A key part of the Harper Woods School District’s focus on preparing its students for life after high school in 2019 will be the new College and Career Institute, which is under construction on Kelly Road.

A key part of the Harper Woods School District’s focus on preparing its students for life after high school in 2019 will be the new College and Career Institute, which is under construction on Kelly Road.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


Harper Woods officials share their New Year’s resolutions for the city

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published January 11, 2019

 Harper Woods Public Library Director Kristen Valyi-Hax and her staff are preparing new ways to reach out to students in the new year.

Harper Woods Public Library Director Kristen Valyi-Hax and her staff are preparing new ways to reach out to students in the new year.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

HARPER WOODS — At the start of 2019, many of Harper Woods’ officials are looking into the near future and sharing what they would like to do differently in the new year and what their “resolutions” are for the city.

Harper Woods Mayor Kenneth Poynter said he is hoping to continue the positive momentum that the city has seen in recent years and use it as a means for local business growth.

“I think we need a continuing positive attitude in Harper Woods,” said Poynter. “We are hoping for the best with (regard to) new businesses coming to Harper Woods, particularly at Eastland Mall. We also would like to encourage more community involvement. We want to get residents more involved in how the city is run.”

City Manager Joe Rheker also is hoping for economic growth and wants to ensure more attention is paid to Harper Woods’ infrastructure.

“I hope to improve fiscal and economic stability, establish a roads and sewers improvement program, and with the new owners of Eastland Mall, to get something going there,” said Rheker. “We would love to see new Eastland projects. Something new like a hotel would be a great catalyst, I think.”

The director of the Harper Woods Public Library, Kristen Valyi-Hax, said the library is currently in the process of planning its long-term goals. Increasing its ability to reach out to students and children is among its highest priorities.

“One of the things we want to get done is our strategic plan,” said Valyi-Hax. “We’ve been meeting with members of the community and having staff meetings to highlight our goals for the next three years. … Some of these priorities are serving students, helping prepare them for the 21st century; update what we offer in the heritage room; and work more with local schools. ... This year, we’re highlighting outer space. I love science and science fiction, and we will have lots of programs this year related to astronomy.”

Harper Woods School District Superintendent Steven McGhee is stressing post-high school preparedness in 2019, particularly with the upcoming opening of the Harper Woods College and Career Institute at 20570 Kelly Road.

“We have been initiating new programs in the district to help students after graduation, but one of our newest initiatives is the College and Career Institute. It will house digital arts, animation and design, computer systems and design, auto repair, culinary arts, sports medicine and construction education. We want our students to be able to take advantage of these programs and be able to get certification in a number of career pathways. We also want to continue our work to close the achievement gap and continue to grow our quality programs, good teachers, and a safe and clean environment.”

Harper Woods Director of Public Safety James Burke said Harper Woods police officers are looking to counter an increase in stolen vehicles they saw in 2018 and to grow efforts that allow them to interact with the community.

“We have been looking at our preliminary numbers for 2018 and saw a slight rise in crime,” said Burke. “There were 40 or 45 more stolen cars over (2017), which I think is largely responsible for that bump. We also are looking for an education program for residents, and part of that is encouraging people to lock up their cars and make sure they’re as secure as possible.

“We would like to be as interactive as possible for residents. We would like to get an app so people can get information on local crime on their phones or computers or anonymously report crime. Strengthening our relationship with the community has been very successful so far in reducing crime.”

Burke said Harper Woods’ firefighters also are looking for new ways to reach out to the community, particularly in regard to fire safety.

“I’d like to get us back to giving more presentations in the schools and stressing more fire safety outreach,” he said. “With our funding, I don’t see us being able to add on more fire safety staff, but some of our public safety officers I think will be taking a more active role in interacting with the community on fire safety matters. We’re also looking at ways to replace some of our aging gear.”