Kids enjoy the “Space Chase” ride at the carnival in the parking lot on the afternoon of June 4.

Kids enjoy the “Space Chase” ride at the carnival in the parking lot on the afternoon of June 4.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

MDPS continues community outreach efforts

Mental health care to be ongoing focus for district

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published June 16, 2023


MADISON HEIGHTS — Fresh off a successful carnival, officials with the Madison District Public Schools say that community-oriented events will remain a focus for them, with plans already in place for the district’s first Madison Open Air Market, scheduled for next month.

Earlier this spring, the district also held its first Family Wellness Night, featuring presentations on depression and anxiety, a resource fair with wellness activities, and other mental health resources. Officials want to hold that event multiple times per year.

“We’re trying to be creative in how we serve the families in our community,” said Cindy Holder, president of the MDPS Board of Education. “We want to bring together the community as a whole. While education is obviously always our first priority, we can always do more. We’re looking to hold events that improve the quality of life in the community.”

The spring carnival took place in the parking lot at Madison High the weekend of June 2-4. Patricia Perry, who became superintendent last year, recalled how she would drive past the carnival in the years prior to joining the district and admire the festivities taking place.

“So to be able to bring back the same event that I was amazed by back then was an honor,” Perry said via email. “The carnival this year was amazing. It was great to see the community back on the grounds of the Madison District Public Schools.”

She said the only complaint she heard was that the elephant ears were in short supply.

“I want the community to know that I wanted an elephant ear, too!” Perry said.

The next major event will be the first annual Madison Open Air Market, set to take place in the parking lot of Wilkinson Middle School, 26524 John R Road, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, July 15, with a rain date of July 22. The marketplace will feature vendors selling all sorts of items — from the kind you would find at garage sales, to crafted goods and more. The fee for vendors is $40 for one space, $75 for two spaces and $110 for three, with a table rental fee of $10, although vendors can bring their own tables. Tents are also allowed, but must be weighed down or secured in some way.

There is still time to apply. To do so, email

Some events, such as the Family Wellness Night back in April, are made possible through the use of grants. That particular event was funded by a grant through the Oakland County Schools Mental Health Program.

“The grant’s purpose was to address students’ mental health needs,” Perry said, noting that she and Aaron Ondra — the district’s director of specialized student services — applied for it.

The district was awarded $525,000, which includes matching funds the district provides, to be supplied over the course of three years. Of that, $200,000 will be specifically used for mental health screening and programming, as well as related professional development for staff.

“We are not asking our teachers to be mental health experts, as they already have enough on their plate. Instead, we want our staff to be mental wellness advocates,” Perry said. “As an advocate, we want staff to be able to identify when students are in a crisis, and contact the resources needed to improve their mental wellness. Teaching and learning cannot take place when students are in a mental crisis.”

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said she appreciates the district raising awareness for mental health.

“I applaud any effort to educate our community about mental health and where to find resources,” Grafstein said via email. “So often, people talk about taking a break, and self-care as being mental health care, and the media can portray people who have mental illnesses in a negative light when that is so far from the truth. The reality is that everyone has good days and bad days, but these can be magnified for people who suffer from a mental illness. Educating students, teachers, and the community as a whole on how to help someone with a mental illness diagnosis will go a long way in reducing the stigma.”

Mark Bliss, the mayor pro tem, said that school districts play a vital role in every community — including for residents without kids in the school system.

“Often we think of school as this temporary place where you send your kids, and then they graduate and you’re just paying taxes continuously for something you’re not using. But the reality is that schools play an important part in the general ecosystem of the community as a whole, as they bring everyone together,” Bliss said. “Outreach events like these are a great example of that.”