.

She said her children have "learned compassion, tolerance of people of many different beliefs and cultures" and have made "lifelong friendships of all colors."

Kevin Deegan-Krause said he has gone to 300 to 400 homes so far and has found that test scores are an issue - "Those will be a long hard struggle to raise, and we can do that," he said.

There are also concerns of parents feeling they are being ignored, and issues of bad marketing, he said. He suggested board members and administration go door to door, identify the parents of young children in the district and "convince parents to stay, if you can."

Raylon Leaks-May said "strong retention rates equal strong community" and said it's important to find out the reasons behind why parents leave the district. She said surveys and other forms of getting feedback from residents would help.

Jim O'Donnell said the solutions to student attrition "are probably as many as the causes." He said among the ways to address it would be improving customer service in the enrollment office, better marketing efforts, more accountability at the board level and doing a "better job of raising academic achievement."

Brad Parks said parents choose other public school districts and private schools for a variety of reasons. "Do I wish that everyone went to the same schools? Sure, but I don't really think that's realistic," he said. "There are so many educational choices that are out there these days for children" and "so many different factors" playing into the decision.

Jim Pfleger said he has worked on school improvement plans and wants to continue to improve student achievement. He said he understands that some people have no choice over what schools they send their children to, while others have many choices.

"Our obligation as a board is to set the policy that would say ... Ferndale is tough to turn down," he said. "We need to do a better job at showing people that they have that opportunity here."

Keith Warnick said student retention can be addressed by offering "the best programs that you can." He said Ferndale Schools offer numerous electives and programs and said the expectation at the administration and board level is "high expectations for high achievement."

Candidate profiles

The above is just a summary of what the candidates had to say at the forum on the topic of retention. You can view a video of the full forum online here.

Want to learn more about each of the candidates and their positions? Find links to their profiles below.

Amy Butters

Katrina Collins

Kevin Deegan-Krause

Raylon Leaks-May

Jim O'Donnell

Brad Parks

Jim Pfleger

Keith Warnick

Two more forums

Oct. 28: Sunday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. at the Ferndale Public Library, forum hosted by Citizens for a Fair Ferndale. Find more information here.

Oct. 29: Monday, Oct. 29 at 6:30 p.m. at Ferndale High School media center, forum hosted by the Ferndale PTA Council. Visit here for more information.

What do you think?

How do you feel about the issue of student retention in the Ferndale Public Schools district? How would you like to see it addressed?

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