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Letter To The Editor: BHSD Heading Into Expensive Plan That Doesn't Address Academics

Bloomfield 20/20 member cautions against millage for new consolidated high school and instead wants district to use existing funds.

Let's keep in mind that the $64 million is only Part 1 of a much more costly plan. And this figure does not include any interest.

The combined total enrollment of Lahser and Andover will be approximately 1,600 students.

When we divide $64 million by 1,600 students, we see that the project will cost $40,000 per student. Does this make sense for “remodeling and repairs?” What do other schools spend?

What right do we have to leave debt to those who buy our houses? Why not use the money we have in the bank that now earns less than 1 percent interest?

This total waste of money is absolutely outrageous. Contractors are already making proposals. When were bid requests issued?

Mr. Derderian certainly does not speak for 20/20. Most of us have never seen Mr. Derderian at any recent meetings.

20/20 members do not speak with one voice. We have no “czar” or puppet-master, as do other organizations. From the beginning, I have favored one outstanding high school that would have more subjects and in more depth, rather than two high schools with more limited offerings and with duplicate administrations.

How many of our U.S.-born Bloomfield high school graduates in 2011 were fluent in a foreign language after 10 or more years in this school district? Answer: Pathetically few. In Western Europe, almost every graduate can speak at least one second language, and many are capable in a third.

For more than $22,000 per student, all of our most capable students should excel in math, science, at least one foreign language and also a musical instrument. Yes, I would favor a performing arts center in our district, but one that we saved for, or have cash to build, not one that is built from bond issue monies.

Instead, we are wasting our tax money on duplicate high school administrations and triplicate middle school administrations. The 30 students at the farm and the students in questionable courses at the Model School should all be in the one “combined” high school at Lahser.

To accomplish these changes, we need board members and a superintendent who are grounded in economic reality, not communicators, schmoozers and fuzzy thinkers who always vote unanimously on every issue. This is the North Korean model, not the way we do things in the good old U.S. of A.

