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Staying ahead of The Oxford Foundation in the education space race

The renovation more than meets the curriculum needs of students looking to work in the collaborative and interdisciplinary framework of 21st century higher learning.

I have already discussed how –as a parent of two in BHSD – I am watching the political unfolding of Governor Snyder’s Oxford Foundation with great fear and trepidation.

I cannot yet imagine how any version of what The Oxford Foundation will produce can help us. As a top rated District, both financially and academically, with a new high school renovation project underway by Fielding-Nair International, we are the proverbial baby in the bathwater here as the Governor tries to help problematic districts by blurring the boundaries (education “Any Place, Any Time, Any Way”) between those districts and districts like our own performing at a high level.

Other state districts might improve or at least get more funds or more opportunities per suggestions currently on the table.  BHSD won’t. We are already doing what should be done – and then some. One can usefully turn to the longstanding political wisdom of L. Brooks Patterson here in defending Oakland County: the state doesn’t offer us much, it takes what we have. Or, if you don’t like Mr. Patterson right now, let me paraphrase Simon and Garfunkel: any way you look at The Oxford Foundation we lose.

Let me try to focus on the positive, however, and explain how – in at least one curricular sense – BHSD is, in fact, the baby in Governor Snyder’s bathwater. And it is a baby that is getting bigger. In hiring Fielding-Nair and renovating the Andover site for the new high school we are already doing in part what Governor Snyder wants in terms of curriculum. And we are doing it, quite obviously, without sacrificing local control.  

In seeking to collapse boundaries between public education in Michigan Snyder wants to collapse boundaries not just between K-12 districts but between K-12 (and early childhood ed) and college or university life. Now, financially, as I have written before, this is Halloween scary, given that Michigan is dead last in terms of what it provides high education institutions, lagging behind such intellectual hotspots like zombie land Louisiana.

We are – financially and politically speaking – the walking dead of US higher education.

But in terms of curriculum I am more intrigued by the possibilities raised by the Governor’s proposals.

As a tenured professor in English at Wayne State University, one of three Research 1 universities in the state, and current Associate Dean of The Graduate School (the latter entity one of the two or three largest graduate schoosl in the country, constituted by 112 Master’s Programs and 53 PhD programs with roughly 7,000 total students – thanks Patch for the free advertising opportunity!) I want my two BHSD kids to be prepared not just for undergraduate life but for graduate or professional work.

I don’t need a School Board candidate or even a good high school teacher anxious about the regular flux of technological change in education -- a movement that extends from the invention of the silent reading, to the change from a manuscript to a print culture, and now the computer -- to tell me what that takes.


Rest assured: The proposed Fielding-Nair renovated site at Andover with its carefully planned spaces for collaboration and team teaching mirrors what any 21st century graduate student will need to compete. WSU has several nationally ranked PhD programs. I would highlight, in particular, Chemistry and an assortment of programs in our MD/PhD programs that train students to become physician/scientists. In both these programs, like all our programs, collaboration is not optional. No one stands alone – certainly not teacher/scholars/researchers.

Students, like the scientists they are to become, must work in teams and across disciplines. And they need appropriate spaces and facilities to conduct their research. Students literally need to learn the geography, as it were, of the lab or other academic space. Students fortunate enough to attend the renovated high school at the Andover site will benefit immeasurably from learning in a space that approximates “real world” research.

Here is a longish quote from The National Science Foundation (NSF http://www.nsf.gov/), the main funding agency for science research in the country. It gives you some sense of the profound need for the value of collaboration and interdisciplinary work. Increasingly, such interdisciplinary work extends into the humanities as we go “back to the future” when the currently exaggerated divide between science and the arts didn’t exist.

"NSF has long recognized the value of interdisciplinary research in pushing fields forward and accelerating scientific discovery. Important research ideas often transcend the scope of a single discipline or program. NSF also understands that the integration of research and education through interdisciplinary training prepares a workforce that undertakes scientific challenges in innovative ways. Thus, NSF gives high priority to promoting interdisciplinary research and supports it through a number of specific solicitations. NSF also encourages researchers to submit unsolicited interdisciplinary proposals for ideas that are in novel or emerging areas extending beyond any particular current NSF program."

