U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, was the guest speaker at the Grosse Pointe Public School System’s ninth annual luncheon Oct. 11 at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, was the guest speaker at the Grosse Pointe Public School System’s ninth annual luncheon Oct. 11 at Brownell Middle School in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Senator is guest speaker at annual luncheon

Superintendent discusses Nov. 5 ballot proposals

By: Maria Allard | Grosse Pointe Times | Published October 15, 2019

 Dr. Henry Dorrah, left, and Steve Kosinski, president of the Grosse Pointe Sunrise Rotary, listen to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, talk about skilled trades, health care and more.

Dr. Henry Dorrah, left, and Steve Kosinski, president of the Grosse Pointe Sunrise Rotary, listen to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, talk about skilled trades, health care and more.

Photo by Deb Jacques

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — When addressing the crowd at the Grosse Pointe Public School System’s ninth annual community luncheon Oct. 11, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, brought up several topics, including the importance of skilled trades training and mental health care.

“Our economy needs people that are going into technical skills and skilled trades,” said Stabenow, speaking to Grosse Pointe educators, law enforcement officers, elected officials and local business leaders at Brownell Middle School. “We have employers that are constantly saying to me, ‘I need a skilled worker. I need an electrician. I need tech skills.’”

She added that there needs to be a way “to offer that to young people.”

“I want to put more money into career counselors,” Stabenow said.

The senator also wants to make sure young people have access to health care “through the schools, through the community (and) by bringing down the cost of health care.” For Stabenow, that includes mental health and addiction.

“I know Grosse Pointe Schools is (talking) about anxiety and depression,” Stabenow said. “One out of five people will have a mental illness at one time. What we can do with young people is give (them) permission to talk about their feelings. It’s OK to ask for help.”

Stabenow said she was interviewed on video by a group of Brownell students before the luncheon began.

“They were very smart, but very tough,” the politician said. “Tough, but fair. (They) had very good questions. Now, more and more, we need to listen to each other. We need to respect (our) differences. Young people are looking to us in time of crisis and how we get things done.”

Before lunch was served, Brownell Middle School Principal Rodger Hunwick greeted attendees. He said that the 2020 Niche report states that the school is ranked first as having the best public middle school teachers in the state, and it was named the third-best public middle school in Michigan.

Niche is a website that analyzes public data and reviews from the U.S. Department of Education as well as K-12 schools. From those reviews, Niche then produces rankings, report cards and profiles for K-12 schools, colleges, places to live and places to work.

The Brownell symphonic band performed during lunch, as did the school’s boys and girls choirs. The Brownell students made placemats for each seat at lunch. The placemats included the phrase “Together We Will.”

“It’s more than a motto. Let’s make a difference now. Let’s not wait until tomorrow,” Hunwick said. “We appreciate all of your support of our community.”

At the luncheon, district Superintendent Gary Niehaus presented information about the district’s two upcoming millage proposals that will be on the Nov. 5 ballot, which are not new taxes. The first proposal is a five-year restoration and extension of two operating millage proposals first approved by voters in 1995. The second proposal is a 1-mill sinking fund proposal that was first approved by voters in 2004.

The five-year restoration and extension millage proposal — a homestead and nonhomestead operating millage — goes before the voters for renewal every five years. According to district literature distributed at the luncheon, the operating millage makes up approximately 25% of the district’s operating budget.

The literature states that under the five-year restoration and extension millage proposal, the homestead millage (7.8763 mills) is levied on primary residences and allows funding to remain at pre-Proposal A levels. The millage generates $1,893 per student annually.

“The nonhomestead millage (18 mills) is levied primarily on rental properties and businesses,” the literature states. “The state of Michigan requires school districts to levy this millage to (ensure) full state aid funding.” Per school officials, revenue from this millage funds program costs, textbooks, technology tools and other instructional materials.

The sinking fund millage expired with the 2019 levy. According to the district’s website, www.gpschools.org, the sinking fund proposal generates approximately $3 million of the $10 million annual cost to maintain GPPSS school facilities. The sinking fund is used to keep school grounds and buildings safe and in good condition.

“The school district is seeking approval to restore the levy to one mill, extend the levy five years and expand its use to include technology and security equipment now allowable by law,” the literature states.

If approved Nov. 5, the sinking fund revenue will be used for priority projects outside the scope of the $111,040,000 bond issue that passed in November 2018 to fund building improvements districtwide.

“We need to get you to the polls. We need your help any way we can get your help,” Niehaus said. “It’s important for us to pass the sinking fund. We have yearly maintenance fees that need to be taken care of.”

Grosse Pointe South High School Mothers’ Club President Helen Srebernak and Students Engaging and Responding to Volunteerism through Education, or SERVE, volunteer coordinator Alicia Carlisle organized the luncheon.

Carlisle also is the Exploring Global Issues, or EGI, coordinator. EGI is a class Carlisle created with two social studies teachers, Dan Gilleran, of Grosse Pointe North High School, and Crosby Washbourne, of South. EGI takes a look at global issues and what’s being done at a local level. Carlisle sets up students to work with nonprofit organizations in the community and brings in speakers every other week to speak on various subjects. Both SERVE director and EGI coordinator are volunteer positions.

For more information about both ballot proposals, visit the district’s website at www.gpschools.org and click on “Ballot Proposals 2019.”