Young board navigates the district forward

Clawson schools boast 92 percent graduation rate

By: Chris Jackett | Royal Oak Review | Published March 27, 2013

 Board of Education President Kevin Turner shows off a chart detailing the experience of the current Clawson school board members during his March 20 State of the Schools address at Clawson’sCity Hall.

Board of Education President Kevin Turner shows off a chart detailing the experience of the current Clawson school board members during his March 20 State of the Schools address at Clawson’sCity Hall.

Photo by Deb Jacques

CLAWSON — Stability on an upward slope was the general picture painted during the State of the Schools address March 20.

On the heels of Mayor Penny Luebs touting the community’s abundance of volunteers in her State of the City address at City Hall last Wednesday, Clawson Public Schools Board of Education President Kevin Turner took to the podium for a 12-minute speech discussing the district’s strengths and weaknesses.

“Every year is sort of the same for us, but then sometimes it’s different,” Turner said. “Our enrollment remains stable. It’s the most important metric a school district has. We’ve been very fortunate that our enrollment has been very stable since 2007 or so. Our enrollment drives our funding from the state.”

With Superintendent Monique Beels taking her position in July 2012, Turner said things have gone well thus far, and Clawson High’s graduation rate is still above average.

“Whenever you get a new leader, things change and philosophies change and I think it’s been a good hire for us,” Turner said. “She believes the world our students will graduate into is a diverse one, and our students need to learn and grow in an ever-changing environment.

“Almost 92 percent of the kids that come into our school system graduate on time. We’re proud of that fact. It beats quite a few high schools and the state.”

Among those students are several Schools of Choice students, which make up about 25-30 percent of the district’s total student population.

Turner also said literacy in a variety of areas and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) package are focal points of the district.

However, Turner said the district needs to do a better job in getting word out to the community about the various successes going on.

“Except for the Royal Oak Review, local reporting has diminished greatly,” Turner said. “We need to do a better job of self-communicating, communicating our strengths and communicating things we think are important to the community because, realistically, every parent has a school as a choice of where they send their child to school.

“We are a small district with a small, limited budget, so we don’t have the abilities to go out and pay a marketing director or full-time (public relations) director for marketing and things. But we can do a better job informing our community of our successes and why they should choose Clawson schools.”

With more than 1,800 students and a budget of about $22 million, the district boasts 293 employees with a combined $11 million payroll. About 79 (25 percent) of those employees are Clawson residents. The school district is both the largest employer and financially the largest organization within the city, officials said.

“I thought he did a nice job of presenting the school district and what our initiatives and focus is,” Beels said. “I think it was interesting for the community to realize that we are the largest employer in the City of Clawson and that over 25 percent of our employees are Clawson residents, which is important to us.”

Turner said many hurdles lie in front of the district in 2013, as all bargaining contracts will expire this year. Additionally, both contract language requirements and staff evaluation tools and processes are changing. Although not mentioned by Turner, a possible sinking fund is in line for later this year, as well. With such complex subjects coming to the Board of Education table, he said the district also needs to increase volunteerism and help shape the next generation of board members.

“As a board, we need to do a better job of cultivating future board members so we can have a diverse board,” Turner said. “A well-educated board that works well together is a key to a successful district. The current board is fairly young, with only three members with more than four years of experience on the board.”

Three of the seven current board members have two or fewer years of experience on the board.

“It does take several years for us to get up to speed to make well-informed decisions, because of the vastness of public schools,” Turner said. “You need to know the finances and there’s lots of school terminology you need to learn if you’re not in that business already, which many of us aren’t.

“Your support is invaluable and important to providing a well-rounded experience for our kids.”