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School Leaders Hoping for Update, Feedback During Forum Tonight

Sen. Jim Marleau and Rep. Tom McMillin expected to attend.

Rochester Community Schools will look to state lawmakers tonight for an update on how this year's state budget will affect the district's 14,800 students.

The Board of Education invited Sen. Jim Marleau and Rep. Tom McMillin, the Republicans who represent Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township, to a public forum on school budget issues tonight.

The begins at 6:30 p.m. in the Harrison Room of the school Administration Building. It is expected to last about an hour; the regular board meeting will follow.

"We are really looking forward to hearing what they have to say about public education, proposed funding changes and new legislation," said Barb Cenko, the board's president.

"We're hoping a large number of community members will come out and offer comments and suggestions."

Gov. Rick Snyder said last week he had reached a deal with Democratic lawmakers that would lessen the cuts he had originally proposed to K-12 education programs. But still — a loss of federal grant money that saved teacher jobs over the past two years, along with some cuts in state funding, are contributing to an expected shortfall of almost $17 million for Rochester schools. The state budget bill is in a conference committee; the governor's office has said it will be approved by the end of May, in time for the school district's June 30 deadline.

Tonight's forum will include a presentation on where things stand with Rochester Schools' 2011-12 budget. To alleviate the anticipated shortfall, the district is looking at using $13.9 million from the district's $30 million fund balance, in addition to making $3 million in proposed reductions.

The proposed reductions include:

  • A 5 percent across-the-board reduction in school building and department budgets.
  • The elimination of media assistants in all buildings.
  • A reduction in paraeducators.
  • The elimination of two part-time high school dean positions.
  • 50 percent reductions in the school bus replacement, infrastructure maintenance and instructional furniture replacement programs.
  • A 10 percent reduction in the district's subsidy of athletics.

School atheletic directors are expected to bring specifics of the atheletic program cuts to tonight's board meeting. Right now, the district's pay-to-play fee for high schoolers is $185 per sport; for middle schoolers, that fee is $85 per sport. A proposed increase of $10 for high schoolers and $15 for middle schoolers will be discussed as an option.

But even with these cutbacks and even if the district borrows from its fund balance, the district's future financial stability has been questioned, repeatedly, by some parents and members of the community. Jeremy Nielson is one such critic, and he plans to speak to board members again Monday night.

"We need to stop hoping things get better – don't lock us into a path that will hurt our kids' educational opportunities next year," said Nielson.

Cenko said that she specifically wants to hear from Marleau and McMillin about the long-term forecasts for education spending in Michigan so the board can determine how the future years will look for Rochester.

"Is the problem we're facing short-term, or are we looking at (the funding cuts) being a repeat problem year after year?" Cenko said. "I am hoping to hear that there will be an upside to all of this."

