Friday, March 30, 2007

Governor needs to Lead School Leaders

I've heard time and time again that local school boards are incapable of fixing the structural problems facing schools. I heard it at least twice during the teacher contract discussion at the Rochester School Board meeting last Monday.

That is why I was so disappointed after hearing Governor Granholm speech at the recent Governor's Education Summit. She could've used it to motivate and encourage boards and superintendents to begin to behave like leaders. They could've drawn strength and courage from her support.

But she instead chose to ask them to support her efforts to raise taxes.

The sad part is that no amount of money will be enough to satisfy the education structure as it exists today.

I wrote this opinion piece after a long day on Monday:

Detroit News: Tax Hike would fuel excessive school school costs (03/30/07)

Here is an article that described the Governor's comments:

Detroit Free Press: Frustrated Granholm to educators: Fight lawmakers on school cuts (03/26/07):

==> Mike.


Don't let AP fade away from your school!

Of all the news and opinions swirling around right now, I hope this one doesn't get lost in the noise.

The Lansing State Journal did a fantastic piece encouraging students to take Advanced Placement Classes.

LSJ: Join Class: Lansing students, parents need to bolster advanced classes (03/26/07)

The motivation for the article is disturbing. The district is considering the elimination of some AP classes due to budget woes. The "news and opinions swirling around right now" can explain why they have their woes.

Budget woes aside, this is an article that should run annually. Michigan is in the bottom half of the country for AP Exam participation, ranking 29th in the nation. We trail Alaska, New Mexico, and Arkansas.

AP classes are hard, but that is exactly the reason kids need to take them. They need to be prepared for the challenges that await them in college. Learning this lesson early can help to keep them from getting discouraged in college, and dropping out.

I believe every college-bound student should be taking at least one AP class during their high school career. Authorities recommend that serious college-bound students should be taking five, starting as early as their sophomore year.

I'm sure that recommendation will raise some eyebrows in Michigan. However, it's just as likely to be getting nods from many educators in other states. Some of the top performing states in the nation are putting three times as many of their children through AP classes.

You can read other my my blogs on AP by looking in the BLOG TOPICS, or by clicking here.

I put together a 2005-06 study on AP Participation in Michigan, which can be found by clicking here.

I've pasted the article below in case the link doesn't work.

==> Mike.

Join class: Lansing students, parents need to bolster advanced classes
A Lansing State Journal editorial

Lansing School District students and their parents have an important opportunity to boost enrollment in their Advanced Placement classes.

Advanced Placement classes provide college-level work in the high school setting. Students who complete AP work successfully often can get the credits recognized by a college, saving them money and jump-starting their higher education.

In addition, the rigorous course work can prepare them for the higher expectations of college.

Lansing schools offer 24 Advanced Placement classes at three high schools, an impressive number. But in tight financial times, the district must watch expenses and is reviewing enrollment for those classes. Beginning next year, they will require a minimum of 25 students enrolled to offer an AP course, up from 20 students this year. About half the courses offered this year wouldn't have made that cut-off.

To its credit, the district is pursuing options for its most ambitious students. Officials say some AP classes may be offered online, or via video conferencing.

And don't forget that students can attend Eastern High to pursue an international baccalaureate program instead of, or in addition to, AP course work.

Lansing is not alone in facing fiscal challenges; area suburban districts have had to find new approaches for Advanced Placement offerings as well. This is not a situation that reflects poorly on Lansing schools.

But there is an additional perspective for students and their parents to consider.

Recently politicians and policy-makers have cited a startling fact: The lifetime earnings of a college graduate will be $1 million more than those of a person who did not attend college.

This is a golden opportunity. To offer the maximum number of AP courses, the district needs the maximum number of students to sign up. Yet it seems quite likely there are capable students - college-bound students - who don't sign up because they are intimidated by the amount or difficulty of AP course work.

