UPDATE: Farmington Schools Bond Defeated, but 'We're Not Done'

Superintendent Sue Zurvalec says the district will start working on evaluating the defeat and preparing for another bond referendum.

Farmington Schools Supt. Sue Zurvalec talks to supporters as it becomes clear a $222 million bond referendum has been defeated. Video credit: Joni Hubred-Golden
Farmington Schools Supt. Sue Zurvalec talks to supporters as it becomes clear a $222 million bond referendum has been defeated. Video credit: Joni Hubred-Golden

See how your neighborhood voted: 2013 Farmington School Bond Results by Precinct

Farmington School Board chair Howard Wallach said he was "disappointed" by the failure of the district's bond referendum. 

"We put a lot of time and effort into studying the issues ... and getting recommendations from a wide cross-section of the community," he said. "We felt this was best for our kids, and that it would make them competitive in school and make our community attractive to come to." 

"We have to respect what the voters said," he added, noting officials will do an analysis of the results. 

Wallach believes a negative campaign that produced a large postcard mailing and automated calls may have impacted some voters. "We live in a soundbite world today," he said, "and big postcards can make an impression, even if the information is not correct." 

9:13 p.m. 
"I think the next time around, it will pass," Advocates for Excellence co-chair Erica Reaves said. "I can sleep tonight. We played a clean campaign." 

She mentioned an automated call that went out to voters just before the election that claimed the district wanted "half a billion dollars". She said she believes people will eventually come to regret that they did not vote yes, when the first list serv goes out about a school closing due to a building issue. 

"Whether it's a year or two years from now, people will look back and say, 'Wow, we should have passed that bond," she said. 

8:50 p.m.
In a gathering at the district's Ten Mile Building, Superintendent Sue Zuravlec told supporters of the $222 million bond referendum that, while the final vote hadn't been counted, the writing was on the wall. 

The referendum appeared headed for defeat, with 26 of 27 precincts reporting. But Zurvalec said, "We're not done." She told supporters that after a previous $100 million bond issue defeat in 1997, the district conducted focus groups with "no" voters and worked to regain their support. 

She urged volunteers and staff who campaigned for the bond to celebrate their hard work. 

8:44 p.m.
Twitter note from Eric Lindquist, who was at Dunckel Middle School at 7:50 p.m. "374 ballots cast in Precinct 9! Must have picked up in the afternoon." Vote tally with all but one precinct reporting: 6856 yes, 7898 no. 

8:30 p.m.
 Oakland County's new system of uploading election results appears to be working without a hitch tonight. With 23 of 27 precincts reporting, the current count is 6709 in favor of the bond, and 7404 opposed. 

12:30 p.m.
Early morning traffic seemed light in Tuesday's election, with a half-dozen polling places in Farmington and Farmington Hills reporting fewer than 100 walk-in votes cast. 

City clerks on Friday said that more than 6,000 absent voter (AV) ballots had been returned. In Farmington Hills, workers at city hall are processing AV ballots. In Farmington, election workers tallying AV ballots at the polls report seeing more of those than walk-in voters.

At Farmington High School, where Precinct 3 and 4 voters cast their ballots, nearly 270 of the 332 ballots processed by around 10 a.m. were from absent voters. Election workers said the turnout was steady after the polling place opened at 7 a.m.

Farmington Precinct 6 workers, at Our Lady of Sorrows parish, reported only three people were waiting in line at 7 a.m. Their turnout at around 10 a.m. was just 26 walk-in voters and 189 absent voter ballots. 

Poll worker Walter Girbach, who has been working elections since 1998, predicted about a 25 percent voter turnout for Precinct 2, at The Crossing Church in Farmington. Shortly after 10 a.m., 136 ballots had been cast, with another 120 absent voter ballots left to be counted. 

"It's been heavier than I would have thought. I think we're going to hit 25 percent (voter turnout)," he said. "I might be a little optimistic."


This is it, Farmington school district residents! You decide whether to authorize $222 million in bonds to finance improvements to K-12 buildings, technology upgrades and high school athletic field replacements.

Patch will be covering this election throughout the day, right up until the final local votes are reported.