Tonight's forum: What to know

  • The forum will begin with a brief presentation from assistant superintendent for finance William Mull; he will detail the latest budget forecasts. 
  • McMillin and Marleau will have 10 minutes apiece to speak.
  • Members of the audience will be invited to ask questions of Marleau and McMillin, in writing, on cards. Debbi Hartman, the district's community relations director, will read the cards and ask questions of the lawmakers.
  • The forum will be followed by the board's regular meeting. The budget will be a main focus.
Joshua Raymond June 10, 2011 at 01:58 PM
Kristen, I've already said my agenda is at http://RochesterSAGE.wordpress.com. I have one child in the elementary and another entering next year. Other 'usual suspects' have also said they have or will have children in the district. I know you have children in our district, so I can understand your interest in improving our district. We are all trying to improve our district even if our beliefs on how to help are different. I think it is a legitimate question for Jon and Unbelievable. Neither has provided suggestions on how to improve the district or what should be done to help with this budget crisis. They are just shooting people lowering lifeboats on the other side of the ship. I don't care if their suggestions are liberal or conservative, but they should make suggestions and they should be open about why they make suggestions. If they are union members trying to retain their pay and benefits, they should state that. No one likes a cut in pay. They haven't stated their relationships to the district, so their motives are questionable. We don't need people around just stirring the pot. We need all of us to work together to come up with solutions.
Clara T June 10, 2011 at 02:01 PM
THANK YOU West Bloomfield Teachers For Stepping Up to Put Kids & Communities First! In View of Bleak Economic Forecast, WB Teachers Accept Pay Cuts, Tenure Changes and Health Care Cost Increases http://www.theoaklandpress.com/articles/2011/06/10/news/doc4df0f98c3bc14816426192.txt?viewmode=fullstory "The contract is expected to save the West Bloomfield School District more than $2.1 million in 2011-2012 and nearly $3.8 million the following school year but will not necessarily eliminate the need for a small number of layoffs, said Rick Arnett, the district’s assistant superintendent for human resources and labor relations. “There’s recognition that the school district is facing large deficits and the future funding outlook is not bright,” Arnett said. “This is something that needed to be done. We’re thankful that teachers stepped up and agreed to these concessions.” West Bloomfield teachers will now contribute anywhere from $60 to $100 per month toward their healthcare coverage under a new carrier, Arnett said. There will also be higher deductibles. Teachers agreed to a 5 percent pay cut in the 2011-2012 school year and another 7.5 percent cut in the 2012-2013 school year. The salary schedule has changed so that it will take longer for teachers to reach high levels of tenure as well, Arnett said. “That essentially defers how long it takes someone to get to the top of the pay scale,” he said.
Janet June 10, 2011 at 02:02 PM
Kristen, Tone can be very hard to interpret in these posts. I reread your original post and saw that it could be taken in a calm way, even though my orginal reaction was similar to MJ's, in that I also thought you might be "angry." (I didn't get to read MJ's full reply since it has been deleted.) Many of us don't know each other so it's hard not to bring our own baggage when reading the comments. Just something for the readers and the posters to think about - that how the comment was intended and how it's being interpreted may be different. (Writes Janet with light-hearted sincerity, not looking for a fight.)
Kristen June 10, 2011 at 02:13 PM
I know you have Joshua....as I haven't made it a secret what my 'stake' in it is .....and Jon's identity also isn't a secret. But I think it is scary to make someone have to answer the questions MJ was asking(now apears to be deleted) when posting their opinion. I have all too often seen someone's opinion written off because they were a teacher (even though they also lived in the city). I have also seen people written off from the right. My stance isn't a left/right issue. Jon isn't running for office, he has an opinion and has the right to express it divulging as much or as little about himself as he chooses. I think if he was running for office, that would be different. But because we don't know his 'stake'....I prefer that to agenda, does he not have something to offer.?Well, I get something from it. And while I don't agree with you, Mike or Jeremy....I get something from your posts. I just don't think one person should be targeted to find out what their stake is. And I am surprised you are ok with that. " they should be open about why they make suggestions".....really? I don't think people have to explain what their stake in the district is. So, when Kwame was acting like a moron in Detroit I couldn't voice my opinion because I wasn't a citizen in Detroit? His actions had a direct affect on the surrounding areas even though he wasn't my mayor. I welcome smart people to the discussion, no matter where they come from. It is part of being open to hearing others.
Kristen June 10, 2011 at 02:22 PM
I hear you and agree that tone is hard to discern in an email or post. But I think this is a testament to how we often look for the worst in others instead of the best. Funny thing was I chose my words very carefully....I own my own business and communicate by email almost exclusively and am well trained in the art email-speak....lol. But that aside....what if I was angry....that's ok too. I wasn't disrespectful. I am ok with people being angry as long as they are respectful. These exchanges will now be more confusing with the deleted posts... more for others to interpret. ;)