The new economy requires everyone to push toward a higher level. Doug Stites of Capital Area Michigan Works is among community leaders working on the "Keep Learning ... Our Future Depends on It" campaign. Among his suggestions: That everyone strive to climb one level higher in education. High school grads need to pursue college; those with a bachelor's degree need to pursue a master's, and so on.

Signing up for an AP course in high school can be a step on that lifelong path to learning. Parents should urge their students to consider that when making class choices.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Putting Kids First -- NOT!

I could not believe it when I saw the email notification yesterday of a newly proposed bill in the Michigan House:

House Bill 4533 (Allow teachers union to bargain for privatization ban ):

Introduced by Rep. Andy Meisner on March 27, 2007, to repeal a law that prohibits teachers unions from including making an issue subject to negotiations third party contracts for noninstructional support services, as when a union seeks to include a provision in a school district’s contract with employees that bans the district from privatizing bus, custodial, or food services.

Details and Comments:

As I was scrambling today to find time to make a blog entry about this, I discovered that Rob Lawerence from Birmingham had already written a wonderful piece! You can read it here.

To save time, I stole this from his blog:

Apparently, Representative Meisner believes it’s more important to handcuff districts that explore different options to support the continued employment of teachers. What could motivate him (campaign contributions) to propose this foolish bill? What good (contributions for Meisner) could it possibly do for children, school districts, and teachers? Send Representative Meisner a note ( - tell him HB 4533 is bad idea, it’s bad for teachers, bad for kids, and bad for Michigan. Make sure you contact your district representative to tell them how you feel about this too!

==> Mike.


If you could create a new education system...

Tom Watkins is one of the leading advocates for education reform, and as former State Superintendent he speaks with authority.

This is really a great piece, and I have two favorite quotes:

"If you could create a system that would provide our children with the education they deserve and need to be competitive in the 21st century, global economy, would you create the system that currentlyexists?"


"It is pure fallacy to think that public education can be sustained, let alone thrive, with the old rules of the past."

This article could not be more timely, and speaks exactly to the frustration I've experienced trying to introduce and discuss new ideas about the teacher contract, and many other issues in Rochester Schools.

Rochester Eccentric - Change, new ideas must be incorporated into schools (03/29/07)

Change, new ideas must be incorporated into schools

In a time of rapid change, just how adaptable is the enterprise called public education?

There are many involved in the "school reform movement" who will argue that change is the most talked about and least acted upon concept in public education today. Many who work in the public education system will say differently. They have begged, "Leave us alone -- let us absorb the changes that have been thrust upon us!"

One educator recently told me he felt as if he is drowning in all the new programs, rules, laws, regulations, etc. And everywhere he goes, "Some new 'reformer' is offering me a glass of water," i.e., more "new stuff to do.We are constantly asked to do more while the politicians provide less resources and more rhetoric," he added.

The pace of change is exploding. While I appreciate, and often share, educators' frustration with the pace of change, all of us need to find ways to harness its energy and make it work for us.

It is pure fallacy to think that public education can be sustained, let alone thrive, with the old rules of the past. Schools must find ways to adapt to the fast-paced change that is swirling about us. Our mantra must be "Real change, requires real change."

Public education needs to continually ask itself if it has become fixated on owning its old ideas so much that they have become liabilities. It is difficult to leave behind old ideas or think differently when there is a steady and familiar chorus from within the school system telling educators that what they are doing is fine. All being said while educators simultaneously are battening down the hatches from the constant barrage of negativity that seems to be constantly thrown their way from those outside the fortressed walls of the schools. Perhaps, somewhere in the middle, reality exists.

Our school leaders need to ask this question: "If you could create a system that would provide our children with the education they deserve and need to be competitive in the 21st century, global economy, would you create the system that currently exists?" If the answer is "no," then every waking hour needs to be devoted to bringing about the necessary changes to create the system they need. Rest assured, the three billion new capitalists in China, Russia, India and other emerging nations are not sitting back waiting for us to get our act together.

Ours is a borderless world where ideas can and do flow across the globe. Michigan is experiencing transformational, technologically drivenand disruptive change. The opportunity exists to harness that change for Michigan's students, teachers, families and communities. The question is, "Will we?" We need to imagine the possibilities -- with enthusiasm and urgency.

