Saturday, November 3, 2007

2007 Rochester School Board Election

This may be a bit local -- and a bit too political -- for this blog, but I've received a lot of email asking which of the candidates in the local school board race would be most likely to support the type of reform I advocate on this blog, and at the board table.

I already posted one story on this election,
which can be found here.

And, I'm pasting below a letter I wrote that was printed in the local Rochester Eccentric.

Here are a few other stories of interest regarding this election:

Oakland Press: Forum Failed to Answer Questions (11/02/07)

Oakland Press: League of Women Voters Criticized over Forum (11/02/07)

If you have a strong stomach, and are interested in seeing a bit of the silly drama that engulfs school board races, you can check out the Story Chat at the Rochester Eccentric, found here.

The Rochester School forums at are interesting too.

(Let me say in advance that I will remove any comments posted on this thread that attempt to disparage anyone. This is a forum of ideas, and posts need to be about positions, not people.)

Here is the letter I wrote about Steve:


Rochester Schools Trustee Steve Kovacs is quick to spotlight the absurd operating practices of the board, and challenge the status quo. His approach is unsettling to some because he's candid and blunt.

This makes Kovacs controversial.

But Steve is really like Simon on American Idol. Simon appears harsh next to Paula's "I just love everything!" approach, but Simon has high standards and oftentimes brings honest and thoughtful analysis. Just as American Idol wouldn't be well served with a panel filled with Paula's, neither would our school board.

Kovacs pushes - confrontationally sometimes - to address academic, financial, and accountability concerns. This may appear harsh next to the "we're a great district" approach, but a trustee should be a driving leader, not a cheerleader.

And Kovacs does agree Rochester's a great district, but he ruffles feathers because he won't accept the ridiculously slow pace of further improvement, knowing each year of foot-dragging represents another year of lost opportunity for our children.

Many are unaccustomed to candor and frank discussion at the board table, and respond by criticizing Kovacs, not for his points, but instead for his style and approach.

If this were an election to a social club, their concerns might have merit. But it's not, and the condition of Michigan's education system demands that we elect active trustees - not beholden to anyone - who will aggressively strive to improve our schools.

Simon tries - in his unique way - to help American Idol contestants improve. His frank approach is far more likely to help them; much more the applause generating "you rocked!" comments from Paula.

Our school board needs a Simon more than it needs additional Paula's. Please consider Rochester's Simon, Steve Kovacs, to help improve our schools.


Mike Reno said...

Yes, I pulled your comment Marty because you're headed down a path to trash someone again.

You are free to setup your own blog designed to badmouth people, but I won't let it happen here.

For the record, Marty pointed out that Tom McMillen, the former Mayor of Auburn Hills, former Oakland County Commissioner, and candidate for the State Board of Education endorsed Steve Kovacs, citing his belief that Kovacs (and I) represent conservative values.

The point of the deleted post is that Tom is too conservative, and anyone Tom supports is guilty by association.

The deleted post was designed to offend those that support Tom, and would presumably come to Tom's defense.

You are free to repost if you phrase it in a respectful, non-vulgar way. Please choose words that highlight the philosphical points about Steve that bother you, and leave others out of this.

Anonymous said...

That comment was meant only for you Mike. I hope it did not slip out.

I will leave the guilt by association to you and yours regarding the union issue. Your team has been real good at that.

I want to know why you have not endorsed anyone else?

You have two seats and we get one new board member no matter what.

Why not Stouffer? Why not Mary Ann?

Is it because you don't want ANYTHING to pull numbers from Steve?

These vote for one only tactics put the wrong people in office and you know it.

Everything is about Steve.

Where is your second candidate?

If your egg falls out of the basket you will be very alone.

So again why only Steve?

Anonymous said...

You know that this plug or bullet voting will tip your hand.

Everyone will know exactly how many votes your network can muster.

We already know how many the union can. I know it all too well.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your honesty Mike. It's nice to see that the nastiness of a lone heckler doesn't interfere with your focus to do your best for our kids.

James H @ 48307 said...

Perhaps only Steve because he is the only one with a proven track record of challenging the status quo.