So: If you want to run for SchoolBoard because you think you will keep your taxes low, I get it. If you want to run for SchoolBoard because you are mad about Pine Lake or Lahser closing or just don’t plain like some people, I get it. If you want to run for SchoolBoard because you believe in the state “reformers” that want control over BHSD – I am horrified – but I get it.

But don’t try to hide those motivations behind the mask of being interested in or informed about curriculum or the broad scope of education in the 21st century. As I tell my good natured second grader dressed as a ninja for Halloween – you look like a great second grader dressed as a ninja. He laughs because he knows what he looks like.

Please vote Baron, Day, and Herner Nov. 6. You can't go wrong with the local treasure Ms. Berndt either, of course! But I am betting on Herner to help get that renovation done for my daughter. Please, too, consider WSU for your grad studies:)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Elizabeth 123 November 01, 2012 at 10:31 AM
Marcia....so sorry I called you Linda.....I was tired after all the running around for trick-or-treating! I should know better than to post a comment when I am tired. It was nice sitting next to you at the meeting because you had clearly come prepared with lots of questions, some I hadn't considered. See you at the next meeting.
Ken Jackson November 01, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Thanks for the comments: I see three really important points. For typing speed sake I apologize for the familiarity of first names having never met any commenters in person. First, Ann correctly calls attention to the speed with which educational "reforms" were passed through Lansing last year. Most of those reforms, however, were aimed at weakening unions and changing teacher pension structures. Ask or thank our current rep Chuck Moss who sprang to political life out of the Birmingham School Board. Second, Elizabeth's point about Snyder's track record is telling. He does what he says - if he can. A Prop 2 pass will stymy him (the big dog, Bill Clinton, chimed in yesterday on this state matter) -- but also undo and limit some necessary changes (one of the reasons the administrators all over including BHSD are fighting it). Third, I don't know the context of Marcia's concern about marches. It is, of course, silly -- whether you are pro or con Oxford (many refuse to say, just like the Gov. waiting for the outcome of Prop 2) -- to express your views via a "march." The march from Bloomfield Hills? As we really only have primary elections in this neck of the woods we know who to talk to and, frankly, it isn't a community 'facilitator"." Mr. Moss's successor, Mr. McCready, is our neighbor here in BH. Education, he claims, is a key "issue." I hope that means more than cutting pay and benefits. But what he thinks about the potential changes to BHSD? I have no idea.
Elizabeth 123 November 01, 2012 at 11:44 AM
Mr. McCready came to the meeting. He comes from the belief that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I agree with him from the standpoint of the Bloomfield Hills School District, but have to admit that there are many children in our state who are not learning like our students are, so I can see why many believe the system of education is broken. What I don't see from the State so far is an analysis of the reasons some succeed and others don't. Poverty comes to mind, but I expect that there are other issues involved for the many schools who are in the middle from an achievement point of view.
Ken Jackson November 01, 2012 at 12:02 PM
Thanks Elizabeth! I am delighted. Seriously. But that was the first chant of Mr. Moss, too (other key phrases to placate parents and reasonable folk -- "people should move to the district to pay for the schools" and "80% of school money goes to teacher salaries", etc., all the while signing off on and sometimes initiating legislation that weakens the very notion of district). Call me cynical, but I just don't believe the cry of justice from Birmingham Bloomfield pols to "help the kids" in Oscoda. I come from the belief that state reps are obligated to respond to their constituents first. I hope Mr. McCready takes a different path than his predecessor ( I am pulling for him if for no other reason that he defeated Mr. Moss's chosen successor ). For those, like me, sometimes spend too much of their time and energy worrying about the histrionics of Ms. Greenwell, et. al. , I would urge a refocus of attention. Whether you hate BHSD or not what The Oxford Foundation proposes will fundamentally change the character of this area.
Elizabeth 123 November 01, 2012 at 12:18 PM
I don't doubt what you are saying, I was just reporting what Mr. McCready stated at the meeting.
Ken Jackson November 01, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Elizabeth, Right. What I would like to hear from Mr. McCready is something like this: first, I won't support anything that hurts my district. Or, alternatively, I would love to hear from him or someone a persuasive and reasoned case for how what The Oxford Foundation is discussing doesn't hurt all BHSD voters (kids or no, those in public or private schools). That is the issue for us. The best Governor Snyder's folks can do at the moment is to ask us to consider sacrificing what we have for the common (state) good. We do live in strange political times when a Republican Governor takes this tact.