Stan Davis and Christopher Meyers in their book Blur: The speed of change in the connected economy wrote, "The speed of change on so many fronts -- in science, in manufacturing, in nature of demand, in the importance of other cultures -- is now so great that closed uniform organizations can't even hope to catch up. A couple of dozen varieties of ideas aren't enough diversity. To make organizations more adaptable, less likely to be blind-sided, and more capable of creativity, bring in new types of people, or form teams that don't seem to be the most efficient -- and won't be."

The authors go on to ask some penetrating questions that our system of public education would do well to ask and answer:

* Are you creating an adaptable organization?

* Are your colleagues and/or employees encouraged to exchange information with counterparts outside your organization, to cultivate knowledge networks, to seek solutions from disciplines not represented in your company?

* What barriers do you erect to preclude permeability?

* Where are the barriers to becoming an "agile bureaucracy?"

Clearly the world is changing in dramatic ways and our system of public education must embrace those changes -- or it will be engulfed by them.

Public education has been the bedrock upon which America was built. However, we need to understand and learn from history. Just because we are great does not mean we are guaranteed to stay great. The 21st century will be driven by leadership, innovation, creativity, knowledge, change and China. That is the new reality. What we make of it is up to us. One of the greatest strengths of our country historically is our ability to be persistent, innovate, adapt and change.

Will our schools resist or adapt to change? How permeable will public education be in letting in a variety of new ideas? The answer to these questions will help determine the strength of our democratic foundation and set the course for the 21st century. Are we ready, Michigan?

Tom Watkins is president and CEO of TDW and Associates, a business and education consulting company. He served as Michigan's state superintendent of schools from 2001-05 and as director of Michigan's Mental Health Department, 1986-90. Read his report, The New Education (R)evolution, at He welcomes comment at


The Contract Defies Common Sense

The Oakland Press ran an editorial on the contract approved on Monday. I don't know what I can add; they echoed many of the same concerns I voiced at the meeting.

Oakland Press: Rochester School Board's deal... is fiscally reckless (03/29/07)

Rochester School Board’s deal with teachers is fiscally reckless

It appears the Rochester School Board was not looking to the future when it approved a new, three-year contract with the teachers. In fact, from a fiscal standpoint, the trustees who voted for it were very reckless.

The agreement stipulates a 1 percent raise for 2006-07, a 2 percent increase the next year and a 0.5 percent increase in the final year unless a wage and benefit reopener produces an alternative agreement in 2008-09.

Teachers will see increased co-pays for office visits, chiropractic care and name-brand drugs, but will not be asked to contribute 5 percent toward their health care premiums, as some negotiators had proposed.

At first glance, the contract almost seems reasonable. But, when you do the math, things just don’t add up.

First, let’s look at health care, which has been crippling budgets in every company throughout the state.

The average cost of family health insurance is $12,000 a year in southeast Michigan, and the average private sector employee pays 24 percent of those premiums, or about $3,000.

In the Rochester schools package, the average cost of family health insurance is $15,000 a year and teachers don’t have to pay a cent. That is almost indecent.

Like everyone else, teachers should pay at least some of the cost of their insurance — the proposed 5 percent was a bargain. It also was in line with four of the seven bargaining units in the school system, whose members currently pay 5 percent of their health care premiums.

In reference to the budget, the contract will increase it from $82.7 million to $88 million just next year. The $5.3 million increase represents a 6.4 percent hike. Yes, that also includes “step system” raises that teachers would have received even if no pay increase were authorized in the new agreement. The step system is complicated and probably merits a full discussion on another day. Basically, teachers, depending upon their years of service, get guaranteed yearly raises based on an incremental or step schedule.

The $5.3 million increase is a concern for several reasons. First, it equates to about a $357-per-pupil increase based on the district’s 14,800 students. However, Gov. Jennifer Granholm, under the best of circumstances, has indicated schools would receive only an extra $187 per pupil next year. So, we are already seeing an unbalanced budget.

