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BIRMINGHAM PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION

Six-year terms, Non-partisan, Vote for two


ART JACK


Art Jack is a recent retiree of Ford Motor Company, having worked in research and advanced engineering. A resident of Southfield, he received his BS degree in electrical engineering from Southern University in Baton Rouge, and his masters degree in manufacturing engineering from Wayne State University. He is a board member of Ascension Health of SE Michigan and a parent leader with Birmingham African-American Family Network.


District budget problems


The top concern in the district now is the massive $14.5 million deficit for this budget year, when the deficit was originally projected to be $1.5 million.


A) What responsibility does the school board have in not recognizing that a budget they approved was so far removed from reality?


All the trustees collectively are responsible for the budget deficit. The BPS administration has the ultimate responsibility for developing the budget backed with data, including any knowns, unknowns, risks and uncertainties with a reaction plan for ongoing discussions with the school board members. Now, the oversight is not due to a lack of board members with business acumen. I wonder if all the data was available with 100 percent engagement from all board members from start to finish. Complacency is the enemy of progress, which I believe is one causal factor that resulted in this surprisingly large deficit. I have confidence in the administration to get back on track. It’s the price being paid with layoffs or any additional austerity measures that will set us back and impact the students down the road.


B) In terms of transparency, are you satisfied with what has been presented to the public about the “unexpected” deficit and who is responsible for this?


Yes, I’m satisfied. The explanation was logically conveyed, but that’s irrelevant when the result impacts livelihoods. The BPS administration is collectively responsible, but the school board shares accountability.


C) Is there too much reliance on “closed door” or executive sessions of the board when it comes to financial decisions relative to the budget instead of open discussion before the public?


Closed door discussions are needed as with any organizational entity to review and align on financial decisions. The public discussions have value, but it isn’t a necessity. I think it would be of value to have an expert panel of individuals from the community to serve as a “sounding board” for the school board members if asked, but not as decision-makers.

D) What do you see as possible solutions to solving the immediate problem? How can a financial problem of this magnitude be prevented in the future?


Without all the history, data and supporting information in front of me, I can't comment on a “quick fix” so to speak. Going forward, I really think there should be closer monitoring of student enrollment and use of data analytics models to help in the budget iterating process towards final approval.


Pandemic problem in the district


What is your personal assessment of how the district handled the problems caused by the pandemic in the last couple of school years? What, if anything, should have been done differently? Does there need to be any extra effort to help students who may have lost ground in terms of learning with virtual rather than in-person learning? Please provide details.


In hindsight, I think the district handled the lockdown about as well as expected given the risk and uncertainties in 2020-2021(1st and 2nd quarter). BPS provided technical support, books, laptops and lunches for the families, which was an act that can’t be taken for granted given the stress families experienced. The Birmingham Virtual Academy (BVA) and roll-out became an excellent option for families that preferred educating in the safety of their homes. Once the vaccine became available and the country started to return to a level of normalcy, the CDC recommendation for wearing masks were followed, which I believe was the right thing to do. My twin boys wore their masks in school with one participating in sports wearing a mask. We lost some close relatives to COVID-19, which impacted the boys deeply so that they didn't have an issue with the mandate. Nothing comes to mind (to do differently). However, I think there was an opportunity to collaborate with businesses in the community to initiate and/or experiment with temporary learning spaces or “hubs” in office spaces that were closed or where employees worked mostly from home. Teachers and families that were comfortable with in-person learning could utilize the space. For liability purposes, perhaps a waiver to protect the school district. Unsure of how the idea would be funded by the district or through some shared cost with parents that wanted to participate. Looking back and given what we’ve learned, this is a different pathway on how the pandemic at phases could have been handled differently. I can’t think of any effective efforts to help close the learning gap at this time.


Parental role in curriculum decisions


There has been considerable debate about whether the state board of education, the legislature or local school boards should decide what is being taught in the schools. Now we are seeing a push by some parents/parent groups to have more of a role in determining what is taught in the classroom. What is the role of parents when it comes to deciding what material is taught in the classroom? What immediate educational reforms do you support, and which will you seek for the district if you are elected?


