Friday, August 14, 2009

Refocusing Energy!

Five years on a local school board has delivered a lifetime's worth of lessons on what is best & worst about 'local control'.

By helping to shape the dialog and direction, I believe I’ve had a positive impact on our schools. My focus at the board table, my personal advocacy efforts with the public, and my voting record clearly demonstrates my commitment to the merits of increased rigor, fiscal responsibility, safety, and transparency.

I’m proud of my efforts to make schools accountable to parents, students, and taxpayers, but have concluded that the opportunities to achieve these goals are limited on this local school board.

The forces attempting to preserve the status quo are powerful, committed, and far superior in numbers. Actually, school boards mirror the polarizing political climate at the state and national level, where a dominating majority controls the agenda and offers no room for compromise.

On Tuesday, I entered my name as a candidate for re-election, hoping that one or more new candidates might emerge that could stand with me in my efforts to reform and improve our schools, and prepare for the challenges ahead.

But at this point, with the candidate field now defined, I’ve decided to withdraw my name and refocus my energy. Armed with my knowledge of the system, and freed from the petty politics, I believe I can be more effective in my efforts to increase public awareness of the issues facing schools, while continuing to attempt to introduce ideas to school leaders.


Melanie Kurdys said...

Mike, I was sad for your school district when I heard this news. You have been an inspirational leader for your community and those reform minded folks in other districts. Those who benefit from the status quo are fighting harder than ever as they see the strong leaders emerge, ask good questions, suggest good ideas and press for real academic achievement. You know you have many people who will continue to support you as you find a new direction and position of influence. Thanks for all you have done.

Bill said...

The danger is assuming that your position and goals are noble while those that disagree with you are corrupt.

That's the biggest thing I can say about you, Wendy, Kyle and other "reformers." You have to work with everyone, Mike--all those groups you mentioned plus teachers and the MEA. A dialog involving all can't be had when a large segment is continually vilified and made the scapegoat for every ill the political Right can dream up. About the only thing the teachers and teacher unions haven't been blamed for by your side is global warming (but probably only because you don't believe it anyway).

Just what did you think you were going to accomplish? Steamrolling the teacher's union out of existence? Civil War? How does the rhetoric that you, Wendy, Kyle and others employ productively help? It's a serious question and I'm not trying to take a jab. I honestly want to know.

I don't get. Sorry. You are to be commended for offering your time and services to your community...but you shouldn't be surprised that your tactics didn't bring change the way you wanted change to happen.

Mike Reno said...

OMG Bill, I never said anyone was corrupt. Where the heck did that come from? Stop it.

War? Scapegoats? Enough already with the paranoia.

In the interest of being tolerant, I'm OK with letting your one comment stay on this post, but I'm not going to provide a platform for you to make additional silly accusations about people with whom you don't agree, or to create baseless hyperbole about their efforts to advocate for improved schools. There are plenty of other sites you can find to do that.

You have no clue what I've tried to do, or who I've talked with.

And I've had plenty of success that you and your condescending tone can't diminish.

You've had your say, and made your point, so perhaps it's time to

Mike Reno said...

Thank you Melanie! I'm not going anywhere, so I'm sure we'll be in touch shortly.

Best of luck with your efforts...

Anonymous said...

Mike your leadership on the RCS board has been outstanding. I hope your fellow board members will display the grace of recognizing your good work and contributions. Please do not be bogged down by people who are looking for a fight or who operate on emotional poison. You are a friend and champion for teachers, students and public education. Thank you from a grateful parent.

Anonymous said...

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."

Thanks for all you've given. Maybe it's not fair to ask for more, but please stay involved. We really need you!

Grateful school employee said...

You've been a godsend, Mike.Let's hope that your leadership has opened the board & administration's eyes & they don't simply revert to the same old top-down, ceremonial& reactionary ruling style that plagued us for so many years.Thank you for putting kids & teachers first.

Steven A. Kovacs said...


You are not a typical School Board Trustee. I can list at least six major differences.

This is a gigantic loss for the taxpayers, voters, and most of all the students in the District.

Come Monday, they will be dancing on Five Points Drive and 501 W. University.

I always like to put a sharp point on profund social protest statements/lyrics: "America, where are you now, don't you care about your sons and daughters, don't you know,they need you now, they can't fight alone against the Monster." (Steppenwolf)


Steve Kovacs

Anonymous said...

