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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 of and .

"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 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.

Kat1324 July 17, 2011 at 03:04 PM
It is YOU, Dr. Barr who should be embarrassed! I am in shock that you would call Joan a racist. There is no HINT of racism in her statement. Do you believe that the students of Bloomfield Hills have the EXACT same educational needs as those in the inner cities? Detroit high schools have a 62% graduation rate. Don't you think one must take into account the population they serve? That is certainly NOT racism. Also, why do you assume our success in Bloomfield has to do with the size of the high school population? Where is the evidence to show that? Noone is wanting to build a school for its architectural value. We are expanding the school to fit all of our students so that we may continue to provide a comprehensive course selection which I'm sure you will agree has been working quite well. It is about the academics, not the building. By the way, IA students do participate in extracurricular activities through Andover and Lahser. Please try to keep your comments civil in the future and free of personal attacks. This is my last comment as it has just gotten to be too upsetting for me to read.
Joan G. Berndt July 17, 2011 at 03:29 PM
Why must everything be interpreted as "racist"?? I thought we were over that with the election of our first African American president. Thank you, kat 1324, for your comments. If I had contrasted office buildings in big cities with office buildings in Bloomfield Hills, would that be racist, too? Get over it, Dr. Barr, I await your apology for reading into my statement something that was not there, and would not be. Also, not only do IA students participate in sports in their home schools, they also have a very fine IA band and orchestra (which is NOT extra curricular but is so defined by some). If global trends are "no emphasis on extra curricular activity" then I hope we do not follow such a detrimental trend which would be disastrous for our students' total education.
Joe July 17, 2011 at 11:37 PM
Dr. Barr, please stop the personal attacks. Let your argument stand on its own. In America, you would be hard pressed to get into a top tier school without dozens of extracurricular activities. The newer studies on smaller schools have found that there is little proof of educational benefit. There is certainly room for intelligent people to disagree on how small is too small, and whether it is beneficial. Increasing instructional days would be tremendous, but expensive. If neither the mandate or the funding for a longer calendar year come from the state, it is not a realistic possibility.
Isaac Barr MD July 18, 2011 at 12:18 AM
First, increase in educational days would have been possible if the district would not have wasted our money on pet projects and in particular building an un necessary mega school. Second, there is little difference between the needs of Detroit public schools and Bloomfield public schools. All deserve high quality education. Talking about the different needs of American children in Detroit and Bloomfield bothered me and others. The failure of Detroit public schools has nothing to do with location of the schools. East Harlem High has 100% college acceptance and so are many inner city schools. It is the administration, teacher unions, attitude of parents and alike that matter. Three, IA does not require students to participate in extra curricular activities. It is entirely voluntary. My 4 children and 3 grand children had no or little extra curricular activities. But all had many AP scores for which two could skip a year in college. I do appologize for those who assumed that my comments were personal.
Isaac Barr MD July 18, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Addition to my previous comment: 1. Mr Austen president of MEB commented that the 750 million dollars received from the federal government will be ear marked to advance early education. He commented that there is enough evidence to put our money in early such education as this is the global experience. We are the only school system which goes in the opposite direction. High schools are the end result of kindergarten and elementary school education. We should have boosted there schools which would have also brought young families to our district. 2. We do have fall breaks, winter breaks, spring breaks, snow days etc. dictated mostly, I understand, by teacher unions. These are days that should be regular school days. There is no excuse to keep a school without using it. Our board is aware of these two options. Rather than spear heading the new realities they are obsessed with building a new unnecessary structure. Yes, we did not discuss democracy which rejected the board plan three times. Surely, members of teacher unions will call my comments personal which they are not.

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