Further, school officials, after approving the teacher contract, reviewed the budget for the next two years. Rough estimates indicate a $5 million budget deficit in 2007-08 and a $10 million deficit in 2008-09.

To balance the budget, they could dip into the district’s $30 million fund reserve. It doesn’t take a math expert to see that the fund would be depleted in just a few years.

This leaves the unpleasant options of program cuts, layoffs and larger class sizes.

In addition to creating future budget problems, the new contract sets a horrible, unrealistic precedent for other school districts and unions.

If trustees were spending their own money, then it would be their business. But because trustees are spending taxpayer funds, it is everybody’s business. People should be upset that their dollars are not being spent wisely. The contract defies common sense.

The board did make a wise decision when it moved its annual school elections to November. The terms of Darlene Janulis and Steven Kovacs are expiring.

At that time, voters might want to take a close look at which candidates are going to be most fiscally responsible if elected or re-elected.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Remedial Math

Melanie Kurdys of Portage, Michigan is a dedicated, active, concerned parent who has been dedicated to improving schools for over 10 years. Like many of us, she hopes to raise the level of expecations schools set for our children, and works to support the professional educators in order to help raise student acheivement. She hopes to make a difference.

She conducted her own research in order to determine the percentage of Portage high school graduates that were taking remedial math in college.

Her report can be found here.

It is really an impressive piece of work. It helped me to understand the definition of "remedial math", and has provided a blueprint for how to pursue that type research.

I'm now working on persuading my crack research team to squeeze into the schedule a similar study on Rochester and a few other high caliber Michigan districts.

Anyone willing volunteer some time to help can email me. That would include any district employees that may be (should be?) interested in this information! :-)

You can find out more about Melanie on her blog:

Melanie is now running for school board in Portage. If you know someone in Portage, I would strongly encourage you to contact them and suggest that they give serious consideration to Melanie. She is the type of person we need on school boards in Michigan.

==> Mike.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Are the real costs An Inconvenient Truth?

On March 26, the Rochester Community Schools approved by a 5-1 vote a new a contract with its teacher’s union. I cast the dissenting vote.

I expected to disagree with board members on subjective points, but I didn’t expect an effort to distort the facts I presented.

Oakland Press: Rochester Board OK's 3-year teacher pact (03/27/07)
Rochester Eccentric: School board OKs 3-year teacher contract (03/27/07)

As Senator Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

Fortunately, I can clear things up here.

The cost of this contract for the 2006-07 school year is $82.7 million dollars. The cost of the contract for the 2007-08 school year is $88 million dollars.

The increase is $5.3 million, or 6.4%.

That $5.3 million divided by roughly 14,800 pupils translates into a cost increase of $357 per pupil.

Like'em or not, these are the facts.

The “dispute” presented by board members over these numbers is based on a scenario that looks like this:

When the teacher contract expired last August, the district and the union agreed to continue to operate under that contract until a new contract could be negotiated.

Teachers that were scheduled to receive their annual “step” increases in pay would continue to get them. There would be no changes in benefits. Retirement would continue to be paid. These costs represent approximately $3 million next year. This was referred to as "status quo."

Some board members evidently don't want to consider these "status quo" increases as real increases. They apparently only want to consider any costs above "status quo" to be counted as “increases”.

In other words, the real cost of the contract increased $5.3 million, but the board should ignore $3 million of it when calculating the increase.

You can call them whatever you want, but the amount of the increase is a fact.

This debate is not about the teachers -- who I feel are largely caught in the middle of this -- but is instead about school boards, and unions, and leadership. This serves as such an excellent example of what is wrong in public education. School boards either don’t understand their budgets, or try to create alternate facts. Multiply that by the 500 districts in the state of Michigan, and you'll have a clear picture of why the state is facing such difficult times.

And finally, the reason I had presented these particular facts at the board meeting is because they get to the heart of reason why I couldn’t support the contract.