Richard Rosenbaum,

Bloomfield Hills

Amy Cardin November 01, 2011 at 12:38 PM
If it wasn't heartbreakingly sad, Mr. Rosenbaum's tirade would be laughable. It has been and continues to be the way 20/20 "does business" to throw out false numbers, give a laundry list of complaints without any suggestions and tear down any positive progress that is made. I agree wholeheartedly with everything Brandon Kaufman said. And here is some number crunching for Mr. Rosenbaum...the $64 million dollar project is for 1600 students EVERY YEAR! Hmmm, if the building lasts 50 years, that would be 80,000 students which would make it $800 per. Not including all the staff, administrators, custodians, parents and volunteers that would also enjoy an appropriate place to work. I call that a bargain! Mr. Rosenbaum, please attend a community partnership meeting and become part of the solution.
Linda P November 01, 2011 at 01:08 PM
The reasonable plan my friends is to do what the taxpayers have asked repeatedly..spend sinking fund monies to fix up our schools. How many more bond issue defeats do you need to understand?
Amy Cardin November 01, 2011 at 01:28 PM
Ms. P., please do not lump all taxpayers together! I was one of the over 8800 voters who voted in favor of the last bond proposal. The bottom line is we need new facilities. But since 20/20 is so myopic on that subject, the district must settle for renovation of an inferior building and some new construction. FNI has done a masterful job dealing with nearly unsurmountable challenges from some in our community. They have created a facility proposal that can carry our district forward. It is time for all of us to get on board and support our students, staff, administrators and board.
Neal Charness November 01, 2011 at 04:46 PM
The impact of dissipating our sinking fund to build the new high school would be to have no maintenance on the other buildings. How sensible a plan is that? Mr. Rosenbaum would have us have substandard schools despite his protestation that he supports one outstanding high school. 20/20 seems to have as its mission to block anything but taking no real action. It's akin to throwing a monkey wrench into a machine to stop it from functioning. It's also not productive. I understand that a fair number of residents are, in a sense, trapped in their homes by the decline in the value of their homes, eroded by the loss of large paper profits from illusory gains in home values that just weren't real. If I thought my property had gone up by 100% and now that gain is only 20% (just representative figures--I am NOT saying these are the real numbers) I'd be reluctant to move and take a lower price because I think there will be better prices down the road. I'd also have some resentment. But...that doesn't warrant taking out the frustration on the schools, the net effect of which will be to negatively impact our home values. It's time to get together and put together the best solution that serves the community. Failing to do that is like not fixing your brakes until you also need to replace the rotors.
Rob Glass November 01, 2011 at 10:01 PM
This community-developed plan unifies and updates our high schools very effectively for about $65m. Sure, we could do more, but this is not a band-aid plan that leaves us hanging. It improves our HS situation greatly although not forever. Facility needs remain and our sinking fund helps keep things in decent shape. Through ongoing dialogue with the community we'll tackle our future challenges in the right way and right time. Districts like Birmingham have recently spent close to $250m renovating/replacing buildings-- not including interest. 16,000 is closer to the number of students served over a unified HS 40 year lifespan, and our high HS buildings are now over 50 years old. They need upwards of $30m between them just to replace the guts and essentials, yielding no real aesthetic/educational improvement and forfeiting $2.5m in annual one-campus operational savings. Contractors are not making proposals for the HS project. Any future work will be competitively bid. We're proposing exactly what Mr. Rosenbaum advocates: creating "one outstanding high school" with "more subjects and in more depth, rather than two high schools with more limited offerings and with duplicate administrations." Model will be part of the unified HS campus, and the Bowers Academy Farm building serves more than 40 students-- it serves thousands. Our students excel in many subjects, languages and arts. We welcome any ideas for improving taxpayer ROI through the Community Partnership Committees.
asdf November 02, 2011 at 12:20 AM
My thoughts on the situation are as follows: 1. It is really cheaper to nearly demolish and rebuild/expand a building at a likely cost of more than $ 70,000,000, then to just repair two already existing facilities which are generally in good condition? 2. Bloomfield Hills residents actually LIKE the fact that there children presently attend smaller size high schools. What is wrong with a high school of 800, as opposed to a school of double that size? 3. The economy in the area is in tatters. Property values in the area are way down. Bloomfield homeowners have seen their home values plummet and many of us are underwater (even if our home may cost 800,000+). Does the Board really think that we will vote for a tax increase in 2012? Crazy. 4. There is absolutely no chance that the 2012 Millage will pass for a $ 70,000,000+ plan. Not in this economy. When will the Board/Superintendent just face the facts.
J Arch November 02, 2011 at 01:41 AM