We've published Election Day information in Need To Know: Tuesday's Farmington Public Schools Bond Election, and you can check our Schools and Government sections for more election coverage. 
Linda August 12, 2013 at 08:20 AM
Hey that's the democratic way....when you proposal gets defeated you keep bringing it back again and againandagain...using school funds to promote your proposal ..... Until you wear the folks down.......this is why local control doesn't work.....
FHVoice August 12, 2013 at 08:42 AM
By all means, yes, shelly. Let's get the people who drive down 13 Mile Road pay for the repairs and expansion kick in the cost of a whopper per day. Why should we all have to pay for it? And while we're at it, I resented Bush's lying us into war and waging two wars without raising a dime to fight them. Why shouldn't we just hand the bill to Bush, Iraq War hawks, and the companies that profited from it? Why do we all have to pay for his blunder? The answer lies in what we truly are - people freely choosing to live in a community. Our behavior is appropriately constrained where necessary and our collective power can facilitate business, provide for security, educate its members, and provide for clean water. If you really want to separate yourself from it, move, for attempting to split a community responsibility based upon a vote is in fact an attack on the very concept of community.
FHVoice August 12, 2013 at 08:53 AM
No, Linda, local control does work. Are you suggesting that an election where less than 30% of the eligible voters voted should forever close off discussion about an issue in the community, like funding schools? Of course you are. The "not one more dime for schools" crowd cannot claim to be in the majority just yet.
FHVoice August 12, 2013 at 09:28 AM
Finally, (for now), note Linda's comment and underlying message: "As an additional note. Catholic central students are being required to purchase an I-pad for class use. Why can't FPS require our students to purchase an I-pad for class use. If FPS really is concerned about increasing property values as well....we need to increase the median family income within our community. A higher median family income will also promote parent and booster contributions." - Hum. Make the schools less attractive to potential higher mobility and income families and then expect them to move here and raise property values. A true forward looking city planner. Wow. - What does a truly first class school system cost? In 2011, Greenhills School -- where Gov. Snyder's daughter attends -- in Ann Arbor released a video asking for donations. In the video, officials from Greenhills claim that $20,000 per year per student isn't enough to keep the school running. - Back in 2011 Michigan public schools received an average of $6,846 per year per student, and that number has dropped since Gov. Snyder took office. Academic and athletic facilities at Greenhills include Smartboard technology in all classrooms, a state-of-the-art theater, an indoor batting cage, a climbing wall, and a weather station. The average class size is 15 students. - That's part of how you get to a school that scores 100% college entrance rate for graduates. You don't get there by reducing the number of teachers and letting class sizes balloon, nor by withholding future looking investments. - The bond issue was a step in the direction of improvement - just look at what premier performing systems have and match that with some of what was in the bond issue. Rejecting it was short sighted, but fortunately, we still can reverse that. As to what Snyderism has done to public education, well, we have to wait until next year to end that.
Linda August 12, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Ask parents in Highland Park, inkster, Pontiac et al as examples if local control works? Sadly no....richer communities are sddled with ever increasing school taxes to keep their heada above water... If that is what we get with local control.... Forgetaboutit
art August 12, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Linda: FYI, in 2008 Pontiac received $13,488 per pupil. In 2011 that went to $14125 per pupil. It remains up to the local school boards and Superintendents to manage their funds accordingly. Even with more money they spent it unwisely. Local control is great but one needs those who can manage it to be the best. Not politically the best, but who can manage their resources the best and right size the district as needed.. That may explain part of our local problem.
Joe Smith August 12, 2013 at 04:20 PM
All of this finger pointing still does not adress the need of these buildings, our technology for students etc. We must not finger point and come up with a way to get our kids the envirement they need to learn in. I have spoken with may families with kids that are ready for Elementary school, i beleive its time to move out of this area to a district that supports education of our children. Sorry Farmington Hills but we will be house shopping out of this district shortly.