The best-case scenario from Lansing right now is that the district may receive a $187 per-pupil increase in funding. This compares to the $357 per pupil cost of the contract.

In other words, the board was going to approve a contract that will cost DOUBLE the amount of funding it expects to receive from the state. I couldn't support that.

And, this contract only represents one out of seven employee unions

==> Mike.


Friday, March 23, 2007

Is the MEA Completely Out of Touch?

After reading the opinion piece in today’s Detroit News by Iris Salters, president of the Michigan Education Association, I think it’s a very reasonable question to ask if she spends any time watching what is going on in this state, or is aware of any of it’s history.

Detroit News: Repair school building inequality (03/23/07)

The subtitle is “State needs funding solution to fix $32.6 billion in outmoded facilities”

Her point is that school buildings in some districts around the state are falling apart, and the state should find some way to fund their repair or replacement.

The article begins with a reasonable question, “What would happen if you didn't take adequate care of your home or business -- for 10, 20 or even 50 years? And when the building became too deteriorated, if you simply moved into a shed in the back yard?

In true form, Ms. Slaters would look to the government -- and ultimately the taxpayer --to fix these self-inflicted wounds.

Her analogy is intended to look at the condition of school buildings in Michigan. What she somehow misses is the point that school boards have allowed this to happen, and now wants the state to step in with as much as $8.2 billion to fix this neglect.

Maybe she can talk with Governor Granholm and try to slip in a few more pennies to the proposed service tax. After all, it’d just be another cup of coffee!

Kidding aside, the chutzpah is breathtaking!

The state is facing a $900 million dollar deficit. The need for these record levels of revenue have been driven in part by out-of-control spending by local school boards. And now she wants more.

According to the specific
Citizen’s Research Council report that she alludes to in her article, since 1994 (Prop A), taxpayers have doubled spending on local construction bonds, approving an average of over $1.3 billion per year.

But school boards then use those funds to rubber-stamp construction projects, many on a no-bid basis, and build enormous structures that go far beyond what is really necessary to educate our children.

What isn’t wasted on excess is squandered on poor management.

For example, in 1994, Detroit Public Schools undertook “the most ambitious school bond construction project in Michigan history” with a $1.5 billion dollar bond. As shown in this older but still relevant
Detroit News Special Report, the money was all but wasted.

And, as Ms. Salters so correctly points out, many school boards then allow decades of neglect, and voters are forced to tear down and rebuild new schools.

In many cases it’s not only a poor use of taxpayer dollars, but it also tends to create “building envy” between neighboring districts. It’s absurd to watch the wealthy school boards attempt to leapfrog each other with fancier buildings that speak to status, not education.

I do agree with Ms. Salters’ point that it hardly seems fair to see such extravagant buildings in some districts, while the “poor” districts have so little.

But school boards have a poor track record in appropriately designing and managing construction projects. Many school boards also have shown that they don’t responsibly maintain the buildings.

With huge state deficits looming, I hardly think this is the appropriate time for schools to be asking for billions of dollars more. Even if the economy was doing well I don’t think school boards have earned the privilege of receiving and managing this much taxpayer money.

I think we all want to help our children, but school boards first need to show they can be prudent with taxpayer money.


Thursday, March 22, 2007

Posting School Check Registers

Peyton Wolcott is an activist and author involved in school reform. Her website is here.

She has a quote on her website that only those of us with “the education bug” can truly appreciate:

The writer Joan Didion and her late husband John Dunne were in the curious habit when they traveled of dropping in on courtrooms to get the tenor of an area.

I do this, too, except instead of courtrooms I sit in on school board meetings, …

This can certainly be viewed as commitment to education, although some might consider it borderline insanity! As one who has done it, I consider it both! :-)

Anyway, Payton is on a mission to help persuade school districts to post their check registers online.

I thought it was a great idea, and suggested at the March 12 board meeting that Rochester Community Schools post theirs online too. It’d be easy for the district, because the register is already produced electronically for board members. It would answer questions that have been raised from time to time by community members. And, most importantly, it would show the district’s commitment to being open with the community.