This new board needs to keep the REA's iron grip on the school board & the administration in check.Too much REA influence, enabled by the PTA has been a longtime problem for Rochester schools.Mike Reno did much to strike a students first balance.We need board members who will work to inject tax dollars into badly needed studentprograms - like 7-period high school scheduling, supplemental before & after school learning support.
Students first, period.Mike always put kids before ceremonial rhetoric.Let's hope his example lives on.
Thanks Mike!

Kevin said...

Mike, I'm sad to hear this news. My wife and I appreciate your work to get the district to offer Algebra I to this past year's 8th graders. My daughter is one of those 8th graders who supposedly wasn't ready for the "rigors" of Algebra I, and she ended up getting straight A's. Thanks again and good luck in whatever you decide to do going forward.

Ben Giovanelli, CPA said...


I feel for you but the good guys will win in the end. Not too sure who Bill is but a tad disjointed eh?

I look forward to working with you to bring common sense to all areas of government sorely in need of same. There's lots to do. A lot of "Bill's" out there who simply don't get it.

Zoe C. Wagner said...

Learning so much from Mike Reno about school politics, school board 'mentality' and the overall structure of legislation has been an asset to not only us 'newcomers', but to the overall public in general. His knowledge, wit, and expertise as a 'reformer' and as a common sense guy has been helpful, appreciated and refreshing - no hidden agenda's, no prisoners approach, how refreshing in a world of cut throat, stab you in the back, out for number one individuals. We will miss you Mike..

Bill said...

I'm a teacher and a future Board member, Big Ben ;)

Boards do need to be reformed--from the "reformers."

Brother Ed said...

Mike, you've always been respectful of local PTA types, yet career PTA queens (and kings) occupy far too many seats on local school boards to maintain effective checks and balances against Michigan’s powerful teacher unions (who frequently “organize their communities” to give the nod to their favored school board representatives).

How many of these types will be taking a seat at the Rochester board table next year when you leave?

Read why union-beholden, PTA-backed school board trustees can be a problem and taxpayers need to keep tabs on how they vote:

From the WSJ Opinion Archives:

"Losing the 'P' in PTA

How a once venerable organization became a front for teacher unions."

Brother Ed said...

"Losing the 'P' in PTA

How a once venerable organization became a front for teacher unions."

The hand-lettered sign outside the door to P.S. 166 on Manhattan's Upper West Side said "PTA Meeting Thursday." To be exact, it was a parent group that would be meeting, not the PTA.

The sign was proof of the extent to which "PTA" has become a generic term, like "Kleenex" or "Xerox." Many parents are unaware of just how far the century-old National Congress of Parents and Teachers (known since 1924 as the PTA) has strayed from its origins in social uplift or from the classic 1950s-era image we may still have of it -- an organization devoted to school service, fund-raising (think of those bake sales) and wholesome parent-teacher relations.

In fact, the PTA has been losing members steadily for almost a half-century now, from a high point of more than 12 million in the early 1960s to a current membership of about half that. Today only about a quarter of K-12 schools in the U.S. have a PTA chapter. The reasons for this decline are familiar ones: money and politics.

The PTA had its beginnings in an era of women's clubs and settlement houses, when affluent, idealistic women went to work bettering the conditions of the urban poor. Although women still couldn't vote, they could exercise influence through thousands of civic organizations and social clubs around the country. Soon enough, they cast a critical eye on the conditions of children in the public schools. They sought to address such matters as nutrition and hygiene and to help Americanize the offspring of immigrants arriving in waves from southern and eastern Europe.

In 1897, the members of the first National Congress of Mothers -- the name of the group that would eventually become the PTA -- saw their mission as fostering "a love of humanity and of country...and the advantages to follow from a closer relation between the influence of the home and that of the school." The president of the national PTA declared at a recent convention: "We simply must change the country." What happened?

Brother Ed said...

"Losing the 'P' in PTA

How a once venerable organization became a front for teacher unions."

In "The Politics of the PTA" (2002), Charlene Haar explains that the PTA shifted its focus mainly because of its longstanding alliance with the National Education Association. Formed in 1857, the NEA once shared the parent group's concern for schoolchildren in such matters as school curriculum and the qualifications of public-school teachers. Indeed, in 1920, the National Congress felt so much in line with the NEA that it moved into the association's impressive Washington headquarters. Already allied with the teachers group on support for a "progressive" curriculum that would emphasize "life skills," the PTA would from then on curb its more general social programs and limit itself to matters directly affecting education.