Bloomfield1876 August 12, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Joe you actually don't have to move out of the district to go to another school district.....charter schools and Schools of Choice abound and soon and hopefully soon school district boundaries will melt away and you will have your choice of the best schools as you decide them to be. That is the problem with school districts they trap homeowners into approving higher and higher millages because previously you didn't have a choice but that is changing and thank the heavens above it is.
shelley August 12, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Joe, and others. I still don't see why there is a problem. I encourage Joe and others to voluntarily donate to the schools. According to the election +/- 50% of the citizens want to contribute to the schools. Parental involvement is paramount to successfully educating a child. Leaving education to the schools alone is not adequate. The district should work towards adding a check box to the next and future property tax bills. If a taxpayer would like to contribute $25, $50, $100,etc to the district, check the box and enclose the additional funds. Just like with the presidential election fund on the income tax return. No more valuable money should be wasted on elections where there is such a split of opinion. Also, having the fanciest schools in the state doesn't do any good, if the education is not reinforced at home. Just look what happened to Pontiac Central.
Bloomfield1876 August 12, 2013 at 06:22 PM
Wonderful suggestion Shelley.....Sure beats the expense of non-Nov ballots; and gives taxpayers a yearly opportunity to support their district schools should they choose.
Sharon August 14, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Just for the record. I find this quote in our local paper very interesting - "Prior to the Board of Education deciding whether or not to move forward with a November ballot proposal, there will likely be two opportunities for the public to offer comments — at the Aug. 20 school board meeting and at a special meeting, not yet scheduled, [Zurvalec] said." The deadline for "Petitions to place proposals on ballot filled with county and local clerks" was August 13th. Only the "Ballot wording" language deadline is August 27th. This is an item that deserved being FOIA'd right now. If it has already been filed when did the FPS Board of Education meet to vote to go forward? If so, then so much for wanting any community members' input. http://www.michigan.gov/documents/sos/Nov_2013_Elec_Dates_408271_7.pdf
Sue Burstein August 17, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Get ready folks....they're comin' back, just like a bad penny and it's still going to be close to $200,000. BTW...unless you are on the LIST SERVE for the district, you wouldn't know they were asking for feedback via a survey. This is how they keep those if you who don't agree with them out of the loop. Here is the link...take the survey...it's your school district too. https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XPDLJTT
Denise Gundle-White August 17, 2013 at 07:03 PM
Sue: The survey that you (on Aug 17) stated was only available through the Listserv IS in fact available via links in articles in both the Patch and the Observer (both dated Aug. 16). Patch ~ http://farmington-mi.patch.com/groups/schools /p/farmington-school-officials-look-for-answers-in-failed-bond-referendum Observer ~ http://www.hometownlife.com/article/20130816/NEWS06/308150151/FPS-offers-survey-assess-voters-opinions-perceptions-bond-issue?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|Farmington|p
Sue Burstein August 18, 2013 at 08:15 AM
Denise, thank you for that info. Unfortunately these types of surveys leave out a significant portion of the voting public. If you don't read then Patch or the Observer online, and based on recent news reports most don't, and you don't get list serves then your opinions won't be heard. This then becomes a top for the district that is skewed to those who are in tune with what they are up to. Hardly representative of the voting public unfortunately.
Dave York August 18, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Nothing in the proposed $222M Bond proposal addressed the instructional delivery problems that exist in FPS. As both Student & Taxpayer Trustees, the Board needs to set performance targets and hold the Superintendent accountable for achieving them. FPS parents, and taxpayers, where is your "FHVoice"? Third party evaluation has reported that the FPS learning achievement has, in most categories, a flat 5 year trend, no improvement. Third Grade is a research based learning development gateway. For 5 years, the same large percentage of FPS 3rd Grade students have demonstrated their lack of proficiency to pass thru that gateway. But FPS, based on seat time, lets them thru. In FPS, 4th Grade, 6th Grade, 8th Grade, & Graduation provides similar gateways to validate that students have adequately learned the curriculum to be successful at the next level. How can there be a rational expectation of success at the next level when the achievement standards for the current level have not been attained? $222M will not change this problem. Third party student evaluation has shown that large percentages of FPS