Guest View: On the Restructuring of Ferndale Schools

essentialTOPtempGuest View: On the Restructuring of Ferndale Schools

(Mike Davisson, March 27, 2015)seed14_chad_matt

My wife Amy and I moved to Ferndale in 2008 when we were expecting our first child. Perhaps unlike some folks, we did not think about schools too much at that time – we were so wrapped up in selling one house, buying another, and preparing for baby’s arrival. Not long later twins arrived and we had three little ones under the age of two. We began meeting parents in the neighborhood and the community. Virtually everybody we met had one great thing in common – everybody loved the community of Ferndale. However, there was an undercurrent of thought shared by probably half of those parents that while the community was great, the schools were not, and we watched homes around us get sold as families chose to move to communities where they had faith in the schools. We began paying attention to the Ferndale Public Schools. What we saw was positive, save one simple metric – standardized high school test scores. We cautiously enrolled our youngest in the inaugural 3 year old class of the Little Eagles preschool program at Roosevelt Sahara ad with wineElementary. All three of our children have gone through Little Eagles, which moved to the Harding building after the first year, and the twins will be joining their sister at Roosevelt this fall. Their experiences at Harding and Roosevelt have been great.

As the recent school restructuring process got under way, we began to participate in the various forms of engagement offered to us: community forums, a focus-group, our PTA meeting, the Talk to Us webpage tool, etc. Early in the process our anxiety only grew, as there we so many ideas being floated and contentious opinions being shared. The process was messy and felt chaotic. The division we witnessed led us to question whether the district would be able to emerge from such a level of acrimony. We literally had a moment when one of us voiced the question – is this where we want our children to be? And another question: Can’t the school board just make a decision and implement it, saving the community all this trouble? We stuck with the process. Our thoughts and worries have gradually transformed.   We are now marveling at the beauty of this very democratic process that our community has willingly undertaken, allowing all to have a voice in the discussion.steele lindbloom ad

Democracy in education has been under attack around the country and in Michigan in recent years. Detroit Public Schools have been under the supervision of the State rather than the democratically elected school board for 12 of the past 15 years, during which time its fortunes have only worsened academically and financially. The Governor further circumvented democracy when he created the Education Achievement Authority (EAA) to run 15 of the lowest performing schools in Detroit. After three years, the EAA has been a disaster. Rather than being led through a rigorous, democratic restructuring process, the Buena Vista and Inkster public school districts were recently dissolved. Those communities now have NO voice. Legislation that was pushed, but ultimately did not pass, during the State’s lame duck legislative session in December would have put 255 school districts at risk for being taken over by the State. The assaults on the democratic values underpinning public seed024_jeannie_davis_from_lorieducation go on and on. Communities are losing their voices.

The voices of the Ferndale Public Schools community have been and will continue to be heard. Amy and I have come to a place of excitement for the future of the district. Regardless of the plans that are eventually implemented, we are excited that our children, who are just beginning their journeys in public education, will be educated in schools that are the result of a passionate, thoroughly democratic process undertaken by a community committed to sustainably providing an equitable, high quality education to all its students. We are hopeful that others who have been present to and a part of this process will recognize its gifts and those that the community-driven schools will offer their children.

For news articles about the restructuring see:dinos02sidelogo3

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