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Officials Look to Solve Rift Between School, Cities

Quarterly meetings may be one solution to fractured relationships between school and city officials.

Some city officials have been asked to refrain from making negative comments at Farmington Public Schools meetings. (Patch file photo)
Some city officials have been asked to refrain from making negative comments at Farmington Public Schools meetings. (Patch file photo)

City and school officials in Farmington and Farmington Hills are looking for new avenues of communication and ways to heal a rift that developed over past failed school bond issues.

Some members of the Farmington and Farmington Hills city councils spoke against the bond issue, The Observer & Eccentric reports. That has prompted some requests from school officials asking that city officials not speak during the public comment periods at board meetings.

The school board and city councils have traditionally held a annual joint meeting, but that may be replaced by quarterly meetings with selected representatives from each group, Farmington Hills Mayor Barry Brickner told the The Observer & Eccentric.

He said some comments by Farmington Hills City Council members at school board meetings have been “misconstrued,” and relationships might be better served if council members refrained from speaking.

Brickner said he’s trying to be a “peacemaker” and the quarterly meeting schedule could mend some fences.

“I say, let’s try this out and see if it works. We have to get past our differences,” he said. “We still have to communicate with each other ... we can’t act cohesively if we don’t talk to each other.”

Howard Wallach, the president of the Farmington Public Schools board of education, said he thinks more frequent communication is a step in the right direction that will result in the three entities working together on important issues.

He said there’s nothing wrong with city officials voicing their opinions at public meetings, but doesn’t think that’s the appropriate forum for negative comments about each other’s decisions – whether that be a criticism about a school or a city decision.

“We have never appeared at a City Council meeting and advocated the City Council take a particular position or to do business differently than they deem best,” he told the newspaper.

Tell Us:

  • What’s the best way to create a better working relationship between the school board and city councils in Farmington and Farmington Hills?

Sue Burstein June 06, 2014 at 11:34 AM
"Howard Wallach, the president of the Farmington Public Schools board of education, said he thinks more frequent communication is a step in the right direction that will result in the three entities working together on important issues." But under Wallach's concept, only 3 members at most from each board could attend these meetings because any more would require community notification and an open meeting under the OMA (Open Meetings Act). Let's be clear, this was not the idea of the city councils. This was the idea of the people on the FPS board mentioned in the article as a way to avoid the OMA and keep the public OUT. They would have no requirement or force of law behind having to tell the community they were having these "meetings". Smacks of the same backroom behind closed doors dealing that they have been accused of in the past. And Brickner appears to be a willing participant (and rumor has it the only participant on FH Council) in favor of their attempt to hide behind closed doors. How unfortunate, when our district is suffering from two bond losses that certain (not all) school board members have chosen to go this route. If this is an indication of their attempt to build bridges and trust with the community, they are seriously failing, and they will doom their next bond attempt as well. Their failure to listen to what the community has been telling them (just attend one of the community bond meetings to hear it) is that no one trusts them to do the right thing anymore. Apparently, those comments fall on deaf ears. BRAVO, to those members of city councils that will refuse to go along with this insanity. Additionally, this statement is factually incorrect: "Some members of the Farmington and Farmington Hills city councils spoke against the bond issue, The Observer & Eccentric reports. That has prompted some requests from school officials asking that city officials not speak during the public comment periods at board meetings." Having attended or watched every single school board meeting during the bond elections, not a single council member from either city EVER spoke out at a school board meeting against the bond during public comments. Besides, even if they had, we still have a 1st amendment in this country, and an OMA in this State. And, as far as I know, all council members live in our district, some with kids in the schools. To tell them they can't speak out, or shouldn't speak out is flagrant disregard for their rights as citizens. But then, why am I not surprised?

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