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Get Involved in Rochester Schools' Future Tonight

The Rochester Board of Education will interview candidates for an open board position, and the Oakland Schools superintendent will speak to the community about pending schools legislation.

Three events today invite the Rochester community to get involved in what's happening in the schools.

School reform legislation meeting

At 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., Vickie Markavitch, superintendent of Oakland Schools, will speak at Rochester High School about pending education reform legislation that is being debated in the state Legislature. 

Supporters argue underperforming schools and achievement gaps necessitate the reforms, which they say would make students more competitive when they enter college or the work force.

But opponents say the measures are moving too quickly, do not provide proper regulations for new schools and would strip communities of control over their local districts and instead put the power in the hands of corporations and the state.

Here's a closer look at the proposals. 

School board candidate interviews

Fifteen candidates have applied for an open seat on the Rochester Board of Education.

The public is invited on Monday to meet them during an informal meet-and-greet from 6-6:45 p.m. at the School Administration Building.

The board will then interview the candidates formally during a public meeting beginning at 7. After the interviews, the public will have an opportunity to voice their opinions on the candidates before board members decide on finalists for the position.

For more on the board vacancy and the candidates, see 15 Apply for Open Rochester School Board Seat.

Will you attend the meetings? Tell us in the comments.

Dorothy December 04, 2012 at 01:25 PM
I went to the meeting last night. Dr. Markavitch presented data that showed the move to privatize our schools and redistribute taxpayer money for the power grab that it is. This is non-partisan and corporate. It is about vouchers, earnings, and privatizing education just as they privatized our military and want to privatize Social Security and Medicare. It isn't about choice or improving education, it is about earnings and not learning. First you demonize it, then you take the money. This legislation permits private for-profit schools to cream low-cost students leaving high cost students in public schools with even less money to pay for the mandates Lansing put on them. Property values will tank. Children will no longer be entitled to a quality public education by law, they will be entitled to a voucher instead. Parents better hope their voucher covers the cost of tuition for a quality education because the difference will come out of their pockets. Today, now, is the time to make your voices heard. Tell them no and to leave our schools alone.
Joshua Raymond December 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I went to the 4:00 session yesterday and found a few claims quite disturbing. First, Dr. Markavitch said that the American Federation for Children stated in their mission statement that they want to defund public education. You can read their mission statement at http://www.federationforchildren.org/mission. It does not contain that. The statement she referenced is from their detractors. Second, she is claiming that HB 5923 would allow the establishment of schools that could discriminate based on race, color, national origin, gender, or any other characteristic other than religion. HB 5923 explicitly states "This section does not authorize a separate school, class, program, or department on account of race, color, national origin, or any other prohibited category except gender, and only as limited by this section." Third, when talking about selective schools of choice, she said that this would allow charter schools to pick and choose students, which public schools cannot. However, public magnet schools, such as Cass Tech, the International Academy, and Livonia's Webster Elementary are able to selectively enroll students.
Joshua Raymond December 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I also found quite disturbing when she talked about the distribution of funding. She referenced an example elementary student who is breezing through school and may only need $4500 of the estimated average $10,000 - $12,000 per pupil spending in Michigan. These students breezing through school are the gifted and talented students that most districts are saying they can't afford to educate on their academic level. Of course they can't! She just admitted that they are taking the funding for those students and redirecting it! One student she referenced as someone using more than the allocation was a student in many extracurricular activities. As G/T advocates, we aren't pressing for more extracurriculars, but the curriculars - the essential core of the school day when ALL children are to be educated. It is appalling that money intended for the school day would be taken and used for non-core services outside the school day.
Joshua Raymond December 04, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I realize she is concerned about the health of our public schools. I am too. She and I have very different tactics though. She wants to shut out competition through negative campaigning. I want embrace competition from strength. Is she worried that students will leave our public schools for charter schools? Make our schools better! Would certain populations want to head to charter schools to have needs met? Meet their needs in our schools! Will some parents want their entire funding allowance spent on their children? Do not spend a dime on extracurriculars until the academic needs of EVERY student are met. Dr. Markavitch may mobilize many parents and educators, but the legislature knows that 70% support charter schools (Gallup). These bills will most likely pass in one form or another. The question that remains is "What will our response be?" Instead of holding meetings against these bills, hold meetings of parents on what needs are not being met and meetings of parents and educators on how these needs can be met in our public schools. Then commit to meeting these needs - not because they are scared of charter and cyber schools, but because it is the right thing to do for our students!
