School boards serve in tough financial times
By Brad D. Bates and Maria Allard
Posted January 22, 2013
January is set aside to aknowledge the work school board members do through observance of National School Board Recognition Month.
The National School Boards Association initiated the program in 1995, and this year’s theme is “School Boards LeadStrong.”
“We get a lot of support and appreciation from all the schools in our district,” Warren Consolidated Schools Superintendent Robert Livernois said. “They often provide nice cards and coasters and any number of ways of saying, ‘Thanks.’”
Utica Community Schools Director of School/Community Relations Tim McAvoy said the Board of Education in his district has been instrumental in helping the district realize goals of education- enrichment, such as the Utica Academy for International Studies and Utica Center for Science and Industry high school programs, district-wide full-day kindergarten, and a partnership with the Detroit Zoological Society “that brings science to life for our third-graders.”
“Boards of Education in Utica Community Schools have a long history of focusing on academic excellence and fiscal responsibility,” UCS Superintendent Christine Johns said in an email.
“This Board of Education has worked hard to enhance that legacy by creating more opportunities that focus on career and college readiness. We are fortunate to have such a strong group of leaders committed to developing the future leaders of our community and nation.”
And UCS Board President Carol Klenow said helping students is at the root of why she and her colleagues made the decision to work on the board.
“I can honestly say that members of the UCS board do their work because they believe in the need for children in our community to have access to a high-quality public education,” Klenow said in an email.
“Nobody seeks personal recognition or appreciation for their efforts. Our board’s focus is really on the kids and their future. We are fortunate to serve a community that is so committed to its public schools.”
Klenow added that a key part of her board’s success is the support it receives from the community.
“Our residents have shown time and time again that they want the best for their students, and we share that goal,” Klenow said.
“Every member of this board serves because they want to make a difference in the lives of our students. Our appreciation comes from watching students succeed as a result of the quality programs and opportunities made available to them in UCS schools.”
Making these successes more impressive is that many have come as district budgets continue to shrink because of contintued economic harships across metro Detroit.
As districts struggle to deal with budget reductions because of Michigan’s economic downturn, school board members have faced difficult and heart-wrenching decisions in recent years. Voting on staff layoffs and program cuts have been among them.
“Given the incredibly challenging environment public education has become in Michigan, our board members are doing tireless and thankless work on behalf of our students,” Livernois said.
“There’s not a day that goes by that our board isn’t faced with the challenges that have been put upon public education, most notably through plenty of the changes from the Legislature in Lansing,” Livernois said. “They continue, at every turn, to make decisions on behalf of our kids, and Warren Consolidated Schools, at large, is better for it.”
Klenow said that it’s a point of pride for her board and district that they have been able to maintain a commitment to “core programs” in spite of the economic turmoil.
“Despite the financial situation we continue to face, I am proud of the way the board has continued to focus on the core programs as it has addressed the district’s financial limitations,” Klenow said.
“The board takes its fiscal responsibility very seriously and has been recognized through its audits for focusing resources to directly support instruction. That is something that I know is appreciated by our students and our residents.”
About the author
Staff Writer Maria Allard covers the school districts of Center Line, Fitzgerald, Van Dyke, Warren Consolidated and Warren Woods, and Macomb Community College for the Warren Weekly newspaper. She also covers the City of Grosse Pointe Woods and the Grosse Pointe Public Schools System for the Grosse Pointe Times newspaper. Allard has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University, and she is in love with the Rolling Stones.
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