Ms. Haar chronicles the major policies on which the two groups cooperated throughout the 20th century. Having begun as equals, the PTA gradually became the subservient partner. Both organizations refused to support the National Defense Education Act -- passed in 1958 in the wake of the Soviet's launch of Sputnik -- because, as Ms. Haar explains, it "provided funds for mathematics, science and other defense-related curricula but could not be used for teacher salaries."

By the 1960s, the PTA was known as "a coffee-and-cookies organization" -- unquestioningly offering its seal of approval to the newly unionized NEA. It was the issue of teacher strikes, though, that dealt the reputation of the PTA its final blow. In 1961 the AFT, representing New York City's teachers, staged the nation's first citywide strike, and in 1968 Florida teachers followed with the first statewide strike. To avoid conflict, the PTA abandoned any pretense of independence and supported the walkouts.

Brother Ed said...

"Losing the 'P' in PTA

How a once venerable organization became a front for teacher unions."

A few years later, the PTA tagged along with the NEA, lobbying for a cabinet-level federal department of education. What followed were a series of legislative victories for the teachers unions. Among their outstanding lobbying successes, backed by the PTA, was the defeat of a bill co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Moynihan in 1978 proposing a tax credit for as much as half of private-school tuition. In the aftermath, many parents began their exodus from the PTA, including a large number of Catholics whose tuition fees for parochial schools would have become less burdensome under the plan.

Today the PTA supports all of the union's positions, including increased federal funding for education and opposition to independent charter schools, to vouchers and to tuition tax credits for private and religious schools. This "parent" group lobbies for teachers to spend less time in the classroom and to have fewer supervisory responsibilities like lunchroom duty. Moreover, they want a pay scale for teachers that is based on seniority, not merit. In November, the PTA even helped to defeat California's Proposition 74, which called for limiting teacher tenure by extending the probation period for new teachers from two to five years, a proposal designed to give administrators more time to weed out bad instructors.

Brother Ed said...

"Losing the 'P' in PTA

How a once venerable organization became a front for teacher unions."

With polls indicating that the union label is a liability with the public, an arrangement has developed whereby the NEA provides needed financial support for the PTA, which in turn bolsters union positions at the grass-roots level. As one union official put it: "[T]he PTA has credibility...we always use the PTA as a front."

Not only does the PTA support the NEA on issues that protect the public-school teachers' monopoly, the parent group also speaks up in favor of the NEA's more radical curriculum ideas, like sex-education programs that replace "don't" with "how to" and that propose the inclusion of a gay/lesbian unit starting as early as kindergarten.

Many parents have decided that they no longer want to fund this kind of nonsense: They feel that their dues money would be better spent close to home, on after-school programs, computers and school supplies. As the PTA becomes increasingly irrelevant to the lives of children in public schools and parents become less willing to pay its dues, it is gradually being replaced by alternative, mostly home-grown, organizations that may call themselves guilds or councils or associations but are generally known as Parent Teacher Organizations -- PTOs. These groups collect no dues and follow no political line.

Tim Sullivan, a Massachusetts entrepreneur and former New York City public-school teacher, saw the need among the independent groups forming around the country for the kind of information and services once provided by the PTA. In 1999 he founded a company for independent parent-teacher groups. PTO Today publishes a magazine and maintains a Web site that provides opportunities for parent networking on its message boards. Both in print and online, PTO Today answers the kind of questions that parents of public-school children ask -- how to organize a family night, how to raise money for extras like arts-and-crafts supplies and what kind of insurance is necessary for field trips. With any luck, the PTOs will put the PTA out of business entirely.

Ms. Kramer's books include "Ed School Follies: The Miseducation of America's Teachers" and "Maria Montessori: A Biography."

Bill said...


This gives opportunity to comment on a Right conspiracy-theory about unions backing candidates so the candidates become mindless puppets for everything the union wants.

And you wonder why teachers are fed up with this nonsense.

This binary world you (and others like you) live in where there is only the (potential) trashers/killers of the union (to save my children, of course) and the defenders of the union (narcissistic me-first people who want to install puppet rubber-stampers) is exactly why teachers are fed-up.

So if I have this correct: any board member endorsed by teachers or their union is obviously going to be a mindless puppet for the union? Is that correct? Thus the only answer is to elect "reformers" who trash unions and blame everything on them right up to global warming?

Ah, I see. And in the above scenario, just who has an agenda? I know you would answer the "teacher-backed" candidate but you are sadly and irrevocably mistaken.

Brother Ed said...