Mac November 01, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Mr. McCready could support our schools at every turn, like Lisa Brown has done so beautifully on the west side of the BHSD, and be a voice in the wilderness. Even if our interests are well represented in Lansing, only a small minority of the districts have hold harmless millages, 20J funding, and tuition students.
Ken Jackson November 01, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Mac, Because of the recent historical context Mr. McCready has some of my sympathy and probably my vote: 1) Housing bubble bursts 2) political radicals and opportunists seize the moment to find scapegoats [school budget/teachers' unions] 3) more pragmatic pols with greater business acumen and success that follow find themselves responsible for what they otherwise probably would have avoided like the plague (micromanagement of local school board issues) 4) new local rep now faced with towing the party line on "school reform" or the possibility of bringing property values back down just as there is a upward movementiin the market driven in part by buyers who have an opportunity to get in to a district like BHS. Remember the "little houses" taking advantage of the "big houses" from the bond issue? Follow The Oxford Foundation and the demand for those "little houses" in the district goes ploop. If the stakes weren't so high one could enjoy the irony. As it is, I just urge Mr. McCready to make smart political choices.
Neal Charness November 01, 2012 at 01:25 PM
The biggest nightmare of having either Ms. Greenwell or Mr. Moigis on the Board of Trustees is that I can't imagine either of them dealing with the challenges of the Oxford Foundation possibilities. That aspect of them just scares the heck out me. It's really not about personalities but capabilities.
Ken Jackson November 01, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Mr. Charness, That raises a question though. Mr. Moigis and Ms. Greenwell are as quiet as churchmice about The Oxford Foundation. You could be right: perhaps neither really gets it. I have no idea. I just got what I believe is my third pricey mailer from Mr. Moigis. One entire side is just a picture. There does seem to be some new language in one of the bullet points but I could be mistaken. Then, again, I am curious to see how much out of district money there is in Mr. Fellin's PAC. That would probably give you some sense of what -- if any -- these candidates think about The Oxford Foundation.
Marcia Robovitsky November 01, 2012 at 04:50 PM
Updates http://oxfordfoundationmi.com/news/ October 15, 2012: Michigan Education Association recommendations for the Michigan Education Finance Project
Marcia Robovitsky November 01, 2012 at 05:16 PM
update House Bill 5923, which would allow for the creation of new schools with different forms of governance. http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billintroduced/House/pdf/2012-HIB-5923.pdf Will this legislation come before the House and Senate in MI after the Nov. 6 election during the short lame duck session? I don't know. However, I believe that those that do the voting... should be well informed....the topic thoroughly vetted....and understood. I don't go for the Pelosi strategy of vote for it THEN read it. The bill could be reintroduced in 2013. If those that are elected to do the voting for Michigan residents are ready to represent their constituents on this bill...then vote. If not, wait.
Marcia Robovitsky November 01, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Where on the BHS website is information explaining to the parents and the students the alternate choices for educational classes that the district will pay the fee? I'm not talking about Model or Alternative or Special Ed. I heard that BHS already pays for some community college credits for high school students. Are there online classes that are being currently paid for? What other classes and at what locations are fees/tuition being paid by BHS for the benefit of BHS student education? Are they religious/cultural/language ??? If you know, will you share the information? Do these classes count toward H.S. credits and graduation? Question: would it be better to take an AP course in high school or just go to the community college for the class and credit? Part of the Oxford Foundation vision stresses that students should be able to meet their educational needs through the "any" process...one being any place. Sounds like BHS already does this for those parents and students that are aware of the programs.
Marcia Robovitsky November 01, 2012 at 07:32 PM
I don't think 20 citizens qualifies for "well attended". The vast majority of BHSD residents could be be informed better with more information on the website and on your cable channel, etc. The minutes and other emails sent to the participants by Charlie Fleetham should be made available at the same time to all. After all, isn't he hired with tax dollars to communicate and to facilitate issues/concerns within the entire BHS community....whether or not they show up for meetings? Speaking of the website: the new website is still missing a lot of information that was on the old website....and is still valuable. Hope to see the facts back on the new site.
Jon November 01, 2012 at 11:27 PM
