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BLOOMFIELD HILLS SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION

Four-year terms terms, Non-partisan, Vote for four


JIM BAKER


Jim Baker of Bloomfield Hills is an attorney with Sterling Employment Law. He received his undergraduate degree in political science at Michigan State University and his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He is involved in National Employment Law Association/ Michigan Employment Law Association, National Association for Justice/Michigan Association for Justice, Michigan Bar Association and Marine Corps League.


Board responsibilities


In the last few years, there has been significant turnover of trustees of the school board and the schools' administration, as well as the removal of past president of the board, Paul Kolin, for actions he took independent of the board, although he remained a board member and is running for re-election. Is the role of a school board member to provide support for the school's administration, to provide leadership of the administration, and its efforts, to represent parents or the community, or to act independently of the school administration? Is it important to act as one, or as a unified voice? Should board members respond directly to parents' concerns or criticism of administrative or staff actions, or should they refer them to the administration? Please explain your point of view in detail.


Our position is “Trustee.” That word means we are entrusted to make decisions for our students and families. Doing our best includes working toward a consensus, but does not mean giving up on a firmly held belief or position. In the end, though, after debate has been had and is ended, we must act with one voice for the betterment of our district. We must be the leaders to end the division that is forcing us apart.


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.


We all did the best we could under the circumstances at the time. I do not believe virtual learning serves the whole of the student’s education. It was necessary then, but there are failings that need to be addressed. We need to identify those students at risk academically and emotionally, and focus in-school and after-school services on those students and their families, while maintaining the highest level of education services to the whole of our student body.


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?


I believe local elected officials are chosen to be the voices of their constituents. When elected I will listen to all parents, make decisions with all views in mind, and at the end of the day, those decisions will be made in ways that best serve our students. We need to inform the public on what is and is not being taught. We need to quiet the divisive rhetoric. I propose holding public forums to discuss and debate topics surrounding curriculum, with a focus on speaking truth to what is being taught in the halls of our amazing schools.


Student safety


There was a terrible scare a couple years ago at Bloomfield Hills High School. Many students didn't know where to go, and ran to neighboring stores and restaurants for safety and to call their parents and police Do you feel evacuation plans were sufficient? What can/has been done to improve them? 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?


We must be prepared for violence to happen here. That is my reality as a district parent of three. We must focus on proactively identifying warning signs leading to school violence. Our schools are afraid of liability, they hesitate to act on warnings signs when intervention is necessary. We are too reactionary. We need to listen to our students and teachers, encourage them to talk with confidence their words will be heard and they will be protected. I do not believe in arming our teachers. We need to be vigilant, keep our eyes open, and be ready to act at the first suggestion something is amiss. What we do first impacts/changes the final outcome. And now as our state is operating in a budget surplus, our schools must demand more financial assistance from government to protect our most valuable commodities: our children.


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?


My goal is the S.E.R.V.E. Support our teachers and administrators by pursuing increased funding opportunities. Encourage all students to fully participate in their education experiences. Respect every voice, while working to end the division that exists in our district. Value our students, teachers, administrators, parents, and families by showing we are an inclusive education community. Engage parents and family members to be actively involved their student’s academic lives, and in the life of their student’s school.


LINDSAY G. BAKER


Lindsay Baker of Bloomfield Township, is a senior economist with Ford Motor Company. She received an economics degree from Princeton University, and masters and PhD in economics from University of Michigan.


Board responsibilities


The role of a school board member is to work with the other members to set the goals for the district and hold the superintendent accountable for delivering on those goals. School board members are elected to represent the community and parents to ensure that the district delivers on its objectives and is a responsible steward of taxpayer funds. School board members cannot set policy unilaterally, so must act together; at the same time, board members are elected individually and should share their individual voice in policy discussions. Respectful dialogue and deliberation are essential to developing sound policies. Board members are not always aware of every situation in the district, so, as representatives of the community, it is critical that board members listen to community member concerns, including parents, to learn where the problems are and where the district may be falling short on expectations.


Pandemic problem in the district


It is easy to be critical of past actions with the benefit of hindsight. Rather than focus on the past, I believe it is important for us to find the best way forward given the challenges now facing our district. Students lost academic, socialization, and enrichment opportunities over the past 2.5 years, but the impact has not been uniform. Gaps have widened, with some students excelling despite the learning disruptions and others falling behind. We should be using test and teacher assessment data collected during the year to target our interventions, such as summer school and tutoring programs, to reach those most behind while at the same time ensuring other students are not left to stagnate while they wait for their peers to catch up. We have the data and resources available to ensure that all students reach their potential.


Parental role in curriculum decisions


Parents play an active role in their children’s education, helping with projects, homework, and preparing for tests. With this in mind, parents should be aware and know what materials and curriculum are being shown and taught to their children. In fact, this is already part of state law and BHS has committees and public meetings that rely on parent input, among other things, to determine curriculum. I support increased transparency and engagement, so that parents are better informed of materials and curriculum in advance of it being used in the classroom. I also would like to see more of our resources being put toward instruction, as this would allow the district to deliver a more differentiated learning experience to meet the needs of all learners. Our goal with any educational reform should be to improve the outcomes for our students and make BHS the premier district in Michigan.


Student safety


With the recent school shootings around the country as well as close to home, safety and security needs to be a top priority for the district. With new legislation in Michigan funding school safety assessments along with our bond construction, the district has the resources and opportunity to assure that our schools are safe. I would look to school safety experts to inform and recommend improvements to our evacuation plans, teacher, staff, and student preparation, and the appropriate number of security guards and police liaison officers. Additionally, I support more attention and resources devoted to proven methods that identify and help students experiencing mental health crises and at risk of committing school violence.


What are your top goals if elected


My top goals as a school board member are to work with my fellow board members to make education first, assure safety, and ensure that the district resources are used responsibly and effectively. By making education first, I mean board discussions and decisions should tie back to the fundamental goal of improving educational outcomes for our children. Assuring safety means learning from our own and other incidents and reevaluating our plans as needed to ensure that our students, teachers, and staff are prepared and protected. As a member of the board, I will be focused on evaluating all financial decisions, including management of the bond, from a perspective of fiscal responsibility and educational impact. I am eager to leverage my expertise as a professional economist with extensive experience in policy and data analysis, forecasting, and financial planning to inform board decision-making.


SANDEEP CHADA


Sandeep Chada of Bloomfield Township is the dean of The Goddard School of Rochester Hills. He has a bachelors degree in biopsychology from University of Michigan and a masters degree in neuroscience from Michigan State University. He is active with Bloomfield Rotary and Rochester Hills Chamber of Commerce.


Board responsibilities


My opinion is that Mr. Kolin acted in a manner that is not helpful to the BH School Community. The responsibility of the board member is to work as a team with the other board members and try to come up with a consensus opinion that is in line with best practices. Individual board members should not be working independently. The role of the school board is to support the school’s administration and provide a vision of the school district. Any individual concerns should be directed to the administration and if needs should be addressed by the board as a whole. The board of education should be on the news for student and teacher accomplishments, not these types of acts. I feel that the focus on the students and their needs was lost during this critical time.