When I offered the suggestion, all I heard was “crickets”. No response from other board members.

However, I was quite surprised and impressed when I received an answer back from the district administration. They did consider the suggestion, and have a very legitimate concern regarding HIPPA laws.

The American Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPPA, is the law that governs medical documentation, records handling, and privacy issues. It includes rules about authorized uses and disclosures of “individually-identifiable” health information.

The district self-insures its employees for health care, and issues checks for healthcare related expenses, in some cases directly to hospitals for patient services. Making this information publicly available might be considered a violation of HIPPA laws.

Our district administrators should be commended for making a good-faith effort to consider the suggestion.

Despite this concern, there are probably extra steps the district could take if the board felt that posting the check registers online was a worthwhile effort. One simple solution would be to create a separate checking account for health care payments. Another would be to use a service to process any health care payments, and just make a single payment to that service.

At this point, it would take interest from a majority on the board to justify any further investigation into these, or other options.

I honestly don’t know if other board members view this a responsible step towards open government, or instead believe it would turn into another irritating way for that pesky public to stick their noses into “their” business.


Birmingham Board Blogger

I just discovered that Birmingham School Board Trustee (and current board president) Rob Lawrence is also a blogger that addresses the need for school reform, at least in some areas.

He has a great piece on the need for health and retirement benefit reform that can be found HERE.

It looks like he maintains another blog on the problems facing Michigan's Pension Plan. Quite informative. You can find it HERE.

I've also added the links to his blog on my link list, located on the right side of my blog.

They are:

Check'em out from time to time!

==> Mike.


Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Rochester Board Stumbles Again During Sunshine Week

I find it quite ironic that every year the Rochester School Board finds some way to stumble in it's dealings with the public during "Sunshine Week", which is the celebration of the Freedom of Information Act.

Here's a great editorial from the Free Press recognizing the official "Sunshine Week".

Detroit Free Press: SUNSHINE WEEK: Break the secrecy (3/10/07)

Two years ago this week, the board held a special session to discuss the Open Meetings Act, and specificially address a potential violation for a meeting earlier in the year that did not allow public comment. There were also questions of contract discussions that improperly took place in closed session. And if that wasn't enough, a citizen alleged that the board failed to post a notice that they were holding the meeting, which is a violation of the Open Meetings Act.

It was one year ago this week that the Rochester School Board tried to eliminate comments from the Board minutes, and subsequently restrict the information made available to the public. That decision was eventually reversed after a fight at the board table, a wonderful op-ed from Trustee Steven Kovacs, and an outcry from citizens and some of the local newspapers.

(The meeting minutes are still awkward; you can't tell who comments on items and who does not. Comments are preceeded with "One board member said..." And, board members are not allowed to place official "for the record" comments in the minutes. But, that was part of the compromise in order to stop the majority on the board from removing all information.)

And now this year I see the board in yet another situation where they are not acting in the public's best interests.

The board reached a tentative agreement with it's teacher's union. It's a three year deal, and this one contract represents over 55% of the districts annual expenditures.

Assuming that the Tentative Agreement is ratified by the union membership, I believe it's in the public's interest for this board to release the details of the agreement to the public as soon as reasonably possible.

I can understand why the union would want to keep the information confidential until they have had a chance to fully present the plan to it's members and answer any and all questions. That is quite reasonable.

However, once the vote is taken - and assuming it's approved - I can think of no compelling reason to keep the contract details confidential.

I believe the Rochester Board is doing the public a disservice by withholding disclosure of the details until the board meeting of March 26. The only information that will be available to the public prior to the board's vote will be made that night, presumably 10 - 20 minutes before the vote. The only feedback the board will receive from the public will be from those that are in attendance, and they will have an unreasonably brief time to consider those details before sharing their thoughts with us.

I believe the public has a right to know, and the board should attempt to be a open as reasonably possible.

==> Mike.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

School Building Security vs. Health Benefits

The Rochester Board of Education received a report from an administration committee that explored district safety considerations.