72% of Back to Education funding is from out of district, but that is because $8500 is from a Moigis relative in Rochester. Report is posted here: http://courts.oakgov.com/CFRS/IndexedDocs/718164.pdf
Ken Jackson November 01, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Jon, Thanks. That is an interesting piece of information. I am rather surprised a "fiscal conservative" who thinks we are "forced" to have a "hold harmless" millage (a millage that maintains our distinctiveness) has a family member ready to kick in 8500 to send out mailers that equivocate on both his own educational accomplishments and his experience with districts.
Elizabeth 123 November 02, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Marcia, It is difficult to inform the citizenry when the powers that be, the Oxford Foundation, isn't providing details. They are providing Governor Snyder's vision, outlining what their task is, stating the timeline for decisions, asking for proposals, and providing the powerpoints they used to present the three previous topics to various interested groups. No one in the news media is talking about this because I suspect they have their eyes and ears on the national election or on proposals for bridges. You were there at the Legislative CPC meeting and heard all the questions and concerns for yourself. It was a lively discussion. Twenty people out of the 32,000 possible voters in BHS may not be many, but it was well attended for a CPC meeting. As for informing the vast majority of the BHSD residents, I learned long ago that our district residents are well informed, but it is difficult when very little is out there that is fact. The only thing that can be said is the OF is doing charged with revising the school aid act (public school funding), but there are no specifics yet including the time line. At this point, I would bet on informing those that want to be informed and outlining possible actions which include a method for informing the general electorate and influencing our legislators. As for the website, contact Shira Good about getting the CPC info back on. Re the classes at colleges, I bet that is done on an individual basis through school counselors.
S Sera November 02, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Thanks for the heads up on the finance report Jon. Very interesting…..
Ken Jackson November 02, 2012 at 12:25 PM
I love the political irony, too, of self styled Bloomfield fiscal conservatives turning to the paid political services (probably voting lists) of East Lansing's Mark Grebner (a political watchdog if there ever was a watchdog -- Ms. Robovitsky he would be a good mentor). If Bloomfielders had listened a bit more attentively to Grebner and others taking on Dick Headlee (I am be wrong but I think Grebner came up with the "Dick Headlee before he **** you" buttons) way back when we wouldn't be blindly wrestling with the outcomes of Prop A in 2012. But I am glad to hear the old "Grading the Profs" author is making some money -- although I worry some Back to Education contributers might not approve, well, of his political history. (hope you can post this one Mr. Aisner!)
Neal Charness November 02, 2012 at 12:46 PM
If Bloomfield 1876 is not in keeping with the views of Ms. Greenwell and Mr. Moigis in the commentary about unions they should disavow (not condemn) his statement. Just want to know where they stand. Silence speaks quite loudly.
Ken Jackson November 02, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Hi Bloomfield1876! Do you know MsMaidstone?? The Observer? Any of the other Back to Education online fictional superheros? That aside: I pointed out my occupation and experience because I think it helpful from time to time for parents in particular (but also non parents) to be reminded how off the charts goofy Ms. Greenwell is, especially in her discussions of curriculum. Mr. Moigis knows even less, believe it or not, although he knows how to be civil. Lawyers and doctors I know from time to time share their professional experience gratis -- I don't always give a chance back. My thoughts on The Oxford Foundation are "biased" by my primary role: a dad and resident of BHSD -- like Mr. Fellin (aka, The Observer and Mark Grebner patron). The Oxford Foundation proposals have much merit in them -- if I lived in Oscoda. I don't. They will kill BHSD and damage everyone. Ultimately, the good they would do Oscoda would be undone by the way they would unravel public education accross the board. So, yes, you have smoked me out with your cleverness and your insight and your superhero mask (and my own declaration): I believe in a strong, robust public education. To allow candidates to get on boards who don't because they represent "alternative" views is acting (politically speaking) in a suicidal fashion.
Elizabeth 123 November 02, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Dear 1876, Your comment only tells me that you most likely don't have an open mind either. I can't help but wonder if you have read everything on the Oxford Foundation's website. Please do and then come to the next BHS Legislative Community Partnership Committee meeting and discuss the issues. We talked about how districts might change, the need to improve aspects of public education, about what this might mean for our district and community and much more. Given what is out there already, it is difficult to understand how this might benefit BHS. At this point it looks like one more way we will be giving to the State for something that will not add to or benefit our district. That being said, we were challenged to look at the issue from the point of view of someone who does not live or have students in our district. It was a good challenge so that we could see others points of view and keep an open mind.
