Here, for the sake of sentiment, is my first blog post on the Patch. I wish that I could say I was wrong about the future of education in Michigan.
When the Patch first popped up on my AOL screen my first impulse was how to find out how to get this unsolicited offering gone. The first image I saw was then Rep. Chuck Moss -- and I anticipated a series of paid for political manipulations -- a local version of The Detroit News dispensing the wisdom of The Mackinac Center.
But it became clear to me that the Patch Bloomfield actually had a local editor, Art Aisner, who was smart, funny, fair, good at dealing with difficult folks like me, and, above all else, local. It was clear he knew the community and wanted to work with all parts of it. The parts he didn't know he worked to get to know.
I got hopeful. An electronic version of the old hometown paper linked to others...this could be good. Greg Kowalski was at the end of his time at The Birmingham Eccentric and one could see that that publication was heading in a different direction -- away from the community -- ironically having been saved a few years ago by community sentiment.
Such is the world of modern media.
I am grateful to Art; I admire his efforts and abilities; and I wish him well in the future and I hope very much that will be somewhere local.
We need him.
I will wait and see what Patch has in mind. But I am very skeptical that what they have to offer will be worth much without Art.
This blog is mainly for those interested in the Bloomfield Hills School District. The perspective slants toward my own, of course. I am a parent with two young kids in BHSD. The current race for the school district school board motivates my writing.
BHSD faces two substantial challenges in the coming years.
In the short term, we have to finish the renovation of the old Andover site while continuing to provide top quality education for all students, including my daughter who will be caught up in the transition.
In the longer term – and this, believe it or not, is a much, much tougher challenge – we must be ready to respond to ongoing “reforms” coming from Lansing.
The greatest changes will most likely come from Governor Snyder’s charge for the “Oxford group” (led by Engler administrator Richard McClellan) to rewrite the entire School Aid Act of 1979. Governor Snyder has been admirably insistent and clear even if what he says runs counter to my own current interests: money should follow individual students rather than districts. Indeed, “districts” are often discussed as an obstacle that can’t be circumvented because they are in the state constitution. So this rewriting will surely include challenges to current district-centric policies like “hold harmless” and “20j” funds that, quite frankly, allow BHSD to stay recognizable to those that knew it as a top district in the 1960s, 1970s,1980s, 1990s, and 2000s and prompted many to move here.
(If you want to know what current school board candidates know or don’t know about hold harmless please, please watch the first 13 minutes of the school board candidate forum - http://bhstv.bloomfield.org/category/bhstv-all.)
Briefly, hold harmless funding millages allow a district like BHSD to stay ahead of other districts in terms of per pupil spending; correspondingly, they allow us to stay ahead in the results that high per pupil spending yields. In a post Proposition A (1994) world where school funding no longer relates strictly to property taxes this money help distinguish us from other lesser districts.
That is, if you are still accustomed to thinking that BHSD will always be well funded and successful because Bloomfield remains an affluent district, well, the times, as the song goes, have “a-changed” – and they did some time ago. We are only feeling it now.
Whoever sits on the school board, then, must a) be willing to defend hold harmless funds in a full throated matter or articulate comparable solutions and b) be able to read and understand the complex financial calculations the state uses to determine funding so they can argue for/or against whatever the Oxford group proposes and explain those changes to the community.
Nothing matters more if you want what I want.
If you say you want BHSD to remain a top rated District but know a better way to pay for it please let us all know. Firing people and cutting programs does not constitute an educational solution. It satisfies a desire for political blood.
This is the reason I am fully supporting Howard Baron for school board. In these circumstances the best candidates must have substantive training and experience in finance and a dogged willingness to read through things like hold harmless millages. For most of us this isn’t fun work. But the complexity and tedium of the task does reveal how ill suited the job would be for those who 1) primarily enjoy throwing verbal bombs from the public comments podium or elsewhere 2) think BHSD should operate with less for the sake of operating with less or 3) should be led by political forces outside the district.
Not only does Mr. Baron have the academic training and experience (www.howardbaron.com) to handle these issues he has the calm, fair, and independent temperament to explain these issues to the community at large and, frankly, our local state representatives. Since August Mr. Baron has attended and participated in six Community Partnership meetings, eight PTO meetings, and several BHSD events to try to reach out and work with as many people in the District as possible. This is on top of his work over the last two years with the Community Partnership Committees.
This kind of commitment and openness to all is honorable; more importantly, it is necessary. We are fortunate to have him willing to serve.