Farmington Public School Superintendent Robert Herrera leads a community forum Jan. 22 to discuss and answer questions about the $98 million school bond proposal up for vote March 10.

Farmington Public School Superintendent Robert Herrera leads a community forum Jan. 22 to discuss and answer questions about the $98 million school bond proposal up for vote March 10.

Photo by Sean Work


Residents weigh in on school bond proposal in Farmington, Hills

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published January 29, 2020

 Community members, Farmington Public Schools staff and Board of Education members convened at the Maxfield Education Center Jan. 22 for a public forum on the proposed $98 million school bond. Pictured in front are Board of Education Trustees Angie Smith and Richard Mukamal.

Community members, Farmington Public Schools staff and Board of Education members convened at the Maxfield Education Center Jan. 22 for a public forum on the proposed $98 million school bond. Pictured in front are Board of Education Trustees Angie Smith and Richard Mukamal.

Photo by Sean Work

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FARMINGTON/FARMINGTON HILLS — Roughly 20 Farmington-area residents met with Farmington Public Schools administrators 7-9 p.m. Jan. 22 at the Maxfield Education Center to discuss the upcoming $98 million school bond proposal, which residents will vote on during the March 10 presidential primary election.

Superintendent Robert Herrera opened the forum with a presentation explaining many of the financial issues surrounding the bond, but it wasn’t long before residents’ hands went up with questions, concerns and confusion.

As residents began to ask questions, the conversation quickly flipped from discussing the current bond proposal to trying to understand how the new proposal relates to and coordinates with the $131.5 million bond residents approved in 2015.

Herrera attempted to keep the crowd on topic, saying they had to stay focused on the current bond proposal, but resident Sue Burstein-Kahn, of Farmington Hills, said the two can’t be separated.

She said the 2015 bond is “integral to what the district is asking for now with this bond.” Currently, she is leaning toward a no vote.

Linda Stulberg, of Farmington Hills, who is currently undecided, added that residents were told that security and technology — two components the proposed bond will address, if passed — would be addressed with proceeds from the 2015 bond.

“When we last, as a community, attended these forums for the last bond proposal, these were two big issues,” Stulberg said. “Security was supposed to have been a priority then. … We were told at the time that the former bond would put us in good shape with technology, so I’m a little bit chagrined to learn about this.”

Herrera acknowledged that residents may have been told one thing about the previous bond, and another action was actually taken. The district is currently working to put together a frequently asked questions page that will answer residents’ questions about the 2015 bond and explain how the money was spent, what decisions were made and how it relates to the new bond proposal.

Jon Reibe, the director of facilities, operations and transportation for the district, said that all promises for security implementations from the previous bond were kept.

Herrera added that security needs and practices required by school districts have greatly increased, impacting the district’s infrastructure and technology costs.

With security on the table, Katie Rusak, of Farmington Hills, who expressed her support for the bond, asked where the district currently stands with security at its elementary schools compared to neighboring districts.

“We’re a little bit behind in that area,” Herrera responded.

Despite frustrations stemming from the last bond, some attending residents were also concerned with the planning, the process and the way in which this bond was proposed to them without any prior resident input.

Eugene Greenstein, of Farmington Hills, who currently doesn’t support the bond, said the last bond had a citizen committee where residents felt their voices could be heard. Greenstein believes this bond could benefit from the same process.

Burstein-Kahn added that she feels that — much like the previous bond — the district is moving forward with this bond without informing the public of the specific plans.

Herrera acknowledged the district’s need to be more transparent. He said the district is working on putting out information that shows what funding and improvements each building would get from the proposed bond, if it passes.

He also added that, while many residents may feel wronged by the previous bond, he’s hoping the currently proposed bond will give the district the opportunity to regain the community’s trust.

Before the meeting drew to a close, Meredith Swaine, of Farmington Hills, who supports the bond, said the community needs to stop blaming the past on the present administration. She believes that if a larger population of the community would come together to discuss the issues, it would be easier to have these important conversations.

“The big picture here … we’ve got good infrastructure, good schools, good staff. We can certainly move forward. The way we move forward will be determined in March,” Herrera said in closing. “We’re going to focus on teaching and learning, regardless. … Whether we receive support from the community that enhances our efforts that way or we have to do it on our own for a little while, we’ll get it done either way.”

Another community bond forum will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 29. For more information, visit www.farmington.k12.mi.us/bond2020.

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