My Public Comment by Jenny Greenwell

My (missed) comments to the school board, and a reminder that public comment is required by law, and essential for good relationships with taxpayers, parents, students and other interested people.

Here is what I would have liked to say to the Board of Education last Thursday:

Regarding the design development of the new high school, I am concerned that parking may be a problem, especially for state sporting events.  The site is "tight."  We are an "advantaged" school district and lots of students have cars.  It is safer for young drivers NOT to load up a lot of passengers.  I would not want to see students denied the privilege of driving to school due to lack of safe, convenient parking.  At this time, the campus will have about 680 spaces for 1650 students and more than 150 faculty and staff.  Seems minimal.

Where will our Building Services Dept. be located? I am hopeful that this dept. will not move to the Farm, which is getting a little crowded. 

Are we sure we want to hire an Assoc. Principal for Lahser?  The school is closed, and enrollment is down.

Brother Rice has confirmed that they will not attempt to buy or lease Lahser.  We need a PLAN for this campus.  We also need to have a plan for Hickory Grove and Pine Lake schools.  The BHSD has about 100% excess capacity, and it is draining education funds to maintain them.

I am glad that any decision to move forward with a medical clinic for employees has been delayed.  Please reconsider getting into the health care field at this time.  Schools in disadvantaged areas sometimes have clinics for STUDENTS, but we seem to have good health care available and, as you know, changes in health care are pending.

Our district has never needed financial oversight as much as we do today!  The cost of the high school project can escalate with changes and additions.  Please commit to completing the project in the proper time frame at the agreed cost.

DPS ribbon-cutting at the new "Finney" high (now East English Village Prep) Sat. at 9 am.  The DPS does a nice job on these presentations, and as a district involved in a major construction project it would be a good idea to learn from DPS's experience.  (The school is AMAZING, with 4 academic wings including a 9th Grade Academy.)  Low-maintenance masonry and stone floors, a health services clinc (St. John Health) and 8-lane pool, auditorium seats 796.  The complex cost about $48-million, complete with furnishings and equipment, for a capacity of 1200 students.  It's worth a look, as are other DPS new-builds and renovations.

(I'm a 1971 Osborn grad, and follow Detroit and other district issues.)

That's about it.  I would have had to talk fast, but I do that anyway.

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Jenny Greenwell August 27, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Osborn was great back then, and seriously dangerous today. (See Free Press Friday 8/24) I lived at 7 & Van Dyke until I was 22, in 1975. Rode my bike to City Airport. It was a great place to grow up. Sometime, tell me how your street sunk. I checked the 8/23 agenda and the Lahser Assoc. Principal job is permanent. Is a vacancy anticipated? Doesn't say. Eventual reduction of admin staff will be necessary to achieve promised operating cost containment via the consolidation. As to financial "savvy," too much "savvy" and sometimes you end up in prison! How about accountability, transparency, good old fashioned honesty instead! Trustees who understand that they are elected to provide financial oversight FOR TAXPAYERS can bring in a project on time, without costly mistakes and late changes. This (8-23) study session (on design development) did not adequately reflect fiscal restraint, and we need to be vigilant. $79-million is a generous budget for a project of this scope. The session is available to borrow, and is being aired intermittently on BHSD cable. Please review it when possible.
Ken Jackson August 27, 2012 at 08:34 PM
We were on Hollywood. Back when Detroit actually was condemning homes (early 1980s) the house next door was knocked down and literally began sucking adjacent properties into the abandoned pit. I have only seen part of the session. I may have misunderstood the Lahser appointment. And, yes, by savvy I meant solid experience and a solid track record (as opposed to clever and so on). I believe that much will be headed our way from the state in the next 5 years (at least) and you need someone who has the perspective to track long term issues.
Jenny Greenwell August 28, 2012 at 12:53 AM
It's a small world, eh? Here we are, neighbors again. Seems like you have a good handle on things and understand the importance of public education. My late mom and mother-in-law were both very dedicated public school teachers, and I spent 6 delightful years working as a mainstream and special ed sub (mostly deaf and deaf/blind) in the BHSD. It was a great experience and I got to know a lot of teachers and administrators very well; (students too, of course!) Therefore, I'm hardly a "teacher-basher," but rather a a strong advocate for public education for all of our students. Other than clean air and water, I don't know what could be more important for any society. I am hoping that the efforts to revive Detroit's school system and academic achievement will lead to stability and growth in our home town. We all need to focus on education outcomes to remain competitive and give our children (students) all the advantages we can provide.
Ken Jackson August 28, 2012 at 01:25 PM
Yes, it is a small world. Sustained dialogue -- even amidst profound disagreement like the bond issue -- always helps remind us of that. For better or worse I come from a teaching family, too, most proud grads of either Pershing or Osborn. Teacher bashing goes back a long way. I am indeed trying to get a handle on BHS. Here are my main concerns for any school board member or candidate: 1) That we figure out a way to restore some open, productive, pragmatic and less dramatic form of communication between the board and as many members of the community as possible; I don't have much experience here but I know what it means to be shut out by a dismissive administration and board -- that is, based on my experience I don't doubt you have your reasons for feeling the way you do 2) That we find fiscally intelligent and responsible people in the community willing to pitch in. They are certainly out there in Bloomfield! By intelligent and responsible I mean those who know numbers but don't think the only necessary word is "cut." 3) That we find a person willing to advocate for BHS and public education in general -- whatever their larger (it is a small world/district) political leanings -- and work to persuade our local reps at the state level to help reform not gut public education. Arguing bitterly at BHS can look kind of silly when everyone votes for the same candidate who is determined to cut or limit state funding. Thanks again for talking.
Jenny Greenwell August 28, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Responses for you to consider, in order, as posed: 1) Try to visit a couple of other board meetings. BHSD board meetings are the most restrictive of any that I have attended. Public comment is often allowed (and welcomed!) at the beginning of a meeting (on any topic) and prior to a vote on any agenda item. Very inclusive boards also include "closing" comments at the end of each meeting on any topic. In other words, some boards allow MULTIPLE opportunities for public comment at every meeting. The BHSD typically allows ONE, which is the minimum allowed by law. 2)Many well-qualified citizens are reluctant to make a long-term volunteer committment. I am willing and able. 4-year terms are essential. 3) I think efforts can and should be made to reduce or eliminate waste in education spending. Raising children and educating students is not "partisan." There is NO REASON to "gut" public ed. There IS reason to demand accountability on the parts of those with authority to SPEND education tax dollars. ($70,000 for a May election is WASTE.) You've noticed that I did not fight the May 8 bond very hard, and I've been quiet since. Why? I'm "tired" of the issue too, and this proposal made far more sense than ones that came before. (The 2-new-gigantic plan of 2007 was far worse; BHSD wasted $500,000 ed. dollars promoting it!) We must be vigilant; demand fiscal restraint as construction begins. My NO vote was on principal: I prefer Nov. elections.


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