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Farmington Schools Bond Prioritizes 'Urgent' Needs

Voters in Farmington, Farmington Hills and West Bloomfield will face two questions on the November ballot.

Farmington Public Schools has posted information about the Nov. 5 referendum on its website. Photo credit: Farmington Public Schools
Farmington Public Schools has posted information about the Nov. 5 referendum on its website. Photo credit: Farmington Public Schools
Farmington Public Schools officials hope that paring down the amount and giving voters more choices will lead to a better result with their second attempt at a capital bond referendum. 

A $222 million referendum on the Aug. 6 ballot failed by more than 950 votes. Afterward, officials conducted an online survey, met with two committees involved in planning the referendum and with groups of "no" voters, to determine how to re-frame the question.

Ultimately, school board members on Aug. 27 approved a plan that reduced the overall request by $31.7 million and split the bond into two parts.

Supt. Sue Zurvalec said the 3-week turnaround communicates the urgency of the need to fund building and site repairs. 

"Proposal 1, in particular, is urgent," she said. "It's critical."

Prioritized by the two committees – a visioning group and one that worked on financing capital needs – Proposal 1 includes construction of secure entrances, remodeling of classrooms and media centers, replacement of aging infrastructure and the purchase of technology including devices, interactive white boards and improvements to the district's wireless network. Improvements will be made to all of the district's K-12 schools. 

Proposal 2, which won't be enacted unless Proposal 1 also passes, would remodel high school auditoriums, replace artificial turf on football fields, and track and tennis court surfaces, and provide for a "refresh" of electronic devices and other technology needs. 

Facilities director Jon Riebe said there is no time frame for addressing needs that were cut out out of the original bond proposal. Those include upgrades to high school cafeterias and commons areas, construction of a swimming pool at Harrison High and a North Farmington locker room addition. 

Modifications also include a $4.1 million reduction in furnishings, largely from the decision to remove cafeteria and commons remodeling from the plan. In addition, Riebe said, "more traditional" furniture is being proposed for K-6 buildings.

The previous plan included more flexible, comfortable furnishings for classrooms redesigned as "Learning Studios". In materials posted on the district's website, classroom renovations are described as ensuring all classrooms meet a "common standard" with lighting, heating and cooling, sound systems, technology and other items. 

"The proposal still holds true to the original committees' work," Riebe said. 