students are not proficient in basic skills at each of the stated gateways and for the last 5 years, FPS has not changed or improved their instructional delivery system to effectively improve student performance. This should be unacceptable to FPS parents and taxpayers. Nothing in the $222M is required to change this reality. The methodology has been in place and used in FPS for over 2 decades. Where it is being used, an upward 5 year trend is the rule, not the exception. Nationwide these and other responsive instructional practices are reducing if not eliminating the so-called socio-economic achievement gap that FPS, using the cover of the Oakland County ISD, had the gaul to cite as an excuse to resist National and State sponsored educational reform and accountability initiatives. Parents, Taxpayers, their School Board Trustees, and the FPS Superintendent should focus on and change this situation, which will show itself in 3rd Party student achievement evaluations, before diffusing and distracting their focus trying to spend a $222M windfall. They don't have the capacity to do both.
Greg Cowley August 18, 2013 at 01:15 PM
Amen - Dave York for Farmington School Board !
Eric Vogel August 18, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Dave: I talked to a teacher and this is what she said. If fails, what is needed comes out of the educational budget making education worse such as lay offs and making the already too big classrooms larger. If passes, then the stuff that was or is coming out of the edu budget goes back into education. So it does help indirectly. She seemed to support it because it freed up the edu money, I do not think she needs fancy new furniture.
Tanya August 18, 2013 at 10:34 PM
Eric, sorry but as an employee of FPS this $$ is not going towards the children inside the classrooms! They are telling us this so we are for the budget and wanting to make all parents for the proposal. Knowing a lot more than most people, my question is how much is Sue getting from this?
Sue Burstein August 19, 2013 at 09:11 AM
Dig down into the numbers that FPS proposes. Because of technology purchases they estimate needing another 12 -15 TECH people to support the teachers (NOT THE STUDENTS) for all this technology. How many classroom teachers could that support? They cannot and will not do normal repairs from the bond. Those will still exist. The are replacing football fields to the tune of $3 million dollars...this is high school NOT the NFL...just wondering how that will increase our test scores? They have yet to fix trimesters, long bus rides (they laid off 5 bus drivers in 2012 while adding 29 other full time personnel that year that too were laid off in 2013). This is a district rife with fiscal mismanagement. What those who are pro the bond refuse to hear is that many of us would support a bond to fix up the buildings where needed, just not one to support the fluff that this last request was packed with. Bring back a reasonable request, we'll get behind it. But swivel chairs, floor to ceiling windows, and learning studios are just not what this district needs. FIX what his broken, especially in the way that education is being meted out, and that will help to fix our scores. Oh, and by the way...give us the true costs for the IB program...bet you could hire a s**tload of teachers on the waste there.
Trisha Balazovic August 20, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Mrs. Kahn, would you please dig down into the numbers proposed? If you do dig down into the numbers, you can then stop repeating the following, "floor to ceiling windows". There is no recommendation for floor to ceiling windows anywhere in any document, nor has it been stated at any time. The total cost of windows comes in at a grand total of $424,800.00. $174,800 of that was called out in the Assessment Area (aka Infrastructure Upgrades, for Window Systems at Lanigan and Warner and a vision window at Forest) and the other $250,000 was called out for Window and Exterior Door Replacement at Dunckel MS and Window and Panel Replacements for East MS (the total $250K not being solely windows). In the interest of full disclosure, the 250K at the two middle schools was part of the recommendation from the Visioning Committee. And for the record, "swivel" chairs have also not been "recommended". Replacement furniture will be necessary as the current furniture becomes unusable as furniture tends to do after 30+ years of continued usage. It would make sense to replace it with furniture that will be as durable as the items used today, for equivalent costs that just so happens to be more comfortable than what was available 30+ years ago. I was on the Visioning committee. Our intent was not not to pretty things up, or to be flashy. It was to make responsible choices for our students today that would also be flexible enough for the classroom environments for the next 30+ years, regardless of how the classroom environment evolves. That was actually one of the most important items to me, so that we would not have to go through this process again in 10 to 15 years.
