Six candidates are competing in the Tuesday, Nov. 8 general election for two seats on the West Bloomfield Schools Board of Education. The winners will serve six-year terms on the school board. Board members aren’t paid for the service.
The candidate field includes Julie Beaty, Karen M. Faett, Carol Finkelstein, Nelson Hersh, CharRhonda Moye, and John Reed.
The following are questions our staff recently posed to the candidates, and their responses to those questions. Moye did not respond in time for inclusion in our election coverage.
BUDGET: In what specific areas do you believe the district must change its spending? On the revenue side, in what ways should the district be looking for new funding sources? What, if any, changes would you like to see at the state level to address school funding?
FACILITIES: Please explain why you do or don’t believe the school district’s buildings and equipment are adequate at this time. What specific building or equipment upgrades, if any, would you like to see?
CURRICULUM: Graduation requirements and curriculum standards are periodically revised at both the state and local levels. Please tell us why you are or aren’t satisfied with the school district’s existing curriculum and graduation requirements. If you believe changes are necessary, please explain the revisions you would support.
TOP ISSUES: What are the three most important issues for the school district at this time, and how do you propose to address them as a member of the school board?
WHY YOU? Why, specifically, should voters choose you over your opponents?
BUDGET: The control of school funding needs to be returned to the local level. There are too many conflicts of interest at the state level. The district must be more fiscally prudent when implementing new programs. These programs and tools need to have longevity in their usefulness. We need to do our due diligence when researching programs and include the teachers in the decision process. It is the teachers who have to implement the tools in the classroom. All budget cuts need to stay as far away from the students as possible. The school district is in the business of educating. West Bloomfield has an amazing parent-run group called the West Bloomfield Education Foundation. We need to tap into that resource even further and support them in efforts to bring in corporate sponsors and parent donations.
FACILITIES: I would like to thank the community for supporting our past millage initiative. The bond funding has helped tremendously in improving our facilities. To continue to build on these improvements, our buildings need to be updated for WiFi. Teachers would be able to access timely world information and events that could be used to help them in the classroom.
There are technology advancements everyday. We need to catch up with what is now considered commonplace. We are now in the age of cloud technology. The students could use cloud technology to store their homework assignments and projects. This would make it easier for them, the teachers, and parents to monitor their performance.
CURRICULUM: The West Bloomfield School District has top-notch academics that exceed state standards and are quite rigorous. We are competitive with all of our surrounding school districts. We realize that in the global climate our students will be competing for jobs with students from all over the world. Our curriculum is always evolving to address these issues and challenges. We need to continue to advance our curriculum as technology and common core state standards develop. To involve these standards in lower grades, I am presently working with the school district to implement pre-AP in the middle school level. I believe this should also include teaching foreign language in the elementary level.
TOP ISSUES: No. 1 is preparing our students for global competition by seeking programs with long-term benefits, that are globally relevant and equip our students with the knowledge needed to be successful adults.
No. 2 is to manage the budget. I will work to ensure the district operates in a fiscally responsible manner by evaluating all programs and contracts thoroughly. I will continue to meet with legislators to preserve funding at the state level and bring control back to the local level.
No. 3, I will work to attract and retain the highest quality of teachers and administrators by enhancing our professional environment. I will listen to the concerns of our staff and community.
WHY YOU? I have held many positions in my career. I led Nickelodeon’s Western Region Advertising Group where I was responsible for multi-million dollar negotiations and strategic planning. I am currently an adjunct professor at Oakland Community College, where I expand on my love for education.
My proudest tile is PTO mom, where I donate my time and energy to improving the West Bloomfield School District everyday. These skills and passion for education make me uniquely qualified to be a trustee on the West Bloomfield Board of Education.
BUDGET: The district will have to consider privatization of transportation, food service, and paraprofessionals, particularly in light of MCL (Michigan Compiled Law) 388.1622f, which encourages a school district to accept bids in order to be eligible for additional funds per student. I am not currently in support of privatizing custodial services. The district may also have to consider closing an elementary school and reclassifying a school in a manner similar to the Wayne-Westland district.
Regarding the state, I believe the state should substantially reward a district which meets all five of the financial best practices. In addition, a school district which encourages substantial dual enrollment opportunities should be compensated by the state.