Editor's note: This is first in a series of articles on the Farmington Public Schools November bond election. To weigh in on this issue, leave a comment below or participate in our "What's the Future of Farmington Public Schools" open blog. Information about the proposal elements is posted at http://www.farmington.k12.mi.us/bond_nov_2013.php
Raynond Oakleyr September 25, 2013 at 02:36 PM
Time to understand seniors are not blind puppets we way all sides and there is time for all to come out about what the school board has done with funds that was to maintain the school buildings and why did they let it get in the condition they say they are. Were was the money deverted to. Sence Farmington taxes are higher then the other areas in Oakland County and the teachers are the second highest payed next to Wall Lake which is the highest paid and maintain their schools with in budget which is not the case with Farminton School Board which has the spend spend mentality and lets raise taxes to cover our incompetents
Dave York September 25, 2013 at 03:45 PM
The rush to judgment to proceed with the standard Plan B approach – jettison the least defendable big ticket items as a feint of responsiveness and split the proposal in an effort to pull in marginal supporters to secure approval on the bulk of the actions placed in first proposal – represents an arrogant Board unwilling to challenge the Superintendent. FPS has a structural budget problem that this Bond proposal is a misplaced effort to maintain. The Board should be directing the Superintendent to fix it, either gradually or, if the needs are “urgent”, then drastically. Maintaining and upgrading the district facilities is all but ignored in the annual District budget. School and District facilities should be on a scheduled plan for maintenance or replacement. Technology should be on a lease plan with a built-in schedule of upgrade or replacement. This should be an integral part of the budget, as they are an integral part of the district’s learning asset portfolio. The current budget structure does not permit this because staff compensation and benefits are significantly overweighted. Yet real accountability with consequences for this management decision has been and is lacking. And as a direct consequence, FPS is not receiving a commensurate benefit for this management decision. Student achievement lags behind and district facilities degrade at the taxpayers’ expense. There was a $95 Million bond passed in 1997. Yet, with taxpayer’s supporting a $135 Million annual budget, the Superintendent and Board paint a picture of a district crumbling to ruins despite the recent closing of several schools. This is exemplary of the all too typical Government Sector mismanagement, lack of critical analysis, and lack of accountability.
Dave York September 25, 2013 at 03:56 PM
At the Board meeting where public comment was received on the November Bond proposal and the Board voted Yes, the Board President advised the audience that he worries for the safety of Farmington Public School students on a daily basis as a reason to support the $20 Million lock down of the schools. I challenge the rational basis for such a fear from outside of the school. There is a significantly greater risk from the lack of discipline enforced within the schools and the all but declared war between school administrations and their respective classroom teachers attempting to prevent the removal of disruptive students from the classroom in suppport of unscientific social engineering driven agendas. It also represents a failure of critical analysis. Where was the responsible and coherent response to the $20 Million price tag of let’s find a less expensive, best practice alternative that addresses the risk assessed threat? Where was an immediate response to a perceived daily threat to FPS students? Too typical of the Government Sector, this didn’t occur at FPS. The first high priced proposal was just placed on the backs of the taxpayers without identifying the disproportionate $20M price tag to the threat risk or the contradiction with the taskforce’s goal of reducing barriers of access and welcoming to the non-school community.
Dave York September 25, 2013 at 04:01 PM
At the Board meeting where public comment was received on the November Bond proposal and the Board voted Yes, another Board member voiced their support based on the purchase of alternative modes of seating, explaining their child could never sit still and learn in a standard classroom desk. I do not know the Grade level of the student, but if it is beyond Third Grade, then there is a problem, and it is not with the classroom chair. Superintendent Zurvolec chimes the line that standardized test scores do not make a student. This is a trite deflection to avoid the stark reality that where meaningful student learning and achievement is a focus, standardized test scores take care of themselves and reflect the student achievement attained. Go to the State MEAP test results for Farmington and look at the cold hard data. For multiple groups of students, 70 to 80% of those students fail to demonstrate proficiency at all Grade levels tested for Math, Science, and Social Studies and has been consistently repeated for the last 4 years. There is no excuse for the same poor performance to have been repeated four years in a row. This is the real crisis in FPS and should be the subject of Bi-Weekly Board reviews of corrective actions and demonstrated improvements. This real problem has absolutely nothing to do with facilities. It has everything to do with a lack of accountability at every level. These students cruise from grade level to grade level as though they can succeed at the next level without the skills from the previous level. They eventually are handed an FPS High School Diploma. It should surprise no-one that employer, community college, and university alike, all find it necessary to remediate Farmington Public School graduates. It doesn’t surprise FPS since they have to remediate incoming HS Freshman who lack the skills they were expected to have achieved in Middle School. A known problem, year in and year out that is accepted and remains unchanged. Where is the accountability? Where are the School Board “Trustees”? Why provide facility improvements that lack plans and allocated funds to be maintained and whose effective and efficient use to deliver real student learning and achievement is not a requirement and an issue of effective accountability at the district, building, or classroom levels? First Things First. This Bond Proposal is not a First Thing.
Pam October 16, 2013 at 11:14 PM
The bond is not about teacher or administrator salaries. It concerns me that I continue to read comments about this. Perhaps those who think that need to find out more in order to have the facts. I also know hundreds of FPS graduates and do not agree with the above comments. Among these graduates are doctors, lawyers, nurses, engineers, biologists, teachers, business owners, entrepreneurs, chemists, soldiers, police officers, and game and web designers. I wonder how these students succeeded? My children received their education through FPS and are very successful adults. Are we really going to blame on the district for the fact that not all students learn the same or process information the same? Teachers differentiate instruction, provide one on one instruction and work tirelessly to engage students and support learning. Are they the blame that parents don't come to conferences or Curriculum Night? It takes a village to raise a child. Now more than ever. Instead of criticizing, volunteer to mentor a child, read to a class, lend a helping hand to a teacher, greet people at the front door, write grants to support educational needs, donate supplies, tutor students in need, share a gift or a talent with a school. Many schools have SAGE (Senior Adults Giving Education) Volunteers who know the needs of the schools and see firsthand the dedication of the teachers, staff, and administration. This is not seniors against the schools on the bond. Perhaps their are some seniors but certainly not all. Both of my parents were major supporters of the schools. The donate funds to purchase musical instruments, sponsored families, volunteered at school events, read to children, donated supplies, assisted with clerical support and attended school clean-up days. They believed that giving back or paying it forward was worth the investment. They raised me to work hard, trust others, do my best, believe that good conquers evil, and that we must invest in our youth in order to have a better tomorrow. How can you put a price tag on that? I work hard for my money just as everyone else does. My entire extended family will be voting "Yes" on both proposals to show that we know FPS is looking out for our children and has nothing but their best interest at heart. Thank you for your dedication! Yes, our children deserve the best. Keep your heads up high, FPS. We believe in you!!!

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