FHVoice August 20, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Oh snap - SBK wasn't posting the truth? I shocked, SHOCKED, I tell ya. Notice the ads for other districts these days? Notice how they prominently mention their use of technology in the classroom? We need to improve on a variety of fronts. Hopefully, the next bond issue will not be so easy to demagogue. Of course, there's no hope of stopping someone from posting flat out lies. [Sorry, Dave, despite your kind shoutout, I don't have the time for banter right now. Would be very interested to see your "third party evaluation". Just where does one find that?] [P.S.: Thanks for a breath of reason based upon the facts.]
shelley August 20, 2013 at 04:06 PM
There is no need to have a November bond issue. I recall that the reason that the August election ($65,000-$85,000) was organized, was because November would be too late. Well, August came and went. So, now, lets sell the old schools and buildings. Let's analyze the budget, perhaps streamline administrative costs, add a voluntary contribution box on the next tax bill for all those that want to contribute to the school improvements......then come back to the tax payers for a bond issue. If the bond issue was for say... half of the amount, and for a 5 year period, and for technology alone....It may had a better chance of passing. However, now we have time, the urgency of the August election has passed. The majority of the voters have spoken. So, now sell the old schools and buildings, look for corporate partnerships and funding, and increase parental funding. (At least the parents can purchase their children ipads)
Sue Burstein August 20, 2013 at 04:45 PM
OUCH!!! Me thinks thou dost protest too much. Hurts to lose...huh? WE THE PEOPLE voted. WE THE PEOPLE have said no to the bond behemoth. Live with it. Get over it. This district is so far out of touch with what reality is it is pitiful. Just look at those rankings that came out today. OUCH...again. What once was, is no more, and will never be. You can throw a billion dollars at windows, and desks, and such, and it won't matter. And Trisha...I sat at the meeting where they talked about floor to ceiling windows becasue the kids need sunlight in the hallways, and making them places for kids to "exchange" ideas. I heard all the talk about little Johnny no longer falling out of his chair because they will now swivel. I heard the administration actually say that teachers "no longer stand up in front of classrooms and impart knowledge". I heard them use the new buzzwords baout students "facilitating learning among themselves". I saw the renderings, and I was not the only one. And you know what...it's ALL GARBAGE. Just like computers...GIGO...and we wonder why our test scores and Now, let me reiterate once again, I AM NOT AGAINST A BOND ISSUE....I WAS AGAINST THIS BLOATED BOND ISSUE. And for everyone who thinks Nov. will be different because suddenly all these voters will turn out, think again. There was 1,000 more voters in Nov. 2011 than in Aug. 2013. It's not enough people to change the results. What will change the results is coming up with something that people who feel the way I do can accept. We are not against fixing up schools, we are against giving that kind of money to a group of people who on more than one occasion have proven their fiscal irresponsibility and malfeasance.
Sharon August 20, 2013 at 05:24 PM
Such a sad state of affairs in FPS. No public information available online regarding the revised up coming millage proposal being presented tonight at the pre-meeting and board meeting. NO information in the board packet for the public to review and decide if they should take the time to speak tonight. NO public meeting to discuss what revisions should be made before this new proposal goes before the public again in November. Only a 4 question survey. Absolutely NO public input is wanted by FPS administration. And now we can clearly see that 13 of our 16 schools are "Focus Schools". Only 4 of 16 schools are ranked above the 75% in the state. Half, 8 of 16 schools are ranked 50% or below. And one of our 3 high schools is ranked in the bottom 20%. We don't need knew buildings we need the Board of Education to hold the Superintendent responsible for our students EDUCATION. We don't need another power point to tell us about our buildings. We need to change the focus back to educating our students.
Trisha Balazovic August 20, 2013 at 05:49 PM
Way to show your true colors once again Sue. This isn't about me or you. I didn't lose anything except the time I wasted trying to keep up with correcting mis information being posted. My kids lost, your friends kids lost and our teachers lost. And please don't tell me to let it go. Two weeks after the election you are still saying the same things over and over. I will not lower myself to continue in the weeds with you. One more thing, I will never give up on what's right for my kids. So you might as well get used to me being around. I don't scare easily.
Trisha Balazovic August 20, 2013 at 05:53 PM
At Sharon, I absolutely agree we need to improve our educational deficiencies. There is a lot of work to be done. The unfortunate thing is that for some reason so many of you don't understand that these things go hand in hand.