Still freeloading with us troglodytes on Mike's blog, huh Bill?

Given that our state teacher union holds “professional development” sessions like “Planning & Implementing a Successful School Board Election”, I’m not sure what “Right conspiracy-theory” you’re talking about.

One such March 2009 MEA “staff training opportunity” was described thusly:

“Having a supportive and friendly
school board is essential for good
labor relations. This session will outline
a step-by-step process for evaluating
current board members, recruiting new
candidates, electing our candidates and
the never-ending job of communicating
with our elected friends. Participants will
leave with an implementation
plan and
timetable for success.”

So I’m not sure what “nonsense” you think teachers are fed up with, but this particular taxpayer-subsidized, union-sponsored nonsense strikes me as notably worthy of broad public outrage.

As for “binary worlds”, you really shouldn't go there, Bill.

So how's that apology coming?

Bill said...

I don't know a single teacher--and I know many from K-12 through 4-year college--who, like spoiled children, want everything and demand everything and expect to get everything they ask for. The simplistic, self-serving, and dishonest take you and others take from (for example) the above MEA workshop makes me want to vomit.

Your reaction to it is the very reason such things are needed.

Know what these teachers want: 1) professional respect 2) respect for their union as the legal representation of them

How can there be fair and professional dialog between a board member and the teachers when a board member comes into the conversation (not waiting to interact with the teachers before doing this, mind you) trashing the legal representatives of the teachers and implying, through multiple methods, that teachers aren't doing their jobs?

The above causes teachers to circle the wagons and reject just about ANYTHING that board member says. even stuff that might make sense.

in short, what these teachers want is professional respect. they'll accept being told no (pick the issue) if they feel respected and understood.

sorry to burst your bubble about the greedy teachers simply wanting a rubber-stamper on the board to give them massive raises and more time off.

Brother Ed said...

Sorry you aren’t feeling well Bill, but I take issue with your overheated assertions.

First, the public respects teachers plenty. Real respect is earned, not demanded, and there are plenty of hardworking teachers whose professionalism earns vast goodwill toward most.

The union’s own soured reputation is another story, however. The example cited earlier – wherein “community organizing” is branded “professional development”, then paid for with public tax dollars intended for student learning - is a prime case of union-perpetuated underhandedness.

Such political games - while earning backslapping kudos down at the union hall – breed public suspicion, anger and broad disrespect toward unions and union bosses. Especially when the diverted funds belongs to schoolkids.

So get it right Bill.

The object of this public animus is the union - not teachers.

Nevertheless, the self-serving union perpetually twists this storyline, sending gullible, dues-paying Chicken Littles flapping about “anti-teacher” or “anti-public schools” hysteria.

Concurrently, by planting union-sanctioned cheerleaders on local school boards - as opposed to critical thinkers who will vigilantly exercise due diligence on behalf of student needs first – the kids lose to the union’s interests.

How else do you explain the profligate deficit spending by school boards everywhere? Those cheerleaders love the kids so much they’re driving their schools to bankruptcy?

Let's go back to our “professional development” example for a minute. When PD comes up on the local school board agenda, few union-picked trustees have the guile much less the temerity, to publicly question the nature of the “coursework” being funded, nor how it will specifically benefit student learning. The rubber stamp comes out & once again, public tax dollars – ostensibly allocated for education – are diverted for union activism such as the March 2009 MEA “staff training opportunity”: “Planning & Implementing a Successful School Board Election”, or as it was more popularly known: “Hiring Your Own Boss”.

That’s just plain wrong Bill.

And it’s enough to make anyone sick.

Grateful Mama said...

Good grief, Mike!

Is Bill typical?

Five years? You deserve a monument!

Mike Reno said...

Thanks to everyone for the nice comments! I'm on vacation right now, and am delighted to say that I haven't had any time to respond yet... :-)

Bill, I removed the last post because you continue to say unfair things about other people... namely Kyle.

I disagree with the rest of the content you included in that comment, but would've let it stand if it weren't for the nonsense you launched about someone who is not even participating in this discussion.

Please respect the simple netiquette I've repeatedly outlined... don't call other people names, and don't make unfounded, rediculous, and even slanderous accusations about them.

Bill said...

Kyle came up to MY district and said he did so because of MY kids--which is bull. You know it. I know it.

I have every right to say what I say about Kyle.

The. End.

Anonymous said...

Ed: There actually was a section on school board elections like you described. There was also this section last March.

"The Mackinac Center and the
Education Action Group:
Who Are These Guys and What
Can We Do About Them?"

