Friday, November 30, 2012

Open Letter to Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature


November 30, 2012

An Open Letter to Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature

To meet the challenges of the 21st Century, Michigan must be a world leader in growing and retaining talent.  Accomplishing that goal requires a world-class education system, one that is well-coordinated and aligned with the needs of employers, families and students.

As superintendents of school districts serving several hundred thousand students, we must express our concerns at the reform agenda currently under consideration in the Legislature today, and in concepts being proposed for the next session.

Michigan needs a reform strategy that recognizes and celebrates our strengths, exposes our weaknesses, and addresses the gaps in a way that does not alienate, erode or destabilize structures that are working.  In short, we need a reform strategy that is efficient, effective and economical.  We cannot leave the reform strategy to chance, as our resources are far too scarce to squander on untested and unproven tactics.

The legislation proposed to codify the Education Achievement Authority (HB6004 and SB1358) is a prime example of untested and unproven reform. While we all hope the Education Achievement Authority is wildly successful in improving the lives of students in the 15 schools it operates, it has a track record of fewer than three months.  It also has an achievement strategy severely questioned in the previous district of Chancellor Covington, where his instructional methodologies were abandoned when the district lost accreditation following his departure.

In addition, are we concerned at the proposals forwarded by the Oxford Foundation for school funding and the accompanying policy legislation, HB5923.  These proposals are founded in school choice and make no mention of quality or demand a track record of success.  If school choice were the answer, Michigan would lead the nation in achievement because it has been a leader in choice for nearly two decades. 

Instead, the choices we have created through market-based reform have produced cookie-cutter public school academies serving middle class students while creating a permanent underclass in our inner cities.  Why? We believe that families struggling to maintain a roof over their head and food on their table simply do not have the resources to shop around for educational opportunity.  What they need is an equitably funded neighborhood school with the local control necessary to recognize and fulfill the specific needs of the population it serves.


We cannot leave reform and improvement to chance.  None of our state’s leading manufacturers would publish their specifications and accept any supplier with no track record of achievement.  They demand more of their supply chain, and so must we, as our students are the future for our employers and our economy.

Research-tested reform tells us we need to start early with preschool education.  Students need more time on task, they need extended day learning opportunities to master core competencies and they need exposure to the arts, music and cultural enrichment activities.

Our existing schools are funded at 2005-06 levels and have eliminated many of the programs students need.  The answer to that problem isn’t to invite any for-profit organization to open a competing school next door, nor is it to eliminate local control by creating a statewide school system operated from Detroit with no elected board and no accountability to the neighborhoods they serve.

Coherent reform would involve the business community and higher education, not to point fingers at K-12 districts for their failures, but to work together to identify the gaps in student preparation, to better understand the needs of a rapidly changing job market, and to recommend structural reforms that will fill those gaps.  Throwing state coffers open to anyone who would like to open a school will not accomplish those goals.

We are the educational leaders your communities hired to lead their education system.  Improving education is our passion and our life’s work.  We cannot endorse the reforms now before the legislature, but we are willing to work together to achieve a coordinated, coherent and comprehensive educational system from preschool through college.  Our children, our economy and our state deserve nothing less.

On behalf of children in our Region, the following school leaders are issuing this collaborative message on behalf of each of our respective school districts:


Mark R. Dobias

Allegan Area ESA


Kevin Harness

Allegan Public Schools


Daniel Jonker

Allendale Public Schools



Stiles X. Simmons

Baldwin Community Schools


Sara Shriver

Belding Area Schools


Tim Haist

Big Rapids Public Schools


Daniel L. Takens

Byron Center Public Schools


Randy Rodriguez

Caledonia Community Schools


Ronald McDermed

Cedar Springs Public Schools


Ethan Ebenstein

Comstock Park Public Schools


Ron Veldman

Coopersville Area Public Schools


Paul Blacken

Delton Kellogg Schools


Sara M. Shubel, Ph.D

East Grand Rapids Public Schools


Dirk Weeldreyer

Fennville Public Schools


Dan Behm

Forest Hills Public Schools


Jim Hieftje

Fremont Public Schools


Bob Szymoniak

Fruitport Community Schools


David Britten

Godfrey-Lee Public Schools


William L. Fetterhoff

Godwin Heights Public Schools


Keith Konarska

Grand Haven Area Public Schools


Ron Caniff

Grandville Public Schools


Jonathan M. Whan

Grant Public Schools


Peter Haines

Greenville Public Schools


David Tebo

Hamilton Community Schools


Jason J. Kennedy

Holton Public Schools


Chris J. Stephens

Hopkins Public Schools


Nick Ceglarek

Hudsonville Public Schools


Robert Kjolhede

Ionia County ISD


Thomas M. TenBrink

Jension Public Schools


Gregory D. Warsen

Kelloggsville Public Schools


Gerald Hopkins

Kenowa Hills Public Schools


Scott Palczewski

Kentwood Public Schools


Kyle Hamlin

Lakeview Community Schools

Michael O'Mara

Lakewood Public Schools


Paul Shoup

Mason County Eastern Public Schools


Curt Finch

Mecosta-Osceola ISD



Dave Peden

Mona Shores Public Schools


Shelly Millis

Montabella Community Schools


Nathan Robrahn

Montague Area Public Schools


Dr. Scott M. Koenigsknecht

Montcalm Area ISD


Jon Felske

Muskegon Public Schools


Dr. Lori Tubbergen Clark

Newaygo County Regional ESA


Dr. Peggy A. Mathis

Newaygo Public Schools


Dr. Curtiss Babcock

North Muskegon Public Schools


Michael F. Paskewicz

Northview Public Schools


Tom Livezey

Oakridge Public Schools


Patricia Walstra

Orchard View Schools


Dennis Patzer

Otsego Public Schools


Karen McPhee

Ottawa Area ISD


Susan Wakefield

Plainwell Community Schools


John B. VanLoon

Ravenna Public Schools


Steven Westhoff

Reed City Area Public Schools


Steve Edwards

Reeths-Puffer Schools


Michael S Shibler, Ph. D.

Rockford Public Schools


Rolfe Timmerman

Saugatuck Public Schools


Kent Swinson

Sparta Area Schools


Dennis Furton

Spring Lake Public Schools


Tom Enslen

Thornapple Kellogg Schools


Allen Cumings

Tri County Area Schools


Jeff Beal

Vestaburg Community Schools


Michael Sweet

Walkerville Public Schools


Norman L. Taylor

Wayland Union Schools


Randall Howes

West Shore Educational School District


Barry S. Seabrook

White Cloud Public Schools


Jerry McDowell

Whitehall District Schools


Dr. Thomas G. Reeder

Wyoming Public Schools



Rich Satterlee

  Alba Public Schools     

      Thomas K. Martin

    West Ottawa Public Schools


Kevin Konarska

 Kent ISD

  Ron Koehler

  Kent ISD


Greg Pratt

  Lowell Public Schools