123 June 10, 2011 at 02:27 PM
Jeremy, there is a picture of you shaking the hand of Tom McMillin - He voted for Statewide educational funding cuts. I haven't seen any pictures of any GM execs shaking Mitt Romney's hand. You are supporting a candidate that supports cutting the revenue of the organization in which you seek office. Please clarify what "I don't have to like the cuts" means. Thanks!
Joshua Raymond June 10, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Kristen, I don't deny his right to speak. I think it is just good manners to be open about one's reasons for coming to the table. And Jon appears to have good manners even if he and his posts seem to have no relation to our school district. I don't think just one person should be targeted. But most others have been open about why they care about Rochester Community Schools. Jon appears to be very passionate about being against vouchers and against McMillin & Co. but doesn't seem to post about our district even though that is the subject of the articles. Unbelievable appears to be also very passionate, but more like an attack dog is passionate. He has never stated a desire to help the district or said why he would want to. I would prefer if he would discuss the issues instead of the speakers. Who cares who knows which politician? Now, for everyone in the comment section, can we get back to the issues of the articles and how they relate to OUR DISTRICT?
Jon Awbrey June 11, 2011 at 07:00 AM
This just in … ALEC | Publicopoly http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=publicopoly At least they are starting to be a little more blatant about *some* of their agenda …
Jon Awbrey June 11, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Thank You West Bloomfield Teachers For Stepping Up To Put Kids And Communities First❢ We'll be sure to remember your Self-Sacrificing Public Spirit next year when the Sacrifice-Sharing State comes back again for more cuts and concessions in its annual round-up of Sacrificial Goats. Well, some of us will …
Jon Awbrey June 14, 2011 at 05:12 AM
The New Transparency ALEC | Education http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Education
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 01:08 AM
Here's a good update on some of the things that educators, parent activists, and others will be doing over the Summer to protect our system of democratic education from hostile takeover by corporations, ideologues, and other private interests. Frustrated Educators Aim To Build Grassroots Movement • http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2011/06/15/35activists_ep.h30.html ❝ Thousands of educators, parent activists, and others are expected to convene in the heat and humidity of Washington next month for a march protesting the current thrust of education policy in the United States, especially the strong emphasis on test-based accountability. Organizers say the effort aims to galvanize and give voice to those who believe policymakers, including U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and state governors, have gone astray in their remedies for improving American schools. ❞
Clara T June 16, 2011 at 03:03 AM
A balanced look at the standardized testing debate: http://www.brighthub.com/education/k-12/articles/16137.aspx "While standardized testing is stressful and time-consuming, it is can also be very beneficial. In the following article, some of the positive and negative factors are discussed. Standardized testing is a subject that many people feel strongly about. Most people either think that it is the best way to assess students’ abilities or it is a stress-invoking nightmare for everyone involved. However, if you step back and look at it objectively, it becomes clear that it is neither. Standardized testing has both positive and negative aspects and when used effectively can play a significant role in bettering the education of our students. The key, of course, is using the results effectively. There are some who believe strongly in either direction. In addition to the pros and cons listed below, you can read more arguments supporting standardized testing, and an argument against standardized testing.
Clara T June 16, 2011 at 03:03 AM
Positive Aspects of Standardized Testing 1) Standardized testing gives teachers guidance to help them determine what to teach students and when to teach it. The net result is less wasted instructional time and a simplified way of timeline management. 2) Standardized testing gives parents a good idea of how their children are doing as compared to students across the country and locally. This can also indicate how your local area is doing compared against the national landscape. 3) Standardized testing allows students’ progress to be tracked over the years. When students take the same type of test yearly (adjusted for grade level) it is easy to see if a student is improving, losing ground academically, or staying about the same. (For example, if a child is taking a norm-referenced test and scores in the 75th percentile in the sixth grade and the 80th percentile in the seventh grade, you can see that the child is gaining ground in school.) This helps determine how a child is doing academically. 4) Since all students in a school are taking the same test (with respect to grade level) standardized tests provide an accurate comparison across groups. (For example, this makes it easy to see how boys are performing as compared to girls in a particular school or district.) Over the years great improvements have been made with regards to test bias, which has led to more accurate assessments and comparisons.