Personally, I do not want someone on the board who "plays nice". This is not a pre-requisite for leadership. In fact, the person I vote for will be the person who is the most unpopular. WHY?

It's called "change." It's hard. It stinks. No one likes it. I don't like it.

As my salty old English teacher used to say, "Tough Nuts!" We have to do it.

We (parents and community members in RCS) can not ignore this anymore. The UAW and Big 3 brass did for too many years. Now, they are finally facing the music. In discussing the recent events at Chrysler, Daniel Howe of the Detroit News wrote of Cerberus,

"This is also what happens when smart business heads unencumbered by a dysfunctional Detroit culture discard the foggy, self-justifying lens traditionally favored here and instead look at conditions as they are, not as the brass and union leaders want them to be."

This pretty much applies to the MEA, most board members, legislators and those parents who remain uninformed and apathetic. Our educational financial model is broken -- yet we refuse to discuss even medical co-pays! Co-pays for the love of Moses!! Co-pays have been in place since the 90's in almost every sector! Wake up already.

What about pushing for international baccalaureate certification? What about privatization of all functions not directly related to education? What about privatizing administrative leadership? What about some real change that keeps Michigan from sliding further into the stone age?

Maybe those are just too difficult to discuss. I guess you could keep up with the back and forth bickering about attendance, name calling and who is too conservative. Being childish is always easier than dealing with reality. Keep rearranging those deck chairs…there’s no iceberg.

Or, you could grow up.

You could look at conditions as they are not as you want them to be. Our state is near last in economic vitality, leads the nation in unemployment and we are losing young and talented people in droves.

We do not need cooperation, “baby step changes” or rationalizing that calls for evolution not revolution. The clock is ticking. The pendulum is lowering.

Here’s a thought starter: Congress has just created a 51st state. It has no structure for education funding or delivery. No dinosaurs to put to rest. No bias to overcome. How would you build it from scratch? If your mind can not even throw out the structures that exist today (pensions, unions, property tax funding, etc.) and start fresh…please do us a favor…and check out of the conversation.

We need intelligence and creativity and we need it now because we are in a crisis. You just have not felt the pain, yet, because you are too busy arguing about a few trees and missing the forest.

Anonymous said...


Steve didn't make it, but I hope that you won't change doing what you do.

It may actually help your efforts because you would bring up ideas that might be starting to be considered by others, then Steve would say something to make everyone mad and your idea would die.

They'll all be cocky for a while now that it's 6 to 1, but really that doesn't change the outcome (from 5 to 2).

I mean that you should keep speaking up for those of us that want an education in Michigan to mean something.

I wanted Steve there so that you were not alone, but please don't give up now that he's not elected anymore.

Thank you for all you do.

Mike Reno said...

Here was a letter from the Oakland Press addressing the League of Women voters debacle:

Political forums must be conducted fairly

I was disturbed to read about the handling of the voters forum conducted by the League of Women Voters for the Rochester Board of Education.

Whenever candidates or speakers running for office are invited to participate in a public forum, there must be absolute control to ensure that any bias is removed from tainting the process.

Candidates in particular have made a monumental commitment by deciding to put their names, their finances, and their family lives on the line to participate in the tough “fish bowl” arena of politics. When bias or corruption is involved in a forum that forum loses all credibility. Lost credibility and reputation are difficult, if not impossible, to recover.

The North Oakland Republican Club has hosted many candidate forums and debates of various kinds over many years. The debates have, at times, included Democrats, representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, BAMN and various other groups. At all NORC debates, or candidate forums, all participants agree in advance to stringent decorum and ground rules.

We have never had to resort to hand written audience questions as these can be pre-selected by those with an agenda to help or hurt particular speakers. When one of our events has a question and answer format we reserve two or three times the total time for questions and allow each member of the audience to personally ask their own questions. This format prevents bias and leaves participates and audience members alike satisfied that the questions were not “spun” by organizers with an agenda. Our communities need good people to step foreword and run for office. The last thing our political system needs is to shut out good candidates with a corrupt process.

Jim Runestad
President of the North Oakland Republican Club.
Waterford Township

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