asdf, in response to your question #1: It is cheaper to do what is being proposed rather than "fix" the two existing buildings for several reasons. One, there are aspects of the existing high school buildings that are no longer repairable because components of those buildings have exceeded their useful life. As a career facilities professional, I can attest to the fact that 50 year old building systems cannot be economically repaired, let alone repaired to perform at current standards for efficiency and effectiveness. Two, by keeping both high school buildings, you will be operating 40% more square footage than you need for the enrollment you have. You will thus be incurring conservatively $2 million in annual operating expenses more than necessary. Finally, the inherent design of the existing buildings is based on 50 year old instructional methods and does not support the collaborative and technology rich curriculum demanded by the 21st century world. (continued)
J Arch November 02, 2011 at 01:43 AM
asdf, in response to your question #2: We all love the "smaller" high schools, but they have become so small that it is no longer possible to offer the breadth of curriculum that families of the district enjoyed only 10 years ago. In order to have access to the same class choices of her predecessors, my daughter has to take classes in 3 buildings (Lahser, Andover, Model), incurring lost instructional time due to transportation. Further, in our experience in talking to admissions officials at various elite colleges and universities, the theme that sets Bloomfield Hills Schools graduates apart from applicants from other districts in Michigan and around the country is that breadth of curriculum. That profile of Bloomfield Hills Schools is well known, but is now in jeopardy because it cannot be practically delivered via two high schools of 800 students apiece. We are at a crossroads in the life cycle of our high school buildings. We can maintain the status quo and pour ever increasing amounts of money into buildings just to keep them operating without any improvement in their efficiency or effectiveness while seeing dwindling student populations dictate reduction in academic, co-curricular and extra-curricular offerings. Or we can use this as an opportunity to reconfigure our high schools to support the level of instruction that Bloomfield Hills school is renowned for.
Linda November 02, 2011 at 10:27 PM
so small that its no longer possible to offer breadth of curriculum? is he kidding? ask Cranbrook how they do it then...since they are the size of Lahser. The future of educatioin is no longer just in the classroom...
Linda P November 03, 2011 at 02:07 AM
Sorry, dont't agree, besides 21st century leaning is not destined to be done in a classroom collaborative or otherwise. Read the Gates Foundation study to get educated.
-Elizabeth- November 03, 2011 at 03:11 AM
Could you provide a URL for the specific research papers you would suggest reading from The Gates Foundation?
Amy Cardin November 03, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Let's not equate a public school system with a high priced private school. Cranbrook can do it because the students pay an exorbitant tuition, plain and simple. Our public schools must deal with Prop A and all it's ramifications. In a perfect world, all the tax money we pay in would come back to our district and we would not be having this discussion. Private institutions keep 100% of their tuition money. And I agree that the future of education is changing, but there will never be a substitute for a stellar teacher making a personal connection with his/her students in a classroom setting that encourages collaboration, problem solving and uses technology to enhance the learning process.
mdt48302 November 03, 2011 at 04:07 PM
Great response, Amy.
Jan Frank November 03, 2011 at 11:35 PM
Here's how Cranbrook does it: (1) it does not offer the breadth of curriculum -- the number of AP classes does not compare to BHSD; (2) it had substantial endowment money that our district does not have; (3) it can select which students it wishes to educate and thus does not need to provide costly support to at-risk students that public schools must provide; and (4) it does not have to report its test scores to the state so who knows how WELL they do it. Not you and not me.
J Arch November 04, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Linda, simple answer. Cranbrook charges $23,000 per year for tuition and does not have to use any of that money to fund the mandated programs that public schools are required to provide. Plus, they have an endowment larger than many colleges and universities and those funds are not restricted by law since it is a private institution. They just completed a fundraising effort for their building preservation program that exceeded $100 million. You have cited a totally apples to oranges comparison. Jeff Wagner
elgin white November 04, 2011 at 09:38 AM
Bloomfield Schools have been and continue to be great due to: - top notch students, first and foremost - dedicated teachers Having a cutting edge high tech modern facility would, of course, be nice, but it is absolutely not required for children to receive top notch education. Just look at schools in China - the great majority of which are not ultra modern high tech facilities - yet, these schools turn out some of the brightest minds in the world. In better economic times, we would all be in favor of a new $ 70,000,000+ school, and higher taxes to pay for it. But now? Foreclosures are at a record high. More than 25% of Bloomfield homeowners are underwater on their mortgages. Home vacancies exceed 9% in the area. Unemployment and underemployment are at multiple year highs. The time is just not right to ask the residents to approve a $ 70,000,000 project. The time is right to continue to cut costs, improve efficiency and work within the confines of the current budget. Buildings in Europe are hundreds of years old and continue to be in use. It is NOT BELIEVABLE that Andover/Lahser (40 or so years old) buildings cannot continue to be gently repaired and continue to be just fine for students. Anything to the contrary is pure hogwash. A millage for tax increase for a $ 70,000,000 project will fail in 2012. It will not even be close. (Just look at the recent Franklin vote for a headlee override- defeated soundly - and Franklin residents are wealthier)
