Superintendent: Residents' Lack of Trust of School Board Troubling
Heated debate over consolidating Lahser and Andover high schools still dominates public discussion at Thursday's Bloomfield Hills School Board meeting.
Bloomfield Hills Schools Superintendent Rob Glass came away from Thursday’s school board meeting bemoaning a lack of trust between the board and many residents still divided over the approved consolidation of Andover High School and Lahser High School.
"When trust is low everything is difficult. Everything is questioned," Glass said. "They are seeing everything in a critical light."
For example, one item approved on Thursday’s agenda proposed a consolidation of the school district’s administration. The plan, in its early stages, is to move school administrators from four different buildings to the Doyle Center.
Glass said it will save money and ease communication among district administrators. However, Jenny Greenwell, a former board member, claimed the move was at the expense of students. She said the school board cannot use the district's sinking fund for the project, which at the time of the public vote to approve the allocation it was explained as funding to keep students "safe, dry and warm."
"The motion as written in tonight’s agenda is wrong," Greenwell said. "If you approve this you are approving any number of things to make adults comfortable."
Board Treasurer Cynthia von Oeyen affirmed the sinking fund was presented the way Greenwell characterized, but noted that a specific portion of the fund is allocated for general building maintenance, which would include renovations to the Doyle Center. Glass said he knows administrative officials do not necessarily want their workplace moved.
Beyond that disagreement, Glass noted that when residents rejected three bond proposals to fund different plans for a consolidated high school, some believe voters were saying no to all consolidation plans.
Chris Fellin, a member of the Bloomfield 20/20 group seeking to recall the entire board, said each of the members "earned" the right to be recalled because they denied voters their wishes on school consolidation. He called the plan to have one school on two campuses "disastrous" and demanded the board stop any progress made toward that goal in the last month.
"Your teamwork continues to end in desicions that just don't make sense," he said. "Why? I don't know, maybe it is an old boy's club going on here."
In addition to the public forum and the consolidation of administrative buildings, the school board also re-elected its officers and announced that Chris Delgado, principal of East Hills Middle School, will be leaving before school begins.
Glass said the strong opinions and sharp disagreements mean that those on polar opposite sides of the debate aren’t likely to get what they want. Most likely, he said, there will have to be a compromise that gives the school district and the students "the essentials," while keeping in mind the taxpayers don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Building trust continues to be a work in progress. Glass said he and the board have tried hard this year to make more contact with the community through formal and informal community meetings, which will continue. But considering the debate over consolidation has waged for nearly a decade, Glass said he doesn’t see it ending soon.
"If it has been going on for eight years or more — what can you expect?" he said.
Correction: Jenny Greenwell has previously run for the school board and has not declared her candidacy again.