The administration is responsible for the curriculum, not the parents. The curriculum review process cadence can be enriched with community input (i.e., parents) through collaborative means when appropriate. I understand the disagreements out there. Now, I grew up in a family of educators. Both of my parents started their career teaching in the public schools. I recall discussions around how math was taught differently. My father was a math teacher and emphasized that I should demonstrate problem-solving using the teacher’s methods. There were also discussions about American history with Black history as an additive topic in the curriculum even though both are integrated deep within our American experience to learn. As with math, the same recommendation was provided. In these situations, parents can help by having an honest conversation with their children. Perhaps the solution is as simple as the teacher, parent and student having an honest conversation. I support educational reform that helps Michigan continue to trend upwards in the NAEP K-12 ranking. The results from 2019 shows Michigan is in the middle. I will spend time understanding how BPS is trending and support what’s needed to continue with goals and metrics in mind. This is important for attracting industry to the state and residents to the school district to live, work, play and educate their children for the future. Secondly, I want teachers to receive a pay-raise along with the support needed to continue the state’s trend upwards. Finally, I’d like to see an increase in collaboration with industry and higher education at the local level, but also at a global level. The world is getting small, and opportunities will continue to evolve globally. I have a broad personal network across industries and higher education, especially with HBCUs to make it happen.


Student safety


Are you satisfied that the district has done enough to safeguard students and staff? Should there be more security guards and liaison police officers at schools? What can and should the district do to better prepare teachers and staff for the possibility of a rogue individual with a weapon? Should more attention and dollars be spent on mental health awareness and help?


Based on the presentations at the school board meetings, I think the district has prioritized and moved forward with the actions as a result of the audit. For example, the video surveillance expansion with supporting back-end server equipment comes to mind. At the 1/18/2022 regular board meeting, Resolution 56 – Safe Gun Storage was approved where the superintendent will establish a communication cadence regarding the importance of firearm safety while continuing to collaborate with law enforcement and health professionals (medical and mental). A Town Hall meeting is scheduled on 9/12/2022, which will include the topic. I plan to attend to learn more. I have mixed feelings about increased security guards and police presence inside the schools. Student profiling that leads to interactions with officers is most concerning. Based on what I’ve heard so far, the BPS school district has a great relationship with local law enforcement, which includes police liaisons. More preemptive efforts towards mental health support for our students are equally important for student safety and deserve more attention. I’m not an expert and would rely upon the district’s law enforcement recommendations for preparedness. ALICE Training and drills are in place in the district with a FAQ online for families to read. If elected, I will make it a priority to learn more about the current plans and help in the research of new methods to prepare our teachers and staff. Complacency is the enemy of progress, which I won’t let happen as a board member. Yes, more attention and resources should be devoted to mental health awareness and support. I’m unsure of where and how to invest for immediate and long-term results. As a board member, I will gladly participate and support engagement with all mental health initiatives as well as leverage my personal network for input.


What are your top goals if elected


If you are elected this November, what would your top goals be as a member of the board?


First, close the budget deficit concerns so we can move forward – we must address the deficit, ask the hard questions with honest and candid dialog so the right processes and accountability systems are in place so there isn’t a repeat in the future. We must get this right so that we can stabilize our staff and faculty, otherwise, we risk more “flight” of BPS teachers, staff and students. Second, school safety – participate and support implementation of action plans. Third, Increase STEM /STEAM opportunities (local-thru-global) for our students and staff so that our district is the recognized and valued talent pipeline for jobs in the state.

SAMUEL OH


Samuel Oh of Birmingham is a principle of City Hill LLC. He received his masters degree in architecture and real estate development at University of Michigan. He is a member of the Birmingham Triangle District Corridor Improvement Authority.


District budget problems


The top concern in the district now is the massive $14.5 million deficit for this budget year, when the deficit was originally projected to be $1.5 million.


A) Board role on budget


The BOE and BPS have had a year to try to fix the problem but still haven’t been able to zero out the budget. They couldn’t even approve a balanced budget for this year. People who created the problem can’t be trusted to fix the problem. I believe the BOE members should step down, resign, or be voted out. Unfortunately, the Birmingham Public School System has a strong tradition of hiding problems and deflecting instead of fixing them. If the current board wants to do the right thing and regain the public trust, they should all step down and let fresh eyes assess and correct the problem.


B) Satisfied with transparency?


