Friday, November 30, 2012

Open Letter to Governor Snyder and the Michigan Legislature

2012-11-30_1456
 

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