Mike Reno December 04, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Yeah, it was very easy for her to present her "information" in such an unchallenged way. If she really wanted to inform, then she would've had some sort of panel, where her comments could be put in perspective. For example, she makes up her own numbers about the number of college freshman requiring remediation, and pegs it at 22%. She then brushes that off, saying it is mostly middle-aged people going back to college, who need refresher courses on Algebra. She offers some Bill Moyer (press secretary for Lyndon Johnson) PBS hit piece video on cyber schools. Notes how they are making hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet skips one little detail... EVERY SINGLE STUDENT TAKING ONE OF THE ONLINE CLASSES IS DOING SO VOLUNTARILY. People WANT this stuff. She assigns motive to the movement, without ONE SCRAP of evidence. It is 100% conjecture on her part, yet she recklessly offers it as if it fact. Reverend Markavitch was preaching to the choir last night, but her data is debatable at best, and skewed at worst. There is a fundament problem with her one-sided approach. She gets plenty of whoops from the audiences that agree with her. But those that don’t agree with her will tune her out because she is not being fair and balanced in her approach. There are legitimate reasons to opposed this legislation. She should be educating people with those reasons, not alarming them with hysteria.
Dorothy December 04, 2012 at 10:49 PM
Here is Snyder's corporate vision of our children's schools once he gets done privatizing them: 1 in 4 teachers at Muskegon Heights schools quit during first 3 months of school year http://michiganradio.org/post/1-4-teachers-muskegon-heights-schools-quit-during-first-3-months-school-year Over the summer Muskegon Heights schools’ then emergency manager laid off everybody who worked at the district and hired Mosaica Education to run operations for 5 years. Muskegon Heights has some of the lowest performing schools in Michigan and is dealing with a multi-million dollar deficit. The state appointed manager says he had no other option but to privatize operations. Three months in, one in four (20 of 80 total) of the newly hired teachers has quit. “It’s confusing because I go from this learning process to this learning process to that learning process and it’s just ridiculous how some teachers leave and we have to start all over and learn something new,” Muskegon Heights High School senior Tony Harris said, “It’s just, it’s crazy.”
Dorothy December 04, 2012 at 11:02 PM
You mean like the panel Snyder put together to get input? Snyder is arrogant and ignorant. He thinks he's smarter and better than everybody else because he was a CEO. The move by Snyder, McMillin and the rest of the Tea Partiers in Lansing to corporatize our schools is nothing more than big government overreach and a power grab. First you demonize it and then you take the money. Here's Snyder's next corporate welfare program courtesy of us Michigan taxpayers. If the "job creators" are so damned good, why don't they pay for their investments? Ilitch proposes $650 million new downtown arena, entertainment district
Dorothy December 04, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Competition? 9x out of 10, public sector can outperform private industry anyday; but you need a level playing field. You going to give the public schools a five year budget? How about venture capital? Are you going to deregulate them, or do they have to still comply with all of the mandates - funded and unfunded. Without a level playing field, you lose because you don't have the MONEY to do a good job. This political tactic is as old as the hills. First your demonize it, then you take the money. You slowly defund an agency or a program until it shuts it own doors. And you want to be our Superintendent? You got a link to Gallup? I think Gallup predicted a Romney win by a landslide. 70% do not support charter schools, and private for profits that don't have to follow the same rules are NOT charters.
mark December 05, 2012 at 03:50 AM
I would like more information that 70% of parents surveyed by Gallup support charter schools. It would be great if I could have a direct link to this specific data. It seems like a very large percentage to be throwing out there. Dr. Markavitch did mention at the 6:30 meeting that a panel forum my be the way to obtain more information on this legislation. The biggest concern is the way that this legislation is being pushed through and with no substantial data to back it up. Research shows that it takes 3 to 5 years to analyze and collect enough data to evaluate if any kind of change, for better or worse, is legitimate. The EEA has only been opreating for less than for months. There is no data saying if it is working or not working. It's more than coincidence that this legislation comes rolling around after Prop. 2 fails. Imagine this legislation goes through, 3 to 6 years from now, the Michigan Super District will be a national tragedy and business will look to locate in a State that values its educational system. Citizens that care about our children will be elected into the Michigan Legislation and the process of rebuilding our schools will take place. Students needs will come first, parents and local community will regain control, and people will realize that teaching is a profession that demands respect. We all want what is best for kids, Political agendas will never produce quality students. Schools built from the foundation of the community they serve do.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 03:57 AM
