(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 15, 2010)
In an effort to learn more about life in Ferndale, The Ferndale 115 News is launching a 15 Questions Series that gives interviews with residents and people involved in the community. On March 11, 2010 reporter Crystal A. Proxmire sat down with Ferndale Board of Education President Chuck Moeser to find out how School Board issues might affect readers.
1. What does the School Board do?
“The School Board sets the policies for how the district operates. They work with the administration to make sure that goals are being met and that guidelines are being followed. We are elected by people in the District to make sure the schools are operating the way the public wants.”
2. How long have you been School Board President?
Moeser has been on the School Board for 19 years, and has been President for the past 10.
3. How much money do you make as Board President?
“This is a volunteer board so there is no pay. Those of us involved do this because we like to do things for the kids.”
4. When you say that you do good things for the kids, what types of things do you actually do?
“We have to be involved with the district and the kids to make sure that all students have the same opportunities. Every student gets equal opportunity to a quality education. There are ways that we can impact students, especially by being involved on the committees for different things that we do.”
5. What committees are there?
“Finance, program, operations, staff relations, policy and superintendent advisory committees. Sometimes people watch our meetings and it seems like we don’t really do anything, or that we just vote to pass whatever someone else tells us to. But the fact is that we have good committees that do all of the research and debate before the issues come to us for a vote. I’ve seen meetings in other school districts that have gone on for days because of discussions and debates. But because our committees do a good job we have all the information before we sit down at the meetings.”
6. Who can be on the committees?
“The committees have two board members, 3 citizens, 1 administration and community volunteers.”
7. What is your role as President of the Board?
8. What have you accomplished as President?
“We work as a team, but one thing that we have done was bringing in the current Superintendant and helping him to restructure the District. We went from a neighborhood-based school system to a grade-based system, and that required a lot of research, planning and execution to make it happen.
My biggest issue is that of finance. There is always an issue with State mandated but unfunded programs as well as the current issue of the State cutting funding.
One of my first issues, and one of my big issues was that girls and boys should be treated equally. I got involved with the Board because one of my big issues was that the girls swim team was treated differently than the boys. One season the boys got all new lockers but the girls didn’t. My daughter was on the team and she didn’t understand why. The school told me that there wasn’t enough money to do both, and I got them to see that when you treat girls and boys differently, no matter what the reason, the kids are going to pick up on that and feel like things aren’t equal. That year the girls went on to win the championship and when they won the President of the Board gave his congratulations along with the promise of new lockers the next year. Those are the little ways we can make sure our kids get treated fairly.”
9. How long ago was the restructuring and why did you do it?
The restructuring was about seven years ago. Gary Meier [Superintendent] came on and saw some of the problems our district. Our district is part of Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak Township, and part of Oak Park. Because we had neighborhood-based schools it meant there was a school for Pleasant Ridge and a school in the Township, and people were saying that it was segregation because we have a very diverse district, but the schools did not reflect that diversity. Going to grade-based schools helped to solve that problem. It also helped with resource management, team teaching and better opportunities for students. Any kind of change faces resistance, but the students and parents seem to like it and our test scores have been going up so I think it is working.”
10. What issues does the School Board face now?
11. How are you dealing with the financial issues?
“The Ferndale District is one that saw these problems coming and began fixing things before they broke. Our theory has not been ‘where do we cut next,’ but ‘where do we raise money?’ We started doing accounting for other school districts. We brought in University High School to increase the taxes we receive by having more students in the district. Adult Ed. is the same way. We share resources and made a lot of improvements by restructuring the District and we rent out District property when we can, including the old elementary school that we rent to the City for the Community Center.
“We are committed to remaining a full service district and we continue to look at ways to do that.”
12. Is school of choice an issue?
“It is. That is something that parents ask us a lot about. We allow up to 15% of the District to be part of school of choice. The students must be from Oakland County to be part of Ferndale High School. We sometimes have a problem with students living out of the system and falsifying addresses so that they can go to our schools, and when we find that we send them back. This year we had to remove 63 students from the system for falsifying addresses. We take it seriously and follow the rules. We now require guardianship papers as part of enrollment so that people can’t just use a relative’s Ferndale address.
“University High School allows students from outside of Oakland County because it is a different type of school.”
13. What is going on with the elections?
“On Monday the School Board will nominate someone to fill a spot on the board that is vacant from a person who left to pursue their own things. There were five candidates and the board will choose one to serve for a year an a half.
14. What advice do you have for incoming board members?
“The most important thing is for new members to work together and function as a team without having personal agendas. And once a decision is made the team needs to be behind it. We’ve got a good board and we work well together now. That needs to continue during these trying financial times. Experience is critical.”
15. Do you have kids in the district?
“I have been in the district my whole life. I graduated from Ferndale in 1968 and have lived here 59 years between Oak Park and Pleasant Ridge. My oldest daughter Margaret (Molly) went through our school system and she is now a lawyer in LA. My other daughter Gretchen is involved in Marine Biology and lives in England, and my son Matthew is a Navy Pilot who flies all over the world. All of them went to Ferndale High School. All were involved students – in band, theatre and sports. My kids are all products of Ferndale Schools, and I really believe in our system.”
NOTE: This story originally appeared on ferndale115.com and has been since uploaded to oc115.com.