No, like many others in the community I am not satisfied with has been presented to the public. A $14.5 million deficit is never an “oops.” Someone was intentionally hiding the problem and somebody needs to be held accountable. Eighty-five-90 percent of the BPS budget is made up of salaries when to be on par with other school districts it should be in the 70th percentile. I believe that first and foremost the responsibility lies with Dean Niforos, the assistant superintendent of HR who was entrusted with budget negotiations with unions for the last four years. He has never been able to negotiate a balanced salary budget in any of those years. Every year he has come to the board asking for extra funds which the board approved (who I believe is the other responsible party for the deficit).


C) Closed door meetings on finances


The general board meetings used to be all recorded and made available to the public but they have since changed them to be “closed door” and unavailable to the public which indicates there is something they are trying to hide. The BOE no longer record the meetings and say that people are “welcome to attend” but they know that very few have time to actually attend. Because there are no more recordings, there is no more accountability or history of decisions made. The BOE needs to go back to being fully accountable and transparent. I believe the general meetings should be reverted back to recorded and available to all.


D) Solving current budget problem


(1) The budget should be formula driven based on student population and taxes. It should be written into the bylaws that the budget cannot be later increased by the board. It should remain balanced annually. (2) The current arrangement has too many conflict of interests. HR Superintendent Niforos belongs to an administrative union so he shouldn’t be negotiating with unions. There are multiple former teachers on the board which presents a conflict of interest as the board approves teachers’ salaries. (3) We have too many administrators for the size of our district. For example, a school district of our size cannot justify having a deputy superintendent in addition to a superintendent. Bloomfield Hills only has one superintendent. (4) We pay our administrator too much. When our administrators hit their salary ceiling, they choose to arbitrarily raise the ceiling. When BPS Director of Communications Anne Cron hit her salary cap, her position was changed to an Executive Director (although her responsibilities remained the same) so she could make more. This was suggested and approved by Niforos who should step down.


Pandemic problem in the district


I believe the district handled the pandemic extremely poorly. BPS decided to close the schools early against the recommendations of the CDC and Oakland County Public Health Department. In fact, this early closure was proposed by a board member who did not even have any children attending schools in the district. I believe this was detrimental to the well being and education of our students and also resulted in a mass exodus from Birmingham Public Schools. They formed a 30-person medical advisory committee who said to open the schools back up but they still didn’t listen which makes their decision completely political because they didn’t listen to medical experts. In times of emergency you should follow emergency protocol and listen to experts and not go AWOL. There should absolutely be extra effort to help students who have lost ground and need to play catchup with the rest. Recent research shows that programs such as tutoring, summer learning programs, and extending the school day can be effective in helping combat the negative impacts from pandemic based learning disruptions.

Parental role in curriculum decisions


I have a very specific “families first” strategy. Over the years our district has lost their focus on who these children actually belong to. They belong to the families. They also forgot who they serve – also the families. We need to recognize the success of a student is greatly tied to the level of support and participation of their family. Studies have shown that parental involvement results in greater levels of student engagement, behavior, attendance, and academic success. Therefore the parents must play a vital role in review and advisory of curriculum materials proposed. Additionally, the district needs to include the parents to partner in implementation of the students’ education. Examples such as homework that requires family participation, activities that include the entire family, PTA involvement, etc. This does not mean the district should “pass the buck” to the parents. In fact, district needs to provide more resources to parents that meet each child’s specific needs. No two children are at the same level and no one knows their children better than their parents. Each student needs to be provided learning opportunities based on their current level and ability. I strongly believe that most, if not all our parents, would be fully on board to put in extra effort to ensure a more tailored education for their child. Why has the district stopped the advanced elementary math program? Why are only a few able to attend BCS when so many would like the opportunity for that kind of education for their children? We need to be moving more towards where the student is, not further away.


Student safety


I strongly believe the problem lies with administrators, superintendents, and principals not doing their jobs properly. When students or persons of suspicion are identified (such as in Oxford), the administration needs to be taking the thorough steps in investigating the matter and separating and removing potentially dangerous individuals from the environment. The public has been duped to think that we need better security systems and more guards. The administration needs to listen to concerned students, parents, counselors, and teachers when potential issues are brought forward. All of our resources need to be focusing on identifying the people who may be threats and acting courageously and appropriately for the safety of the general public. This specific issue is the weak link in the chain of safety and action we need to fortify. I know this from personal experience as I was recently physically threatened by one of the parents in the school district at a school event for speaking out against inequity and the administration did nothing to resolve it even though there was clear video evidence.


