A group of parents and area residents recently announced the formation of CLEAR – a political action committee that aims to foster "a culture of accountability and responsiveness" in the Ferndale Public Schools administration and school board.
The group will host its first community meeting at 6 p.m. March 14 at the , where the group's mission, vision and purpose will be discussed. An informal reception and discussion will follow at 7 p.m.
CLEAR has a mission of including all community voices in school decisions, fostering citizen leadership in school matters, promoting educational excellence, guaranteeing accountability among district decision-makers and ensuring responsiveness to residents' concerns.
“Everyone in this group strongly supports the Ferndale Public Schools,” CLEAR member Carissa Gaden said.
She said a small group of parents had been discussing issues for a while. "We just really felt it was time to do something more formal," she said.
Gaden, a parent of three children in the school district, said she has had great experiences in the district but wants residents' voices heard more often.
"It's just been a great experience in many ways but there have been lots of examples of people, myself included, feeling like we were offering a voice and a perspective on a particular issue ... and we didn't feel that our voices were being considered important in the decision making process," she said.
CLEAR member Kevin Deegan-Krause has two elementary-aged students in the district. “This group was formed based on community concerns about the responsiveness of the district and the absence of checks and balances in the district's decisions,” he said.
Gaden said she doesn't want to bring up past issues and instead looks to the future. "We think that if we can raise our voices and be really involved and proactive then we can make that situation better," she said.
She did say one broader concern among many members of the group would be the number of district families who don't enroll their children in Ferndale Public Schools.
"That's something that concerns us and we would like to be part of working on a solution for," she said.
CLEAR intends to seek out potential school board candidates – Gaden said four seats will be open or up for re-election in November – and support school initiatives that advance the group’s mission and purpose. Many members of the group worked to support the school bond issue, she said.
Jim O’Donnell, CLEAR member and parent of three Ferndale students, said the group will "reinforce what’s great about our schools" and provide a way to address problems in the district.
"We will work with integrity, ask tough questions and provide a safe and welcoming venue for thoughtful discussion and debate about local education issues," O'Donnell said.
Representatives from the Ferndale Public Schools did not wish to comment on the committee. Board of Education President Keith Warnick said he was not familiar with the organization.
CLEAR – which has about 12 people involved so far – is a registered political action committee in Oakland County. Gaden said the group will likely charge a $25 membership fee, but that it will try to work with people who are unable to pay that amount.
"We do want to make it as available to people as we can," she said.