The Bloomfield Hills Schools and Superintendent Rob Glass asked voters for one last shot to resolve a decade-long community dispute over the future of the district's high schools, and they got it Tuesday.
The proposal approving use of $59 million in public bonds passed by a 61 percent margin, according to from the Oakland County Elections Office.
"Now we have to execute," Glass acknowledged amid the fervor of district supporters and volunteers celebrating the victory Tuesday evening at the Ultimate Soccer in Pontiac.
"We've heard definitively from the people and the challenge now is to be able to use these spaces to the utmost."
Glass said it may take a few days, but that he expects staff and consultants with Fielding Nair International to begin working on aspects of their 160-point transition plan right away in order to stay on target for completion of the new, unified Bloomfield Hills High School by fall 2015. Students will begin attending the high school under the new Black Hawks mascot in 2013, while still on two campuses.
If Tuesday's millage had failed, as did attempts in 2007 and 2010, district officials promised not to return to voters and planned for a two-campus solution that would have split up the high school population.
Parents at the West Hills Middle School band and orchestra concert Tuesday evening at Andover High School reacted to news of the bond passage with relief.
“This is the end of eight years of contentiousness," said Beth Sinclair, track coach for Andover High School and the parent of an eighth-grader who will be affected by the school consolidation.
Caryn Bittker, who has two daughters at , said she was also relieved. “We would have been personally better off if it passed," Bittker said. "If not, we would have been considering private high schools for the girls in middle school.”
Millage opponents latched onto that alternative, which concerned many activists that felt the district's new building plan was developed with community input and provided better value than previous proposals.
But the didn't bear out that concern.
In Bloomfield Township, the measure passed in all but three precincts (#18, #27, and #31) and was the overwhelming favorite in most of the other polling locations. In West Bloomfield, the margin of victory was more than 1,200 votes in three precincts, results show. Voters defeated the bond in Bloomfield Hills Precinct #1 (426-393) but approved it in Precinct #2 (202-162).
"We ran like we were behind," said Brandon Kaufman, an organizer for One Bloomfield United, a community group formed last year that supports the merger plan. Members, and in some cases their school-aged children, stood at intersections and polling locations with "Yes" signs and pompons throughout the day.
"It's a good feeling because this is good for the community," he said.
Glass and others credited their work in mobilizing voters.
"I was confident this was how it was going to work out because the campaign was so well run," said Linda Finkel, a district resident for 36 years and a former BHS board member.
Bond opponents that raised concerns about impending budget deficits and the impact on student education were also proud of their campaign. Though it was clear the results were not turning in their favor about an hour after the polls closed, members of Bloomfield 20/20 and the student-organized Bloomfield Voice were hardly somber at a gathering at spokeswoman's Jenny Greenwell's home.
Some even pushed for further involvement.
"Of the many things I've learned from this experience, the most important one is how critical it is to engage in the decision-making process in order to hold our district leaders accountable," Chris Fellin said.
"The district faces a $48 million budget deficit, so now is not the time to walk away with blind trust. This is the time to engage to ensure money is spent wisely."
West Bloomfield Patch Editor Tim Rath contributed to this report.