Sue Burstein August 20, 2013 at 06:29 PM
OMG Trisha...the last thin;g I want, or even asked is for you to go away. Perhaps, that is the biggest difference we have. I actually believe that you have an opinion that should be voiced. I actually believe that this great country was founded on coming to some kind of middle ground in areas where we may have difference. I believe that in my recent post, I stated I WOULD SUPPORT a bond issue, and a fairly significant one at that. However, you and your cohorts do not appear to believe that middle ground counts. It's all or nothing. And what you may end up with in the end is nothing. And I agree with you, that would be most unfortunate for the kids. I get fighting for the kids. I have done that for the past 15 -20 years. I fought for our kids to continue to learn American Government. Guess I just sort of thought that AMERICAN kids should understand how the AMERICAN government works, especially when they were about to become voting participants of our great republic. Seems, FPS didn't think that was so important. Then I joined others to fight against trimesters, becasuse you know what, THEY ARE A FAILURE, and the only ones suffering are those pesky high schoolers - again. But, I guess FPS doesn't think that is so important. Then, I decided to speak up about the fact that Farmington Central and Alameda are not included in the current bond request. Oh wait! Those are just those kids who don't do so well in a mainstream high school and geez, just some little ones who might need a little extra help. But again, FPS wasn't focused on the KIDS who may need the most help...let's just leave those behind. And then there is EAGLE ELEM...and a school that was packed to its busting point was suddenly closed because why? Well, it certainly wasn't because FPS was going to make it any easier on over 600 KIDS at that school. Hey, what the heck, they can go on a 45 minute field trip to a new school - TWICE A DAY. Yep... here in FPS it's clear, the decisions are always ALL ABOUT THE KIDS. NOT!
Trisha Balazovic August 20, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Sue - all of the items you mention in your last post with the exception of the August bond are things that transpired before my son was even in school yet and before my daughter was born. I can't comment on things I don't have full knowledge of nor will I. I will admit to being new to all of this. But I am a fast learner. And I will continue to fight for what I think is right for ALL FPS students, no matter what age or school they attend. And I will begin to educate myself on the items I am not current on. I also want to say that I was not in favor of every item on the bond. But I am in favor of moving in the right direction, that is why I have fought so hard for the bond.
Sharon August 20, 2013 at 07:48 PM
Trisha, I am glad to read that you are going to educate yourself about the history that certainly influences many of the issues that are being discussed here. After 20 plus years of being very actively involved in this school district, numerous millage proposals, endless truly daily volunteering during my children's education my perspective is certainly different than yours. But before you lump me or anyone else into a "you" category that doesn't "understand that these things go hand in hand" I will enlighten you to the fact that I have a master's degree in education. I do know a great deal about education but more importantly I do know a great deal about how difficult it has been to swim upstream in the FPS system and still find a way to successfully educate and graduate my children. Each of us has individual experiences that lead us to where we are with our opinions regarding FPS. The "you" group is very disappointed that the EDUCATION your children will be getting doesn't hold a candle to the individualized education most of our children had when they started in FPS. The severe downhill slide started with trimesters and connected math being shoved down this community's throat by the current administration. It is time to hold the current administration accountable for the academic losses FPS students have suffered. Just be sure you get both sides of each story you uncover in your search to educate yourself. My children had 17 students, a full time parapro, a reading specialist, daily PE music art etc. when they started kindergarten. Not what our tax dollars are getting us today.
Gregory Keller August 21, 2013 at 11:03 AM
Gregory Keller August 21, 2013 at 10:22 AM I support the accusation that FPS is fiscally irresponsible. First off the budget says they have $ 9800/student but when you divide the total amount of revenue by the number of students it is over $14000/student. With this much money I could give them every thing they have now plus health insurance, a new laptop, a new classroom every year. This is more than UofM and Mich Tech tuition. Why does FPS need more money per student than a university? I would be in favor of a 50% cut and a new school board. My high school in Indianapolis uses only $5000 per student and achieves similar test scores!


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