Clara T June 16, 2011 at 03:04 AM
Negative Aspects of Standardized Testing 1) Many teachers are (unjustly) accused of teaching to the test. Most do not do this, but some feel so much pressure for their students to achieve a specific score that they do end up teaching to the test, whether they want to or not. This can make school drudgery for students and steal teachers’ enjoyment of teaching. 2) Some school systems are under great pressure to raise their scores so they have resorted to decreasing (and sometimes doing away with) time spent in recess. This can have negative impact on children’s social, emotional, and academic well-being. (Read more here.) 3) Standardized tests can place a huge amount of stress on students and teachers alike. This can lead to negative health consequences as well as feelings of negativity directed at school and learning in general. (Read more here about how to help students deal with this stress.) 4) As much as test creators try to do away with testing bias, it may be impossible to rid tests of it altogether. I once tutored a 5th grader who did not know what a recipe was. If a standardized test was to ask questions directed at a recipe, that child would have been at a huge disadvantage because most fifth grade students know and have had at least some experience dealing with recipes, but she did not. There is just no way to know for certain that every child being tested has a fair amount of knowledge going into the test.
Clara T June 16, 2011 at 03:06 AM
Standardized Testing Uses The key student success on standardized tests is balance. Those in charge need to step back and take into account both the good and the bad things about testing and find a way to help students succeed without causing them too much stress. So, will there ever be an end to the constant back and forth between testing advocates and those against standardized testing? It’s hard to say, but I feel relatively certain that for better or worse, standardized testing is here to stay. I believe the key is to use the test results as a guide for teachers, parents, and students. They should also be used, in a limited capacity, to assess how well schools are doing. Standardized testing certainly should be used to help measure a school’s success, but it should be one assessment among several that determines whether a school's students are progressing or not."
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 03:34 AM
Oh Noes ❢❢❢ More Homework ❢❢❢ Michael T. Martin • “Waiting For SuperFraud” http://ksdcitizens.org/2010/12/22/waiting-for-superfraud/ ❝ Public schools have to fail. There is no alternative. So give up trying to argue otherwise with facts and logic. The mockumentary Waiting For Superman made this clear. Funded by millionaires, the movie told the story of some privatized schools in Harlem portrayed as saviors of children otherwise condemned to public schools. Privatized schools mostly funded by hedge fund millionaires on Wall Street. They spent two million dollars to promote the film nationally. Another major film titled “The Lottery” told a similar tale: children in Harlem desperate to escape public schools. Funded by more millionaires. State Senator Bill Perkins, who represents the people of Harlem, tried to put profit restrictions on these privatized schools. So the millionaires spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to run an opponent against him in the November, 2010, election. The people of Harlem voted overwhelmingly to re-elect Perkins. One of the supposed heroes in the mockumentary was Michele Rhee, the caustic head of Washington, D.C., schools. She subsequently was the focus of the November, 2010, mayor’s election in D.C., campaigning for the existing mayor who appointed her, promising to resign if he lost. The people of D.C. voted him and her out. ❞
Clara T June 16, 2011 at 04:21 AM
SocialistAlternative.org agrees with your take on "school reform" and all sorts of other stuff. What a coincidence. http://www.socialistalternative.org/publications/education/
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 04:44 AM
Thanks for the reading. It's past my bedtime now, but I bookmarked it for tomorrow.
Susan M. June 16, 2011 at 10:19 AM
Good point. Even on assignments, there can be bias. My then elementary child had to identify the "long o" sound in different words represented as pictures. There was a "range" - a cooktop with an oven. My daughter decided it was an OVEN, and no, it was not a long o sound. The teacher marked it wrong because it was a STOVE - and yes, it was a long o sound and should would not budge on the matter. But with standardized testing it's worse - students don't have an opportunity to explain their reasoning if their opinion is different than what is represented by the results.
Rob Ray June 16, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Perhaps everyone on this thread should meet for a conversation over coffee and create a list of compromised-solutions to present to the school board; maybe there are some ideas they haven't considered. I think that would be very constructive and a great example of the community, with obviously different beliefs, working towards addressing the issue.
Joshua Raymond June 16, 2011 at 01:35 PM