What are your top goals if elected


(1) Balancing the budget and maintaining it. (2) Changing the bylaws of the board so that all members have to have at least one child actively attending BPS. (3) Change the bylaws so that all general board meetings are recorded and available for public viewing (as they were previously). (4) Convert more of our schools to the BCS (Birmingham Covington) model to meet the demand. (5) Work towards the diversity/racial makeup of our board and BPS staff match that of our student bodies. Without representation there cannot be proper equity.


NICOLE SPENCER


Nicole Spencer of Beverly Hills is a building substitute with Edustaff. She has an elementary education degree from Alma College and a masters degree in library and information science from Wayne State University.


District budget problems


The top concern in the district now is the massive $14.5 million deficit for this budget year, when the deficit was originally projected to be $1.5 million.


A) Board role on budget


As a board member budget oversight is a responsibility. As a trustee, I will practice due diligence and make well-informed decisions to help avoid this outcome again.


B) Satisfied with transparency?


The district has shared a significant amount of communication with its stakeholders in regards to the budget and the unexpected deficit. They are taking steps to ensure they move forward in a more fiscally responsible way.


C) Closed door meetings on finances


The district offers numerous opportunities for the public to engage in meetings and appears to move into closed sessions legally and when necessary.


D) Solving current budget problem


The district should continue to meet regularly with the board and the community to be transparent about their budget plans. The budget process should be updated to include a more collaborative process with review meetings throughout.


Pandemic problem in the district


The pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for districts over the past three years. Initially, there was much uncertainty with how the district was handling the return to school the fall of 2020 as far as a virtual start, hybrid or full in-person. It would have been my preference that families were given the opportunity to stay in the virtual academy. However, I think the district tried to make the best choices in a difficult situation to keep our children safe. The teachers were heroic in their efforts to adapt and continue teaching with excellence. The learning gap some students have experienced because of the pandemic can be addressed by prioritizing mental health and social emotional learning. Research shows time and time again that students achieve more academically when their social-emotional needs are met. Equity can also be focused on. Equity helps provide students with educational resources that fit their needs.


Parental role in curriculum decisions


Families can and should be active participants in their child’s education. Family engagement leads to higher student success, improved confidence and behavior, and can help children develop a love of learning. Together, families can work together with teachers to support each child, create common goals and help children reach their fullest potential. However, families actually shaping and deciding on the curriculum is untenable. There are many students in each classroom and imagine if all their families had different ideas about when, what and how they teach – it's just not feasible. The concept of “parental rights” also diminishes the professionalism and expertise of teachers. Teachers are highly educated, well-trained individuals. The immediate educational forms that I support include teacher leaders working alongside board members so that they both have more of a voice in policy making, aligning educational resources with individual student needs and differentiated professional development for teachers.


Student safety


The district maintains comprehensive plans to safeguard students and staff and participates in ALICE training. These plans should be reviewed often by a wide range of stakeholders to determine their relevance and if any updates are needed or additional training is necessary. The data suggests increasing security guards and liaison police officers at schools does not necessarily prevent or stop violence. Instead, the district can foster a sense of safety and belonging in schools by adequately funding programs, supporting educators forming relationships with students, and increasing the number of mental health professionals.


What are your top goals if elected


I will be an advocate for all by focusing on these three areas of impact: Improving student achievement, excellence and equity because these are the most important factors in a world class education. I would work to align educational resources with individual student needs, attract and retain diverse, highly effective teachers, and advocate for innovative learning spaces. Creating a culture of belonging, inclusion and well-being because it is important that our schools are places where students can feel safe and valued. I would be a proponent of maintaining a strong commitment to teaching Social Emotional Learning skills, increasing the number of mental health workers, and surveying students on a regular basis. Fostering collaboration, communication and transparency to improve and preserve trust within the district. I would promote engaging families in decision making and policy development, initiating better communication with teachers, and developing a long term financial plan.


KIMBERLY WHITMAN


Kimberly Whitman is currently secretary and trustee on the Birmingham Schools Board of Education. She is also a member of the Birmingham Education Foundation. Whitman, of Beverly Hills, has a BA in psychology and MBA in organizational behavior and human resource management, both from University of Michigan.