This section you missed. "Taking Stand: Creating Safe Schools" As well as. "Advanced Microsoft
PowerPoint - cont." "Building Winning Teams within the School Community" "Beginning Microsoft Excel"

Now Ed. here is where you twisted the truth. This was the 2009 ESP Statewide Conference. This was NOT a kids day off during-the-week "professional development" exercise as you try to paint it.

Participants had to pre register and pay their own money.

So is it my kid's classroom money after the teacher cashes their pay check?

Mike: thanks for the place to rant over the years.

Bill said...

And a correction to the correction of Ed: The two sessions on the Mack Center and EAG were canceled. I don't know why...maybe for lack of interest...or because people are bored with them. Don't know. I didn't attend.

Just a programming note.

Sister Check Writer said...

Anonymous Defender of the Indefensible:

The example of MEA’s outrageous 2009 “staff training opportunity” entitled “Planning & Implementing a Successful School Board Election” demonstrates why the taxpaying public views teacher unions with suspicion, anger & disrespect.

Once agian, I remind you that the distinction between teacher unions and teachers is critical. Hardworking, inspirational teachers are well-respected by the general public.

Teacher unions are not and examples like this one, help explain why.

Teacher unions can shrewdly negotiate reimbursement for self-serving political activity into collective bargaining agreements with school districts whose unwitting trustees fail to exercise due diligence.

Teacher unions can also collect funds (from school district operating budgets directly, or indirectly from their rank and file) for holding these political “workshops”.

In addition, completion of “professional development” courses like “Hiring Your Boss” qualify for ESP Certification, which can produce higher pay, opportunity for promotion and better pension payouts - again through funds allocated for student learning.

Seminars like “Hiring Your Own Boss” have zero to do with student learning, yet are generously subsidized with public tax dollars by union-approved school board trustees - who deliberately or unwittingly authorize reimbursement for political activity masquerading as “professional development”.

So to answer your question, Anonymous: Yes. It is your kid’s classroom money, as well as mine.

And it’s still wrong.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sister: there was dining, dancing, and probably some drinking at that week end event too. Does that bug you as well?

I'm not defending anything. Do you offer any proof that my tax dollars paid for that? If you can supply that proof I will gladly file a criminal complaint with it for miss use of public funds.

I'm neither a teacher nor a union member.

As a simple observer on the sidelines your slippery slope arguement of what they "may" do and how they "may" reroute funds appears to be a real stretch.

To Bill; I only pulled my information from the available PDF file I found.

I don't care what they do on their own time.

Sister Check Writer said...

I suppose you could politely ask MEA to furnish the names of those who attended this particular "professional development" session, trace back the participants to their respective school districts, examine their expense reports, as well as the tangible rewards - merit raises based on continuing education participation, as well as the protracted net benefit to the participants' retirement packages.

Let us know how that inquiry goes, will you?

Anonymous said...

I'm not the one making the allegations. The proof is in your court not mine. "Chasing after the wind" here is non productive.

The fact that they do it is troubling. Seminars on hiring your own boss and influencing elections don't pass my smell test. But then neither do most PAC activities I have seen.

So thank you for provoking my curiosity to go looking for the facts. Until now I didn't know these seminars existed.

There just isn't enough smoke here to make it worth finding the alledged fire.

Sister Check Writer said...

I'll say this for you're a study in contradictions.

Happy hunting!

Bill said...

The MEA is obviously breaking the law. And those damn death panels will kill my grandma, I just know it. And Obama is a Nazi...

Yeah, we've heard it all before. Ad nauseum.

armywife1 said...

Mike- you will be missed across the state as a voice of sanity in Education. Hopefully there are positions of greater responsiblity in your future. Great job!

JoAnn said...


Oh please say it isn't true!

Whatever will we do without you Mike?

Miss you for sure!

Thanks Mike for all your hard work for Rochester

Not Anti-Teacher said...

Wow. I'm particularly impressed by the argument that teachers are fine, but we should all hate the organization that protects them from witch-hunts and tries to increase their inadequate pay. Nope, that doesn't sound anti-teacher at all.

Mike, don't let the door hit you on the way out. From your posts, it's a great thing for education that you're not running again.

Pro-Teacher AND Anti-Energy- and Resource-Sucking Union Hacks Who Take Cheap Potshots at Outstanding Public Servants said...

About that "organization that protects them from witch-hunts and tries to increase their inadequate pay":

For some "education" is merely a trough.