I definitely see some upsides to standardized testing. Standardized testing can help compare school districts, schools, and even classrooms if done correctly. Unfortunately, most of the data analysis given to the public is too superficial to be of much help. Exploring the rawer data can provide some interesting results. I give one example at http://RochesterSAGE.wordpress.com/2011/04/01/meap-scores-2010/ I do see some downsides to standardized testing as well. Requiring that all children reach a certain level and tieing it to merit pay places significant pressure to get the children who are capable of passing the test up to the task at the expense of children that can already pass the test or children too far behind to be able to pass the test. A better use of standardized testing and its results would be to measure yearly progress of each student. Then the incentive is placed on helping each and every child advance. I explore this further at http://RochesterSAGE.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/higher-meap-cut-scores-and-what-still-needs-to-be-done/
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 01:36 PM
Here's a few updates on the ALEC-MCPP Front that just came out: The Michigan Citizen • “ACLU Probes EM Law’s Origins” • http://michigancitizen.com/aclu-probes-em-laws-origins-p9713-1.htm Daily Kos • “Exposing ALEC — June Update On ALEC Activities, Articles, And Links” • http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/06/09/983573/-Exposing-ALECJune-Update-on-ALEC-Activities,-Articles-and-Links Huff Post • “Parent ‘Trigger Law’ In New York Would Allow Parents To Fire Teachers, Principals” • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/14/parent-trigger-law_n_876863.html
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 01:56 PM
The first step toward any real solution is — Recall Governor Rick Snyder. • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Recall-Governor-Rick-Snyder/113418962065885 • http://www.firericksnyder.org/community/all-events-list • http://www.firericksnyder.org/ Only then can our communities begin to repair the damage that he and his pet legislators have already done to our public education system and our democracy in Michigan.
Mike Reno June 16, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Your spamming of this thread did just provoke an interesting tidbit, Jon. “Parent ‘Trigger Law’ In New York Would Allow Parents To Fire Teachers, Principals” • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/14/parent-trigger-law_n_876863.html" I had not been aware of this development. In light of tenure law changes, and if coupled with a way to also reward those teachers and principals who do a good job, this "Parent Trigger Law" could be quite a good tool. It's worth sharing. Thank you for suggesting it.
Joshua Raymond June 16, 2011 at 02:44 PM
Rob, great suggestion! I am willing to work with anyone looking to improve our educational system, even if we disagree on how the schools need to be improved or what methods should be used. I've learned that there can often be a core kernel of agreement under layers of disagreement. My brother and I have extremely disparate views on education, but on a three hour trip to Ohio we were able to agree on certain steps we both thought would help. It is often out of real dialogue between opposing groups that the best ideas are formed and honed. Unfortunately, political posturing and talking past each other are detrimental to this dialogue and only result in the situation worsening.
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 03:00 PM
Mr. Reno, You're welcome to the information. Those links were partly in follow-up to questions about specific examples of ALEC's so-called “model legislation” — what various other people have been calling “boilerplate bills”, “cookie cutter laws”, “copycat acts”, “cut-&-paste legislation”, “ghost-written bills”, and even “Mad-Lib Laws”. You may have noticed what happens if you attempt to read any of the specific titles on ALEC's Model Legislation Pages, for instance, the Education Page: • http://www.alec.org/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Education What you get, well, what I get, is this message: ❝ The page you have attempted to access is restricted to our members. If you are an existing member, please log in to gain access to the protected areas of our site. You are not currently logged in, please click here to do so. ❞ That naturally makes it very difficult for We the Peons to find out what kind of Hob-Nobbing our elected representatives are carrying on with the agents of this corporate ideology group. Tanks, But No Thinks — maybe some people are copacetic with that, but lots and lots of us peasants think it's revolting.
Mike Reno June 16, 2011 at 03:17 PM
Thanks again. Your efforts to help combat this repressive MEA union will be put to good use. Probably wouldn't have noticed it were it not for you.
Rob Ray June 16, 2011 at 03:28 PM
Sounds like progress Joshua! And I agree: it's obvious that the dialogue on these threads is choppy at best. I'm afraid that I probably can't add much to the dialogue, but I'd like to see those so passionately discussing the topic to be a little more diplomatic about the process. Arguing on the internet has never led to a solution. @Patch -- this might be an interesting idea to encourage, especially if some structure could be provided to ensure it's actually a conversation and not a soap-box.
Jon Awbrey June 16, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Another one of my all-time favorite movies ... http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120630/
Lone Ranger June 16, 2011 at 03:35 PM
"Fire Snyder! Fire Snyder! He hates teachers and eats children! He wants to burn down public schools and force kids to apprentice to blacksmiths and quarry workers! Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!" If a bunch of Democrats hadn't jumped to vote for Snyder in the Republican primary, he would have lost to Hoestra or Cox. Maybe Bernero and his pro-union, anti-business policies could have beat one of them. You created your own problem. Suck it up and deal with it. We had to put up with eight years of Granholm ruining Michigan's economy.

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