The Oakland Press reported on it here:

Oakland Press: Group offers school safety suggestions (3/13/07)

After months of study, a 22-member school district committee has developed five recommendations to improve safety and security in school buildings.

On Monday, the committee presented the following measures to the Board of Education:

  1. Implement a set of 10 security protocols addressing use of identification badges, restricting building access, reporting of suspicious individuals and preparing for emergency situations.
  2. Establish a safety tip line for students.
  3. Install electronic card swipe entry systems in all school buildings.
  4. Gradually install video surveillance systems at all district buildings, with those facing greatest risks being equipped first.
  5. Explore initiatives that help all staff and students feel comfortable in their school community.
District Superintent Dave Pruneau said districtwide support for vigilance is critical to all recommendations. “It takes all of us to be on the lookout and to be proactive,” he said.

The committee’s first, second and fifth recommendations are expected to have relatively low costs for the district. The card swipe security systems would cost roughly $250,000, however, and the video surveillance system is expected to cost far more. Implementation of all five recommendations could rise to $1.5 million.

Trustee Mike Reno said that despite the cost, the district should move forward prudently, but quickly, to implement the recommendations. He suggested using part of the district’s $30 million in budget reserves to do so. “It would seem to me that this is something everyone sees as a priority,” Reno said.

But some school officials said these costs could conflict with academic initiatives the district hopes to implement. “The question is always, ‘How much do you want to put into security and take out of the classroom?’ ” Pruneau said.

Other board members supported low-cost measures, including those in the fifth recommendation. “These kinds of initiatives not only prevent violence … but encourage kids to get more involved in their school community,” said Trustee Tim Greimel.

District administrators plan to bring proposals to implement committee recommendations to the board in the coming weeks and months.

What a strange coincidence that this report was filed nearly one year to the week after the community agonized over threats of "Columbine-style" violence at one of it's high schools. At the height of the scare the school saw a 60% absentee rate. How quickly we seem to forget.

I think Mr. Pruneau and the committee came up with some great suggestions. My only concern is over the timetable.

I will admit I was very surprised at some of the arguements on this, such as the one cited in the article. There is no choice here between safety and academics. Nothing is being cut in order to fund security measures. Rochester has a fund balance of $30 million; is someone suggesting $30 million is needed next year for a strategic plan?

Basically, if it's worth doing, then let's do it. They only reason to wait on implentation would be if the district didn't have the money and needed to save for it over time. Again, the district has $30 million in the bank, and history suggests that it's likely to add even more to the fund again this year.

The other thing I seriously doubt is the $1.5 million dollar figure to implement all of the recommendations. That would suggest the cost exceeds $50,000 per building for video surveillance, and I just don't buy it.

Most districts around the county -- and around the state -- have video surveillance. Those district administrators are glad they have it, and I'm sure that law enforcement officials find it valuable too.

Here is an example of how it doesn't necessarily prevent a crime, but can provide valuable clues that can lead to solving them. A man had been entering buildings and stealing from employees. Lapeer had video cameras (shown in this article), and suddenly the police had something to go on. Fortunately it was just money he was after.

I also believe it is important to have it on the buses.

If video surveillance can serve as a deterrent to violance at school, or spare the community the heartache and disruption it endured last year, or stop vandalism of district property, or help solve crimes, then it deserves serious consideration.

Personally, I believe the board is hoping to keep as much of the $30 million in the bank as they can in order to fund the ever-increasing cost of health care benefits in the future.

==> Mike.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Bill Sizemore - What public schools really need

I received a link to an article today to an article written by the director of a taxpayer organization in Oregon.

Bill Sizemore - What public schools really need (03/11/07)

It is very hard-hitting, and a bit long at over 2000 words.

But WOW, it covers a lot of ground with some clear ideas for reform. It's chocked full of those common sense ideas that most of the status-quo old-guard in education love to hate.

Even if you don't agree with him, it's got some great conversation-starters!

==> Mike.