District budget problems


The top concern in the district now is the massive $14.5 million deficit for this budget year, when the deficit was originally projected to be $1.5 million.


A) Board role on budget


The school board is responsible for determining education strategy and if the budget reflects the priorities and goals of the district. The 2021-22 budget had to be legally approved prior to June 30th. A significant amount of these numbers is based on enrollment, funding and expenditure projections that aren’t able to be verified until after Fall “count” day. In February 2022, as the actual numbers became known, there was a large projected shortfall. At that point, the board’s role is to ask tough questions and provide direction to rectify the situation, which we did. Moving forward the new budgeting protocols and procedures put in place by the new superintendent and her team, create more defined board clarity to allow accurate decision making with accurate information. A piece of this new practice is monthly accounting updates rather than an amended budget process twice a year. We now trust but verify monthly and publicly. New leadership, processes, and vigorous internal accountability protocols now enhance clarity and Board involvement throughout the process.


B) Satisfied with transparency?


Transparency with our community is the right thing to do. When errors in the budget preparation process and the budget itself were uncovered, communication was broad and immediate. Superintendent Dr. Roberson and her new team worked diligently to address the forecasted deficit, the root causes and adoption of quality controls beyond statutory requirements and best practices. The initial message, February 2022, discussed the projected shortfall, the hiring of a new interim assistant superintendent for business services, immediate actions were taken, and a promise of continued communications. This promise was met through meetings and town halls that showcased financial presentations unlike any our district has previously offered. District leaders shared line-by-line comparisons from the old budget to the amended budget and answered challenging questions around responsibility. All communications and presentations were posted on our website. The 2021-22 budget was balanced. Where we could have improved was expounding about the on-going structural deficit. It was challenging for the typical community member to understand what $14.8 million in expense reduction looks like for our schools today. We will continue to enhance transparency, as this administration places a premium toward building community trust.


C) Closed door meetings on finances


There is no “closed door” or executive board sessions regarding budget discussions nor decisions. Per Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, the budget is discussed, amended, approved by the board and in a public forum. A few examples of when the board may meet in closed session are to discuss contract negotiations, a disciplinary deliberation or attorney client privilege. The board does hold finance committee meetings, attended by a subset of the trustees with district leadership, and these meetings as well are open to the public. This misperception of a “closed door” board meeting ‘decision’ exists because of an article published in June 2022 by Seaholm High School students, where the former assistant superintendent of business services was interviewed and discussed at a formal board closed-session regarding contract negotiations. This employee abruptly resigned as the budget revelations unfolded in January 2022. Deliberation, presentation and budget approval is always in a public forum as required by law.


D) Solving current budget problem


The final 2021-22 audited numbers will show, due to the board and district’s actions – BPS closed the year with a surplus not a deficit. When the financial issues were uncovered, our new superintendent, and her leadership team immediately began mitigating the then current shortfall and identifying expense reductions and revenue enhancements to address the on-going structural deficit. We worked together towards a more balanced budget for 2022-23. Difficult decisions were made, specifically ‘right-sizing’ staffing to mirror enrollment, tighter financial controls and trimmed-back expenses, all assisting to close the 2021-22 fiscal year budget balanced. We recognized tighter controls were needed so funding and expenditure projections are now being reviewed monthly with a multi-step budget review protocol. We also have consistent meetings with our board treasurer, superintendent and finance department leads to ensure the board has the most up-to-date information. As a trustee, I will remain vigilant, monitoring the revenues, staffing models, and expenses to continually work towards a sustainable fiscally healthy school district. I am confident for a balanced budget for 2022-2023.


Pandemic problem in the district


BPS pivoted immediately within an uncharted environment. We provided educational services both in-person and virtually. We quickly offered technology, including laptops and hotspots, for students in need. Our teachers were instrumental in learning a new learning management system, Schoology, and using Zoom. When we returned in-person, we were one of the rare Michigan districts to proactively test our water sources for legionella because we knew our buildings had stagnant water during the closure.


Hindsight offers insight. We now know, we could have provided in-person learning for students concurrent with virtual learning, for those families who prefer that option. It has allowed me to appreciate the value of socialization on academic achievement in schools. We are providing students’ additional support. We have offered summer school for the last two years, K-12. We offer before or after school support to assist students. Each building is rigorously analyzing ongoing data to pointedly address each students’ academic needs for success.