The article from the Huffington Post citing the Gallup Poll is at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/07/public-charter-school-mov_n_1865151.html
Mike Reno December 05, 2012 at 04:44 AM
She offhandedly offered a weak "maybe" after the idea of a panel was mentioned twice. Next year. After she has concluded her first "The Sky is Falling" tour, potentially frightening parents and whipping up her troops and sufficiently poisoning the well. But as former state superintendent Tom Watkins recently noted, we might only have 3 months of data on the EAA and don't know for sure that it will work, but we have decades of data on the current system and we KNOW it does NOT work. (And despite Markavitch's sinister plot theory, I am referring to the very public proclamation that the EAA is there to address the bottom 5%)
mark December 05, 2012 at 05:09 AM
Thanks Joshua. The survey from Gallup polled 1,002 Americans 18 years and older. The most recent was May and June of 2012, which was a poll taken by telephone. Table 39 of the Gallup poll asked,"Do you favor or oppose the idea of charter schools. Results from the 2012 poll were 66% favored, 30% opposed, 4% didn't know or refused. It is very interesting survey to read and I hope more people go to the Gallup site to read it. In 2012 the number one issue of people surveyed in the 2012 Gallup poll was, "Lack of funding for our schools". This present legislation wants to add new schools with the same amount of funding. The pie is only so big and it seems Lansing wants to be disproportionate with it's slices. The Gallup poll showed huge support for it's teachers, but graded the schools lower. Parents and schools working together is the real answer. As a collective whole we can let Lansing know it's the community that builds our schools and schools help build our community. Remember K-12 Inc. and Connections are "For Profit" companies. Keyword is "Profit", not students and not community. I did e-mail Representive Tom McMillin and invited him to attend either or both meetings and never received a reply. I had hoped he would of informed his constituents on this important legislation. He may have been busy talking to a barber in the U.P.
Barb Anness December 05, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I've contacted Rep. McMillin's office numerous times and gotten no response from his office regarding all of this legislation. Rep McMillin should have been at those parent meetings but I'm not surprised he wasn't there because he would have been in the minority with his views on all of this reform. I can also tell you from my personal observations in two recent House Ed. committee meetings that it's clearly evident how our Rep. will be voting on this education legislation and it hasn't been influenced by his constituents input. Why the rush to pass this "reform" which is skewed and unproven? I'm not saying change and choice aren't a good thing but let local communities have input in how that change and choice is formed. Make sure that change is fair and balanced giving current public education a chance to be competitive too. And regarding for-profit schools, here's a suggestion: if using public money and they make a profit then keep the profits in MI and put it back in the education pot for ALL kids to benefit.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Dorothy, if "9x out of 10, public sector can outperform private industry anyday", why has our school district had to outsource maintenance, transportation, and food service to save money? Private companies are supplying similar services for substantially reduced costs. However, both traditional public schools and charter schools are in the public sector. Neither one is private, but both contract services from private companies. I don't necessarily believe that one is better than the other, but I do believe there needs to be competition and choice to provide the best options. I believe public schools have a mandate to educate every child, but if they cannot or will not appropriately educate a child - as determined by the parents, that student should be allowed to attend a school that will at the public's expense. There is a need and a market for charter schools. I am not demonizing public schools. I happen to think that the ones we have are very good, but like every organization or corporation, need to improve in some areas. I applied for the Board of Education, not superintendent, to help proactively lead that improvement instead of having us dragged into improvement. What areas do you see as being an unlevel playing field tilted in favor of charter schools?
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Mark, thank you for the respectful dialogue. I very much like when we can discuss the issues as opposed to those who attack participants. You are right that the pie is only so big. However, with the number of students remaining the same, the per pupil funding also remains the same. Will public schools have less funding? Perhaps. But that is only if they also have fewer students. That means they also won't have to spend as much. In applying to be on the Board of Education, I suggested that we try to attract back the 17% of students that live in our district that don't attend our schools. To do that, we need to earnestly consider what needs our schools are not meeting that causes parents to expend considerable money or time to send their children to private schools or home school them. We then need to then act to meet these needs in our schools. RCS has a choice: compete or lose students. I wanted to help them compete through strength, not bemoan the "unfairness" of this legislation. Whining and puling gets us nowhere except a reputation as being too weak to compete.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 03:24 PM