Neal Charness November 02, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Bloomfield 1876 has only posted comments attacking other posters and not the content of their post (That Mr. Jackson is biased as a tenured professor, not on what Mr. Jackson wrote). It's fairly typical of the Greenwell/Fellin crowd. I have been attacked repeatedly on this basis, not that I've lied or misreprented facts and I'm quite fine with this because it probably indicates my comments have been effective. I certainly expect that when you call people out they fight with whatever tools they think they have. Among the people doing this would be: Jenny Greenwell Chris Fellin Isaac Baar Linda P/Ulrey Ms. Maidstone Bloomfield 1876 There may be others but I don't need to keep track. Quite a "rogues gallery," don't you think.
Marcia Robovitsky November 02, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Charlie Fleetham, the CPC facilitator for BHS, has shared this article (via his email list) with the people that attend those meetings . I think it is an article that should be on the BHS website along with the CPC minutes of those meetings. http://www.candgnews.com/news/legacy-program-brings-holocaust-survivor%E2%80%99s-tale-classroom
Charles Gaba November 02, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Your opinion might carry slightly more weight if you didn't hide behind an anonymous handle. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with online nicknames in general, but when you're discussing a local issue that impacts your neighbors, it's helpful to know who's expressing their opinion.
Ken Jackson November 02, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Ms. Robovitsky, Thank you.
Ken Jackson November 02, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Hi Bloomfield1876 (is that a jab at the preservation's society -- msmaidstone always struck me as kind of a jab -- a nasty one), {by the way "geez" and "guinea pigs" are also linguistic tells if you were are worried about concealing identity) But -- to the important point: My allegiance? To the flag? Grover Norquist? To whom? My objectivity? In a political debate? Doesn't make a lot of sense. But let me try to make something clear: I am hear talking blogging and talking to pseudonyms only because I care about kids' education. The quality of my kids' education just happens to coincide with the property values of those without kids (or kids who have already passed through). The Oxford Foundation folks have even made the quality of my kids' education relevant to those with kids in private schools (that will take a blog post). In other words, you might not like me and I might not like you (politically or personally speaking) but you better believe Oxford will hurt everything: kids, no kids, seniors,private school -- the whole bunch of us. You think the housing bubble bursting hurt? Get ready for some real change and, for BHSD voters, pain. Believe me, I belong to a union (AAUP) if that is what you mean -- but I am praying for the real conservatives to show up. If this community ever needed an L. Brooks Patterson to protect it will now.
Neal Charness November 02, 2012 at 04:13 PM
B1876 is totally within his/her rights to threaten as the post does--this is a democracy. Truthfully, I'd prefer not to know who B1876 is. What that poster does is highlight why it's so important not to have the fox in the hen house (Greenwell and Moigis as influenced by Chris). I also think anyone should be excluded because they don't and might never have children in BHSD schools but it is extremely relevant that no one has come forward in support of Greenwell/Moigis who has said who they are and that they have children in the district schools--obviously one can't give any weight to an anonymous post making that statement. Chris' statement that there are many but they're afraid that they'll be harassed is pure and utter hogwash. All that being said, whatever the Oxford group comes up with will have to go through the executive and legislative branch. It doesn't matter what party persuasion one has but it is important to know it'll be critical that our elected officials know that what they do will have an awful lot to do with how they do in future elections.
Neal Charness November 02, 2012 at 04:15 PM
My post should read in the 4th line of the first paragraph: "I also don't think" rather than " I also think." Sorry, thanks
Elizabeth Fellows November 02, 2012 at 04:22 PM
Marcia, here is the link for the Community Partnership Committee meeting information. This information can be found on the bloomfield.org site under the Community Tab. http://www.bloomfield.org/community/community-partnership-committee/index.aspx The article referenced in your above post is found at the bottom of the left hand side of that "page" under the section captioned Legacy Program. Kudos to Stephanie Crider, and the Community Outreach Committee, for getting such an important program off the ground and running.

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