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New Political Action Group Aims to Increase School Responsiveness

The newly formed CLEAR political action committee will have a community meeting at 6 p.m. March 14 at the Ferndale Public Library.

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.

For more information, visit www.makeitclearferndale.org, the CLEAR Facebook page or email makeitclearferndale@gmail.com.

jennifer March 12, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Just in case no one from the group sees this, they have a preliminary list of goals, mission statement, etc. on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/makeitclear/permalink/165886133530773/
Jim O'Donnell March 12, 2012 at 06:32 PM
These are good questions. CLEAR is a new group, so it's understandable that not everyone on the school board is familiar with the name. However, many of us have communicated with the board as individuals, in addition to many hours of volunteer time at schools and other district activities. We're organizing to provide strength in numbers and to help the board become fully familiar with us and its goals. Please join us in that work, and always feel welcome to attend our meetings. Regarding the other questions, CLEAR pledges to work collaboratively to plan, set goals, and solve problems. That work will happen in partnership with the school board, administration, teachers, parents, and the larger community. You've identified several issues that CLEAR members are concerned about, and be assured that middle school and high school issues are on the list. Several of us are MS and HS parents, and many more will be soon. All of us want the best education possible for all students in Ferndale schools. You'll hear more specifics as CLEAR moves forward.
Easydude March 13, 2012 at 08:53 PM
I am sure CLEARS' intentions are in the right place. However, CLEAR should take the time and effort to meet the teachers first, discuss issues at hand and observe student behavior prior to putting their hands into the sandbox. Good Luck!
Ferndale Resident March 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
I assume that since it sounds like most of the members of CLEAR are parents that they've already spoken to teachers and know what's going on inside the classrooms.
annette federlein April 28, 2012 at 02:42 PM
i am hoping they get to the bottom of why there is such inequity in the elementary schools,coolidge, kennedy and roosevelt...why aren't the black and white students distributed evenly throughout? why is kennedy mostly white and the other 2 mostly black? forget about the lottery...no one with a brain believes in that crap any more...they cater to the white parents, they are also setting the other 2 schools up to fail, because they have the lower scores...then the superintendent can change them into charter schools and make a profit off them....if you don't believe it, get honest and find out...

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