Parental role in curriculum decisions

I support education funding reform, local curricula decisions and facilitated parent involvement. BPS’s Curriculum Review Committee process, one of the most robust in the state, includes parent and older students as members. Many opportunities exist to review, question and provide feedback. Parental collaboration with our professional education experts regarding materials is essential. For example, our Strategic Plan process garnered over 6,200 community responses from parents and other community stakeholders. This survey yielding the quantitative data toward understanding the community’s educational vision. Act 451 of MI School Code states in part: Public schools of this state serve the needs of the pupils by cooperating with parents/guardians to develop the intellectual capabilities and vocational skills in a safe and positive environment. Each body has interest in the education of Michigan students. The state approves content standards. Legislators pass enhancements to benefit broadly; CTE credit exchanges and 21f legislation are examples which serve every MI student. Locally, parental involvement is a valued, and essential component of our operating philosophy.


Student safety


School safety is an ongoing endeavor, in an evolving best-practice environment. In all buildings we installed new secure entries, over 1,000 "smart cameras" with 24-hour surveillance and communication systems direct to first responders. A new security director position will assure a coordinated safety response among all buildings and between all five municipalities with law enforcement personnel. Professional development around proactive approaches to a violent intruder are ongoing, as well as family resources to augment discussions at home. Seventy-five percent of violent school events were by someone who had a current or past school relationship. Students who feel connected to the school community are more likely to seek help versus violent action. Creating a school culture and climate where everyone feels welcome and safe has immediate impact. For higher mental health needs, we’ve partnered with Easter Seals to bring their expertise. Further, we are engaging a healthcare professional for wellness initiatives. We must never be satisfied enough is done around safety. Mental health awareness, and intervention should be a priority.


What are your top goals if elected


As a current school board trustee, I have had the opportunity to see first-hand the effects that the pandemic had on our students and our district. As I consider a possible next term, my top goals are: First, ‘Support the students of BPS and serve as an advocate for strong academic supports and advancement opportunities.’ Even though we may be back in the classrooms, students are still feeling the ripple effects of virtual learning, isolation, mental anguish and academic challenges. Second, ‘Ensure tough questions are answered by our leadership regarding budget distribution and actions.’ In addition to the ‘human’ consequences, Covid has also had a negative impact on the business side of our district. Third, ‘Engage with stakeholders in public settings, soliciting their feedback to help inform my decisions and topics I bring forward to the full board.’ This will assure we as a district have transparent accountability to financial information and student achievement for the broader community.


BRAD WING


Brad Wing of Beverly Hills is a senior litigation attorney at Progressive Insurance. He received his BS in criminal justice from Central Michigan University and his JD from University Detroit Mercy School of Law.


District budget problems


The top concern in the district now is the massive $14.5 million deficit for this budget year, when the deficit was originally projected to be $1.5 million.


A) Board role on budget


The board needs to realize that mistakes were made, by the board, and others. You can’t have a deficit that large without having multiple mistakes being made.


B) Satisfied with transparency?


To be honest, I am not. I don’t believe it is just one person, or one body that was the cause. There had to have been multiple failures that lead to the deficit, it will be necessary to address where those failures occurred, so as to prevent it from happening again.


C) Closed door meetings on finances


Closed door sessions serve a purpose to an extent. Budgets are very complicated undertakings and having those who make the decisions able to speak and work freely can be helpful. That being said, It appears that additional transparency was necessary in this particular instance, which may have prevented further damage.


D) Solving current budget problem


The immediate issue is that the school district is operating at a deficit. In order to fix that, you either need to raise additional money, or cut operating expenses. Both of those options are a difficult decisions. Most likely some form of hybrid will be necessary to fix the issue.


Pandemic problem in the district


When the pandemic started, I had three children at the elementary level. Having them home while my wife and I both worked from home was extremely difficult, but ultimately, I think it was the right decision at the time. It was an unprecedented worldwide pandemic, and everyone, schools included, were operating with the information they had at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20, and we can second guess the decisions two years later, but at the time the decisions were made, I think the district handled it the best that they could.


Parental role in curriculum decisions


I believe that parents can express their opinions on curriculum in the schools, but ultimately those decisions need to be made by the professional educators who have the best interests of all of the children, rather than the interests of individuals. Private school and home schooling are options for people who strongly disagree with the curriculum of public schools.