Linda P November 04, 2011 at 10:41 AM
Gee when was the last time you looked......we spend in excess of 22,000 per kid in the BHSD sounds pretty comparable to me. Like many private schools BHSD also has a foundation.....when will BHSD seek the extra $500 per student they could get by instituting some reforms.......?
Linda P November 04, 2011 at 10:46 AM
Agree with Elgin. The BHSD spends over $22,000 per student this is the highest per pupil spending in the state which has over 500 school districts...except Mackinac Island. BHSD taxpayers are extremely generous with school funding...but guess they now want more......and more and more.
Neal Charness November 04, 2011 at 12:42 PM
Since our friends at 20/20 like to repeatedly state the unproven $22,000 figure as fact let's simply refer to it as the "Big Lie." Repeating it more often doesn't make it any truer.
-Elizabeth- November 04, 2011 at 12:44 PM
Linda P, Why don't you come to the Financial Community Partnership meeting next Monday, November 7th starting at 6:30 pm at the Doyle Center. Then you perhaps will finally understand that dividing the total expenditures by the number of students to develop a per student cost, does not reflect the true financial picture. There is much more to take into consideration including center programs (special education at Wing Lake, the deaf and hard of hearing programs and others), food services, and the recreation department just to name a few. I will say it once again....to everyone out there, please come to the BHS Financial Community Partnership Committee meeting this coming Monday. People on both sides of the issue attend these meetings, listen to each other, speak their minds and treat each other with respect. All of these community partnership meetings provide a way for members of the community and the district to work together. If you don't believe me that we treat each other with respect or the other members who are saying the same thing, the only way to disprove it is to attend the meetings and see for yourself. All are welcome especially those with diverse viewpoints.
J Arch November 04, 2011 at 09:12 PM
Elgin, again apples to oranges. The older buildings in Europe (or at Cranbrook for that matter) were built to entirely different longevity standards than post WWII school buildings in the US. The difference in standard of construction is night and day. As a result, the buildings you reference are often times historic in character and worth keeping. Most post-war construction in the US was built to 40-50 year lifespans. That is exactly the issue with the buildings at Lahser and Andover. Cranbrook has raised over $100 million to simply keep their historic campus buildings in restored condition because they have historic value. Cranbrook's Natatorium (pool) cost 1/3 the entire pricetag of the proposed Andover project. Every other school district in Oakland County, with the exception of Oak Park, has replaced or dramtically rehabilitated its high school buildings prior to them reaching the age of Andover or Lahser. I've been in the high schools at Birmingham, Rochester (new), Troy (new), West Bloomfield, Avondale, Berkley, Royal Oak, Walled Lake (new), Farmington Hills, Novi, Clarkston (new), Lake Orion (new), South Lyon (new) and Oxford and they all make Bloomfield's high schools look 3rd rate and they all provide a more supportive learning environment.
franklin thomas III November 05, 2011 at 10:11 AM
In bad economic times, people do not replace their sturdy, reliable 1966 Mercedes SEL (which can run forever, with $ 2,000 per year for repairs), with a brand new Rolls Royce which costs 100 times as much, and requires a loan to be able to purchase. Yes, the ride in the Rolls Royce will be nicer and you may appear to be very fashionable in the new car -- but the guy in the old dependable Mercedes can smile all the way to the bank. I am not a member of Bloomfield 2020. Andover and Lahser buildings can be gently repaired. Any argument to the contrary is pure garbage.
Brandon Kaufman November 05, 2011 at 03:55 PM
Dear Mr. Thomas: Thank you for clarifying you are not a B2020 radical but a community member concerned about "value" and money. So I ask you, what happens when you’re 1966 SEL for which you liken the schools to, has to sit outside for 60 years and endure the snow, ice, wind and rain. What happens to the cars condition when thousands of people open and close doors, sit in the seats, and drive thousands of miles each year? What happens when the muffler, transmission, fuel lines, carburetor all start going bad? What happens when gas goes to $4 / gallon and your car only gets 12 miles per gallon? To top it all off it's not just you and your wife any more but your family of 6 won't fit in the car so it has become obsolete for your needs! Wouldn't investing in a newer, more efficient car that your entire family can use be a good value? Or would you prefer to own and maintain 2 obsolete cars? Sometimes it's hard to give up the things we love and perceive to be valuable, yet the better decision is to invest in something more efficient and appropriate for our long term future needs. Investing in our schools will benefit everyone in our community because it will increase our property values, decrease crime, and keep our community competitive.
