Superintendent talks strategic plan process to council

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published February 20, 2018

File photo

FERNDALE — The superintendent of Ferndale Public Schools came before the Ferndale City Council to speak about the district’s new strategic planning process.

Dania Bazzi stood before the council at its Feb. 12 meeting, where she ran through the successes of the last strategic plan that started in 2013, myths about the school district that she’s heard and where the district goes from here.

The Board of Education recently hired the Michigan Association of School Boards to lead its new strategic plan. While she didn’t go into much detail on what the new plan will be, Bazzi said she wants to build on the previous five-year plan that created a blueprint that built a frame and foundation.

“We’re looking now, from 2018 to 2023, to kind of put those finishing touches on,” she said.

Bazzi reiterated the goals of the last strategic plan, which were sustainability and development, inclusion and respect, communication and trust, and community and collaboration. She said none of what the last plan accomplished could have been done without the community’s input.

“It’s really kind of the guiding light. It’s a living, breathing document that the Board of Education and myself use to help us in district-level decision making as we move forward. It’s very important. If you don’t know where you’re heading, who knows where you’re going to end up,” she said.

A success from the last strategic plan that Bazzi touted was the reconfiguration of the  elementary and secondary buildings, which included the sale of the Jefferson Center and the Wilson and Taft schools.

“In 2014, the district, building-wise, was at 50 percent capacity,” she said. “With the reconfiguration and three buildings going offline, we’re at now 80 percent capacity. So still some room to grow, but our spaces are being better utilized at this point.”

Bazzi also wanted to try and dispel myths about Ferndale Public Schools that she has heard, such as that other school districts are “just better.” And while she said this was nothing against the Royal Oak and Berkley districts, she wanted people to know that Ferndale is on par with them.

“I also hear, ‘Well, Ferndale academics are just not on par with other districts,’” she said. “Just look at their standardized test scores. I understand SAT is important and the high stakes that’s associated with that test, but I will tell you, and I will tell anybody, that our students are more than a test score they take on one day throughout their K-12 experience. Our students are more than a test score.”

Bazzi said students who stay nine years or longer in the district have shown to have better SAT test scores, with the average for students who have stayed for nine years at more than 1,100.

“If we look at all the kids who took SAT but were in the district nine years or longer, they actually outperformed state, national and our neighboring school districts. Again, the longer you stay with us, the better you’re going to do,” she said.

Mayor Dave Coulter said the city will do what it can to help the schools during this next strategic planning process, and he later elaborated on how the city could do that.

“I know that five years ago, most of council was involved in the planning meetings where the strategy was discussed,” he said. “We can also use our communication channels to help create awareness of the community engagement efforts that they’re doing. We don’t run the schools, but in any way, again, increasing awareness, participating ourselves, however that looks, you know, we want to be supportive of the work that they’re doing.”

Coulter also complimented the presentation; he said he had never seen a superintendent forcefully address issues like that before.

“All of the things that she touched on are things that I sometimes hear in the community,” he said. “She helped arm us with the data and facts to sort of counter some of those misperceptions. Ferndale has better schools than they’re sometimes given credit for, and I thought she did a really effective job of addressing some of what she called the myths.”