We have not been able to reconcile and present a proposal acceptable to both the YES and NO factions because, from the outset, the board was unwilling to revisit their decision to consolidate the two high school into one building. The public has consistently said it wants two, small, renovated, high school buildings. The public twice has voted for sinking fund money they believed would be used to do that. The high schools continue to be neglected while the district has $20 million in the bank.
After the May 2007 vote quashed a $147 million building project, the district paid EPIC-MRA $11,000 to determine why they lost. The study showed the community wanted the district to repair the existing two high schools. Notwithstanding, before the next, $100 million, consolidation plan was rejected in November 2010, the district engaged FNI for $865,000 to design and sell their 2012 version of a high school consolidation. The District had said that no matter what the outcome of the 2010 election they were going to proceed with their planning with FNI for one consolidated high school on the Andover site. They did, unswervingly.
On page 9 of their January 11, 2011 report, FNI enumerated nine publicly perceived problems with the 2010 proposal – The Trust Issue (NO vote voices not heard), Lack of Openness (moving forward with community's last choice), Blank Check* (lack of detail and clarity in proposal), Cost Savings Suspect*, Fiscal Imprudence (decision to build one new school irresponsible), Buildings Don't Matter (what's wrong with fixing the existing buildings), Educational Philosophy Needed*, Two Schools Better than One, and Renovation Better than New*. Generally, the district failed to heed the message, doubling down on “education of the electorate.” Only 4 (marked *) of the objections were addressed to any degree – the most conspicuous, for nearly $1 million, being eliminating the “Blank Check” syndrome. As second, renovation, has been used to lower the cost somewhat.
The sticking point seems to be summed up in the paragraphs about openness and two schools, I quote: “The Board's perceived lack of openness in the decision-making process and its decision to move forward with what was demonstrably the community’s last choice (build one consolidated High School) were seen as evidence that they were not acting in the community’s best interest...The most vehement opposition to the whole process was voiced by those who felt that the Board had moved too quickly in deciding on a one-high school option for Bloomfield Hills. This group had many reasons why two small schools would be better than one “mega' school and they demanded that the issue of one school vs. two should be reopened and examined in a collaborative, transparent manner.” It has not been. The district has proceeded to try to “sell around” that opposition.
Even after the idea of one-school-on-two-campuses was floated by the district, the district was saying, no matter what the public wanted, the consolidated high school in one building would be placed on the ballot. They openly decided not to use scientific polling, as done in 2007, to attempt to find out how their plan would fare at the ballot box. Of a January 5, 2012, meeting it was reported , “Rob Glass closed the discussion [about using a scientific poll] by saying that the District had elected to do Town Halls and was already committed to a vote. It would be hypocritical to shy away from a vote as this time based on a survey – essentially, the vote will be the up/down “survey” on the high school project. Rob and his team are committed to making the community’s final decision work, that is, continue to deliver the best possible academic experience for the District’s students.” No matter what, they were going forth with a bond issue to support one consolidated high school. Only if their bond fails, will they consider one-school-on-two-campuses as a long-term solution. Only a NO vote on May 8 will force the District to do what the voters have been saying since 2007 – save money, fix both schools.
After a year and “a million dollars,” we are still stuck. The District insists on a single school funded by a bond. They have yielded to pressure and reduced the price by about $20 million. The opposition has yielded and apparently would consider a one-school-on-two campuses plan (9thGrade Academy) supported by an extension of the sinking fund, but they have not been asked. Neither believes the other position is satisfactory.
The district continues to use its substantial taxpayer funded resources to bully taxpayers for a YES vote. They barely mention the positive attributes of the small school solution. Shouldn't the district put forth all the facts in an effort to fully inform the voters of their choices and the consequences of both options? They haven't.
J. S. Roach,