Ira Kolschtauer November 05, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Mr. Kaufman misses the point that Mr. Thomas made. Andover and Lahser can continue to be repaired like they have been for the last 30+ years. I was in the buildings lately -- they are not crumbling - they are not dangerous. They actually look quite nice. Fixing is MUCH MUCH cheaper than spending $ 70,000,000+ for a Rolls Royce facility. Indeed, the $ 70,000,000+ can likely fix the buildings for the next 100 years. We need not worry about competing with neighboring districts. Our students/teachers are indeed the best in the area. Period. None of our are planning on moving to Troy since they have a nice high school. They have other problems there. So..... Mr. Thomas, I applaud your analysis. I am sure you are a very rich man. As to Mr. Kaufman, even though I do not know you, I would seem to guess that you own some new cars and are likely in debt. That is your choice, sir. But, I don't want the debt. I am happy with my old model car as well (1999 450 SEL Mercedes -- 250,000 miles on it - runs quite well ... and I (as well as my 6 children and 12 grandchildren) open and close (and slam) the doors all the time....
Ira Kolschtauer November 05, 2011 at 06:32 PM
I am voting NO on the tax increase. So are all of the folks I know in the area (Island Lake area). The debate you folks are having above is all well and good, but not necessary. The tax increase will never go though. Not in this economy. You can take that to the bank.
Neal Charness November 05, 2011 at 06:56 PM
I truly do appreciate the civility in this post regardless of how much I disagree with its content and conclusion. I understand that we will not, nor should we expect, 100% consensus on this upcoming vote. What is truly important to those who feel the schools need to be at a level commensurate with our students and aspirations for them is that we work hard to get out the positive vote when the vote takes place. There is always an element of the community in opposition to any increase in expenditures. It's their right--we just need not to let that segment of the community rule out wise choices. I would speculate that one ironically positive impact of our tough economy is that we can do the construction and renovations at a lower cost than down the road with inflation and the impact of a stronger economy.
Brandon Kaufman November 05, 2011 at 09:36 PM
I am offended by the personal accusation, which is irrelevant. The question is value and understanding. Please understand that teaching methods and standards are changing, enrolment is declining, budgets are shrinking and our buildings need significant investment. If the consensus is, “something needs to be done”, then I am in favor of what will bring the most value for all. Please don’t make the assumption that the buildings are fine, they are not. Lastly please evaluate how much debt you think this will bring vs. decrease in property values when our school system declines relative to our piers. The investment will preserve operational funds, restructure the learning environments and move our community forward. Enrolment trends in the surrounding communities have increased, they have also all passed bonds in the last 10 years………..
Michael Banerian November 06, 2011 at 03:50 AM
Mr. Kaufman, Please refrain from using the term "radical" to describe B20/20. Also I could argue that the new high school will decrease many property values and INCREASE crime. Every single house near or around Lahser will decrease in property value, they are loosing a school in their backyard. Or to be put simple the east side of the district will see a decrease in property value, while the West side will benefit. As far as crime goes...do I even have to say what goes on in these two schools? Or is every parent in denial of the atrocities that go on in these schools? ~Michael Banerian Junior, Lahser Proud member of B20/20
Michael Banerian November 06, 2011 at 03:53 AM
I agree with every word you say Ira...almost. Please refrain from personal attacks, do not stoop to their level :D
J Arch November 06, 2011 at 01:36 PM
franklin, here's my real life example. Until a year ago I owned a 1997 Jaguar XJ-8 in very good condition with 130,000 miles. In spite of dutiful maintenance, the repairs became increasingly costly. Not unlike our high school buildings, in the last year of its life, the car quickly developed a list of repairs and needed part and component replacements that were going to exceed $10,000 for me to keep the car running safely and satisfactorily. At that point it no longer made economic or functional sense to own this car and I replaced it. It was my day to day car, not something that I used only in nice weather, just like our high schools that are used day in and day out. It had reached a point where the return on repairs had become so diminished that it was foolish to pour more money into the vehicle. That is exactly where we are with the Lahser and Andover buildings. Their age has put them into this category of non-justified return on investment relative to the scope of needs they present. And when you couple this with the fact that the two buildings keep student populations split to such low levels that program offerings cannot be maintained and that they present a combined square footage that exceeds what is needed by 1/3, the justification to consolidate on one site and rebuild becomes clear. The above is not "garbage," but rather fact stated by a lifelong professional architect and manager of millions of square feet of commercial property. Jeff Wagner

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