I understand that many don't like the concept of profit in education. However, to me, it comes down to results. If education were simplified down to a pizza, I don't care if Little Caesar's spends $4.95 to make a $5 pizza and Domino's only spends $2.50. I care about which I prefer as a consumer. I also don't care if Little Caesar's spends $2 on supplies, $2 on employees and $1 on management and Domino's spends $1.50 on supplies, $1.50 on employees and $2 on management. I'm consuming the output, not the corporate decisions. It doesn't matter to me how cyber and charter schools spend their money if the results are better. And just like a pizzeria, consumers will make their choices even if the "experts" say differently. Since you appear to enjoy data in the way I do, I suggest reading the Stanford CREDO report at http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/MULTIPLE_CHOICE_CREDO.pdf. The results are very mixed. There are charters doing very well and charters that are failing. Some types of students are more successful in charters than others. Charters in some states have +.07 standard deviations in learning growth. In other states it is -.06 standard deviations. The first year in a charter, students typically fall behind a traditional public school student, but by the third year, their growth is ahead.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 03:41 PM
The biggest mistake I see traditional public schools making in this is trying to kill entire bills instead of seeking to tweak these bills. They've left the table to stand at the fringes and yell. Dr. Markavitch essentially said that they have lost their influence when she told educators to not say they were teachers or school board members when they write to Lansing, but say they were parents and community members. The bills will be affected by those who will work with legislators to improve them, not those who try to kill them. Look at what is happening in Lansing right now. The unions were concerned about right to work legislation and didn't like the laws that were being written about tenure, contributing to health care premiums, and other mandates. So they went against the current legislature and will of the people to try to enact Proposal 2. This was a monumentally ineffective tactic and backfired horribly on them. Now the legislature is talking about enacting right to work legislation immediately. The unions have this time chosen a much wiser tactic and are suggesting compromises and improvements to prevent this from being passed. I think they will be effective, even though they have to give up something and make improvements. The public schools should learn from this. Recognize that some law is going through. Decide what they believe would be damaging to public schools and trade to get alternative legislation in instead. Sit at the table, don't leave.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Barb, I think Rep. McMillin would be interested in coming to a PARENT meeting DISCUSSING this issue. I doubt he has much desire to come to pep rally with an audience that is mostly educators, particularly with the nasty reception he is often given at events. I don't think you should assume that he isn't listening to constituents. Parties supporting these bills may not be having pep rallies, but quietly writing their legislators and reminding them that there is significant support for school choice. I think there could be some legitimate capping of profit and salaries for charter and cyber schools. If public schools stay at the table, they could suggest that. If a cyber school only needs $3000 to educate a student, they could either return the excess funds or spend the remainder on improving education. If by increasing the amount spent to traditional public school levels, they could increase growth to 1.5 years for each year enrolled, wouldn't that be a good way to spend public money?
mark December 05, 2012 at 04:31 PM
If there is pizza at the table, I'm there! Looking at the pizza analogy is rather interesting. I do care about who is making my pizza (teaching my children) If you don't pay your employees (teachers) what they are worth, you may not get an employee who is not concerned about the pizza (students, curriculum, etc.) and your employee turnover rate ( people leaving the teaching profession. Early retirements due to frustrations and attacks on the public education) is alarming. But if you pay them a fair and equal wage (union bargining rights) the pizza taste better and experienced pizza makers can teach new employees. Don't close the pizzeria (under fund public schools). Work on creating an atmosphere where the pizza taste great (student performance), the employees come on time, work hard, and wash their hands before they make the pizza ( paying teachers for what they are worth, respecting the amount of time and money they put into furthering their education, and their knowledge of the profession they are dedicated too!) If the employees see a better way to make the pizza( teachers and community) I would hope management would listen (Lansing). Paying any person for what they are worth helps the community in many ways, from revenue collected on goods that they can purchase to infusing the economy to allowing more businesses to hire people. They haven't found the cure for cancer,AIDS, and other terrible things. We don't get rids the doctors we invest more in research.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 07:46 PM