FACILITIES: Last year, in an effort to curb costs, the teachers’ copy machines were taken from them to cut down on the use of paper. The teachers were forced to use the communal copier. This has been an absolute disaster for all, and has adversely impacted students who have had tests canceled because the teacher could not make a copy of the test for them. Teachers were affected because they bore the cost of copying themselves by taking the copying to Kinkos. The decision to remove the copiers was shortsighted.
The other insufficiency is the technology. The White Boards are inadequate. Only one student can use them at a time.
CURRICULUM: The foreign language program needs to be expanded to reflect the countries that are successful in today’s global economy. China has a growing economy based on manufacturing. Two of the most rapidly growing automobile companies in the U.S. are Korean, yet neither Chinese nor Korean are taught. Advanced German similarly is not offered. These languages must be available in our schools. Furthermore, the administration must find a better means of working with the student who is excelling and whose needs have far surpassed what is offered him or her at the high school level.
TOP ISSUES: First and foremost, as a board member, I would conduct myself in a manner, and ensure that other board members conduct themselves in a manner, so as to make our district appear attractive and inviting so that our residents will desire to have their children continue to be educated in our schools, and that our policies will encourage people to move into our district to have their children educated here. I will address financial issues by looking to the private sector to raise funds. I will make our district more desirable by trying to create more internships with local businesses, and attempt to increase the amount of technology available in the high school.
WHY YOU: I believe this district is looking for an intelligent, independent thinker who is ready to address the issues facing our district proactively. I am convinced that our community is tired of the old excuse — “The state won’t let us do our job” — and it is ready for a leader like me to step up and say the job can be done by the collective efforts of our families, our schools, our community and the private sector. The citizens of West Bloomfield should vote for me because I am not beholden to any special interest groups like the MEA (Michigan Education Association), for instance. I am proud I am not endorsed by them, like Carol Finkelstein and John Reed (are). That organization held our District hostage for 14 months last year. Similarly, I have not been endorsed by sitting board members which circumvent the democratic process. If you are through with the status quo, vote for me.
BUDGET: The district must consolidate school buildings in response to continued declining enrollment. The district cannot operate profitably with enrollment at 85 percent of capacity. We must decrease our reliance on Schools of Choice to fill our empty classrooms.
We should explore purchasing contracts with other neighboring districts to obtain better pricing on the commodities we use most such as food, technology, cleaning, and classroom and office supplies.
On the revenue side, we must work with our legislators to stabilize funding. Currently, school budgets must be submitted well before the state determines the funding level. We must also seek legislation that would change school budget due dates to follow decisions on funding levels.
FACILITIES: Our district clearly has excess capacity and must consolidate school buildings. Our schools need to maintain up-to-date technology for our students which, of course, is an ongoing challenge. We must assure that there are adequate numbers of computers and printers and other technology so that students and teachers have reasonable access.
CURRICULUM: We have a strong AP (Advanced Placement) program in our high schools and we eagerly anticipate availability of pre-AP in our middle schools in the near future. I support expanding gifted and talented education in our elementary schools. The Magnet program is currently available to only a limited number of students in grades three through five. Our students should be appropriately challenged at every grade level. I support a strong program of honors classes — many students in standard classrooms could be challenged at a higher level and not every student is able to succeed in AP. We also must continue to explore and support alternative education options to assure we can address the educational needs of every student.
TOP ISSUES: The three top issues for the district are:
• Financial (stable funding, maximizing our available resources and fiscal responsibility);
• A challenging curriculum that assures that we are truly preparing our students to be the best in and for the world; and
• Communication with stakeholders and restoring the confidence of the community.
To address these issues I will utilize my budget and business experience to assure fiscal responsibility. I will utilize my experience to advocate necessary stabilization of school funding in Lansing. I will communicate with members of our community, the administration, teachers and other stakeholders and make well-researched decisions that are in the best interest of our students and our community.
WHY YOU? Recent board actions have divided our community. Board members must represent their constituents and fulfill their obligation to listen to the community before voting on issues. I am the best candidate because I have those listening skills, as well as business, budget and advocacy experience. I have young children that will still be in our school district at the end of my six-year term. Board members make important decisions about our children and I believe that they should have children in our schools.
BUDGET: Fiscal responsibility has been at the forefront of our district for years now. We must continue to look for ways to reduce spending and, as many families, we must be “thrifty” to get the most bang for the taxpayers’ dollar.