Student safety


I have been satisfied with the district's response to safety in the schools. The district should do everything that it can to keep our children safe, while providing a comfortable learning environment.


What are your top goals if elected


My goals would be to help to solve the budget issues in the district while maintaining BPS as one of the crown jewels of the Michigan public school system.


COLLEEN ZAMMIT


Colleen Zammit, who lives in Beverly Hills, has an environmental policy and behavior degree from University of Michigan.


District budget problems


The top concern in the district now is the massive $14.5 million deficit for this budget year, when the deficit was originally projected to be $1.5 million.


A) Board role on budget


B) Satisfied with transparency?


C) Closed door meetings on finances


D) Solving current budget problem


Our representative government only works when elected officials accept the responsibility to oversee taxpayer funds. I understand the board’s need to rely on the administration. But that cannot absolve them from their duty to question and analyze the budgets. The board bears the responsibility for the current problems. I am not satisfied with explanations given for the deficit and call on the board to be more transparent. While some aspects of budget development do require closed session, the board owes the community more public discussion than it has provided. Our board bears a special responsibility to educate themselves on all aspects of our budget, solicit community feedback and ask hard questions during its development. I commend the administration for trying to find short- and long-term solutions to our predicament. When I attended a listening session with other community members, we presented solid ideas to help our district recover. These included expanding our early childhood offerings, trying harder to bring back families, and performing a facilities review so we can adequately plan for changes we may have to make.


Pandemic problem in the district


I am so grateful for the dedication all my kids’ teachers have shown over the years. My dissatisfaction with district pandemic policies does not take away from that. That said, I was deeply disturbed by the abrupt decision to start the 2020-21 school year virtually. This decision was not supported by the Health Advisory Board. Research and real-world evidence supported full-time in-person school with minimal mitigation measures. Because of state, county and district decisions our kids lost ground. I believe our district recognizes this and wants to help. But it was an avoidable problem. Regardless, I will work closely with Administration to establish systems to help our kids recover academically. This would include targeted interventions in school, after-school and weekend tutoring, and more. Heavy parent involvement and commitment will be a key component to help our kids recover. As a Board trustee I will work hard to recruit parents to assist in our efforts.


Parental role in curriculum decisions


Michigan merit curriculum law requires completion of a minimum set of credits to obtain a diploma. But it does give flexibility to the board to require additional credits to graduate and to choose curricula and establish systems to support our students. My immediate goal is to advocate for a change in our board governance model to one that is more collaborative with the community. With such changes, the board will better represent and serve their constituents. The board must make sure that parents and community members are their top priority, and by extension, the children in this district. Parental rights go hand in hand with parental responsibility to be engaged and work through their elected representatives when advocating for change. Parents must be willing to partner with teachers to help their students, not just expect teachers to solve problems. If these two things are done our district functions properly and our children benefit.


Student safety


I had been satisfied with our efforts to ensure student and staff safety. But I’ve come to realize that we should do more. Our district recently completed a security audit and is negotiating to hire our two part-time school resource officers full-time. We are also hiring a new safety director to oversee all 14 schools. I want to see the details, but I would almost certainly support these changes as a board trustee. The Birmingham Police Department provides our ALICE protocol training, nationally recognized as one of the best protocols used in response to violent critical incidents. These efforts, as well as a hard look at our finances to determine where we can reallocate dollars towards more staff training to recognize threats and potential perpetrators (including at-risk students), are critically important. In addition, our teachers need increased authority to discipline for behavioral problems in class, which leads to increased student learning and safety.


What are your top goals if elected


First, I want to restore the board to its legal role of responsibility and oversight of district operations, and change our governance model to one that is more collaborative. Upholding parental rights – and their corresponding parental responsibilities – will restore the needed trust between the board, administration and community. Second, I will actively engage in curriculum review and selection. I will always seek out and respect the expertise of our administration and staff. But the responsibility for curriculum lies with the board under law and cannot be deferred to anyone else. I will never abdicate this responsibility and will therefore do independent research to guide me in curriculum decisions. Third, the community has every right to expect the district to operate within the confines of its finite resources. I will advocate for increased board involvement in the budget process and for rebuilding our general fund to ensure we have enough money to fund district operations for at least eight weeks.

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