There are definitely areas that need to be regulated at a pizzeria, such as safety and cleanliness, but do you really care if a three-star chef or a teenager is making the pizza if you like the teen's pizza better? Do you go to the first pizzeria and suggest that they raise prices so they can hire a four-star chef? What if a pizzeria makes phenomenal traditional pizzas, but you need gluten-free or want thin crust or pesto sauce? Do you stay at the first pizzeria even when they won't make gluten-free, thin crust, or pesto sauce pizzas? You may value that the pizzeria you go to has higher paid employees and lower turnover, but others may like the wider menu options and more responsive management and staff. Do you insist that everyone go to your favorite pizzeria or try to pass laws preventing new pizzerias from opening in town? Would it be fair if the town passed a law using tax money to give free slices at one pizzeria but not at any other? This chain of pizzerias may have some great stores and some lousy stores. People living near some locations may just want a different pizzeria with good pizza. They've been paying the same price as at the pizza chain's good stores, but the pizza just isn't the same quality. Maybe the pizzeria manager told them that they can have the same quality as the good stores in the chain, but they just have to pay more for it.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 07:47 PM
People in other areas may want a different pizza store too. They like their local pizzeria, but they don't like that every pizza there is a medium (no gifted education) or that double pepperoni (STEM education) or fingerling potatoes (tactile learning) isn't an option. Maybe they want home delivery (cyber schools) or a pizzeria open late at night (year around schooling). Perhaps they want kosher pizza (International Baccalaureate) or make your own pizza (Montessori). What do they do if their local pizzeria doesn't offer it and management (BOE) won't make changes? Many people would like to stay with the local pizzeria with its reputation for quality and have them increase their menu (educational options), but if another pizzeria opens that provides what they want, they will start frequenting the new pizzeria, perhaps even if the quality (test scores) is slightly lower, but the choices (educational options) are in line with their desires. The original pizzeria will have less income, but they'll also be making fewer pizzas and have less costs. Maybe the original pizzeria will start offering delivery (VLAC) or other menu options (magnet schools) to compete with the new pizzeria, but some customers will wonder why these options weren't offered when they were the only pizzeria in town. They may decide to switch anyway to the pizzeria that saw a need and met it instead of only meeting the need to retain customers.
Joshua Raymond December 05, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Competing pizzerias can be really great for customers, but the original pizzeria will never be happy about it. Everyone wants to maximize business and competition makes that harder. (I would have posted this sooner, but I got hungry while writing it.)
mark December 05, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Pizza jacked the blog!
mark December 05, 2012 at 09:59 PM
I have gone to some of Representative McMillin's Town Hall meetings, a few times. He can be rude and condescending if you are in disagreement with him. I have seen how he votes and have heard his right-wing radical feelings about certain lifestyles. I know many people may not agree with me, but he is the type of politican we have to very concerned about. An elected offical should be careful of ignoring the citizens he represents and should be able to stand the heat, even if it's a particularly hot kitchen. I will never support anyone that cannot stand-up in front of the people they represent and explain what they base their decisions on. Anyone from any party who is an elected offical has to have the fortitude to face their constituents and respect their opinion.
Barb Anness December 05, 2012 at 10:20 PM
There's no assumption necessary regarding McMillin not listening to his constituents. I've sent him several emails, he doesn't respond. I'm a constituent. Regardless of whether he agrees with my viewpoint or not, as an elected public official my inquiry should be acknowledged so I know that he's at least received my concerns on the issue. Oh, and that's why he has a paid staff too right? And as one of his constituents, I saw and heard first hand his very condescending questioning of a person making public comment against HB 6004. He made his position very clear on how he plans to vote on these education bills. I would love to see the public comment stats (pro and con for all of these education reform bills) on this issue that Rep. McMillin's office has received. Maybe I'll email him AGAIN and request that information......
John December 06, 2012 at 12:15 AM
McMillin discussing an issue. That's a good one.He despises public schools because he is funded by FOR PROFIT charters that are open to the public (he would never say that). My favorite memory of McMillin at a PTA meeting was when he told the audience that Michigan was getting back to home schooling. A woman told him that wasn't an option for her since she worked. Tom replied that many women would have to make sacrifices.
Dorothy December 06, 2012 at 02:20 PM
As I said, Gallup predicted a Romney win by a mile. When all the polls were compared to see which did the best, Gallup was in the bottom of the pile. Maybe we should nationalize to see if it can do better.
Dorothy December 06, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Mr. Raymond. Kids are not pizza's. They are people. I do not want my child to be a commodity for stockholders and their bottom line. When they decide the state doesn't pay them enough and they need to cut costs, it will be on the backs of the children and the teachers and not the CEO or stock holders. Hmm, sounds just like Lansing's technique with our kids. If you have failing schools, run by EMs I might add, just take money from our schools and give it to them. Snyder has been in office over two years, and his Chairman of the Board style of governing has done nothing for the kids and people of this state. Illitch thanks him. Dan Gilbert thanks him. Schools, unions, parents and grandparents will thank him in November 2014.

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