New funding sources have been in progress, including the Educational Foundation, Oakland Early College, collaboration with other districts, and sharing services. Our revenue enhancement committee has come up with various ideas, including enhanced rental of our facilities and collaborating with businesses in our area.
At the top of my wish list at the state level is to return funding control to the local level so districts and taxpayers have more control of their own finances. Taxpayers have a right to determine how their tax dollars are utilized and assessed.
FACILITIES: The facilities of the district are fortunately very good due in part to green planning and our taxpayers voting for the bond proposal. These bond dollars are used for buildings, technology, and facilities. We are near completing the enhancement of all our buildings, which have them sound, environmentally-enhanced, and energy-efficient, which saves the taxpayers dollars for years to come.
Our high school has become more state-of-the-art, which enables our students and teachers to use technology, and prepare our students for the world competing at an enhanced level. Our other schools have smart boards and Promethean boards in almost every classroom and make us the envy of other districts. Once again, we are ingratiated to our taxpayers who recognize our needs.
CURRICULUM: Curriculum is constantly improving. We have 23 AP courses in the high school. Sixty percent of our graduating seniors graduate with college credit. Seventy-four percent of our high school students take AP classes. We rank in the top 500 high schools in the country. Our graduated seniors had $3 million in scholarships. I know of no other district in the country that has medical and legal mentorship programs.
Students at the middle schools are taking math classes at the high school. We are using pre-AP strategies in the middle schools now in language arts and social studies. Fourth- and fifth-graders come to the middle schools for advanced math.
I would like to see foreign language options increase and begin in early elementary schools along with increased emphasis on English composition.
TOP ISSUES: Important issues currently are, No. 1, fiscal responsibility with appreciating our residents’ tax dollars and utilizing this money wisely and efficiently; No. 2, preparing our students for the future and being able to compete globally; and No. 3, attracting and retaining excellent educators and staff.
This can all be done with better communication and showing all our employees that they are appreciated, important and respected. We must restore pride to our district, and recent community events (WBSD Family Fun Night) are moving us in this direction. I want our district be the premier school district that our residents deserve and what our neighboring districts wish they were. This would positively impact our property values and reward the students, staff and taxpayers that made this possible.
WHY YOU? In this time of uncertainty with state funding, it is imperative that our board is knowledgeable, fiscally responsible, experienced, and can make difficult decisions. We must utilize taxpayer money wisely, giving them a superior return on their investment. I have proven that I listen to taxpayers, am fair, and dedicate the time necessary to successfully run and improve our schools.
I am more experienced than any candidate and have run a successful business. I have been a school board trustee for eight years, as president and (held) all offices (on the board). I have served on committees including finance, athletics, transportation, technology, youth assistance, curriculum, and the educational foundation. Most importantly, I care immensely. I have shown my involvement and will continue to value your trust, and preserve students’, parents’ and taxpayers’ best interests.
BUDGET: In comparison to other surrounding school districts, the West Bloomfield School District does not have a reasonable fund equity balance that will be able to adequately address future uncertainties. This has occurred as a result of financial irresponsibility over the past several years. As a school board member, I plan to help our members become refocused on financially responsible spending practices that not only address the needs of our current students, but also provide for students well into the future.
FACILITIES: The school district’s facilities are more than adequate at this time to meet the needs of our staff and students.
CURRICULUM: West Bloomfield Schools provides a world-class curriculum for our students and we must put forth great effort to maintain the programs we have.
TOP ISSUES: The top three priorities facing the West Bloomfield School District are becoming financially responsible, restoring the relationships with its valued employees, and improving communication with all stakeholders. As a school board member, I will work collaboratively with the board to promote a philosophy of financial responsibility focused on establishing fund equity balance to offset future uncertainties. I will also build bridges to foster trust and improve communication with all, through the establishment of a districtwide committee encouraging open, honest, and courteous dialogue.
WHY YOU? I am a 37-year resident of West Bloomfield, a father of four, the husband of a district teacher, and a 26-year special education teacher and coach. I hold a master’s degree in special education, as well as post-graduate work in administration from Eastern Michigan and Oakland universities, respectively. These experiences and skills uniquely qualify me for a position on the school board. I am a candidate who can truly see all sides of the district’s current issues from multiple perspectives. These qualities, as well as my daily involvement within the educational environment, will prove valuable to the community in its efforts to restore the West Bloomfield School District’s status as one of the country’s premier school districts.