Monday, April 23, 2007

School Board Debate in Howell

I was at the school board debate (actually candidate forum) in Howell. All six candidates were there. In my opinion, they all brought something to the table.

I thought Bill Harvey won. He had a strong presence, displayed his experience, and did the best overall job.
Doug Moore had the strongest answers in and of themselves. His answers were all substance. I am biased as I support Bill Harvey and Doug Moore, as do the Concerned Taxpayers Group.
I thought Ed Literski had some good comments on negotiations.
I hope Jeannine Pratt does not get any heat for her answer regarding MESSA. The board is in negotiation and considering that fact, she gave a professional answer that was needed for someone in her position.
I thought Fondriest had a couple of good answers, particulary with the bond and Parker High. It was a good counterpoint based on another answer and shows he has ability to think on his feet.
Phil Nichols is gutsy and determined. He got a raw deal by the election laws as he turned 18 after the filing deadline in early February. He could not file to be on the ballot, but can run as a write in. It would have been easy for him to pack it in and quit, but he's still running and is running a legit campaign as well. I wish him well.

These are shorthand notes and are as close to accuracy as I can come based on constant typing during the speaking. I'll warn you that they are hard to understand. The actual audio will be on the Argus website. I recommend the primary sources themselves when they are open to the public. I'll admit it's a lot better than what I've written here.

Opening Statement
Bill Harvey – Coach, Father of kids in school (valedictorian), good overshadowed with needless controversy. Won’t wait for state to bail out. 2.1 million increase by simply increasing students. Will listen to teachers.
Doug Moore – 25 years of global engineering experience. Parent of students. Taxpayer. Respect for everyone blueprint of success. Asking right Qs. Gathering information. Bring them to table. Discuss and come up with solutions.
Jeannine Pratt – Incumbent. District needs experience and consistency. Served on committees including PTO and bond committees.
Ed Literski – Taught before coming at attorney. Kids in schools. Long time resident. Special interests in schools. Teachers without contact. Immediate problem. No board member negotiating. Lobby lansing for funding.
Dan Fondriest – Everyone should vote. Father of 4, were in Howell. Take a careful ponder and decide.
Phil Nichols – Write in candidate (deadline). Teacher tudored him in math. Young perspective needed. Nervous. A+ for guts.

Q1 - End of school need, state not decided revenue cuts. Given state budget not in school fund. How does board address issues.
Bill Harvey - Somebody smarter than any one of us is all of us. Open up books. Opprotunities for community input and innovative solutions. Schools of choice $7000 to bring in. 1 student per classroom. No overhead costs. 300 students – 2.1 million. Losing students to Horning elementary (Brighton) – gifted students. Bring revenue in this way.

Doug Moore – Schools are business, but more than cuts. Revenue. Evaluate every expendidure. Ask community to do same. Amazing what light can be done. Information why students leaving – know to get students and revenue back. Contingency plan NOW to address budget cuts. No good negotiating with gun. Ask right Questions.

Jeannine Pratt – Know what has to be done. Has cut. Eliminated 73 staff positions. Several insurance. Did not add programming. Hands cuffed by state. Fought for answers and stonewalled by Lansing.

Ed Literski – Prop a objective. Worked for few years, fell apart. Long term equity in funding. 80% budget staff. First, contract and MESSA insurance. I’m attorney and mediator. Settle MESSA. Not complicated. Teachers offer pay difference. Acceptable solution.

Dan Fondriest – Michigan was mecca of manufacturing. Changed. Be awhile before additional funds. Work and continue to work to leverage lansing to get funding change. Long solution. Short term, run like company. Not easy. Tighten belts. Get contract settled. Been in contracts. Not acceptable.

Phil Nichols – With stare cuts, created problem with budget. Teachers need contract. Bring best teachers in so people want to go to school. School of choice.

Q2: - Compensation package – reason Howell worked without new contract. Board is district policy. MESSA coverage. Trade wage for benefits. How do you get both together.

Bill Harvey - Shocked that board member is not part of committee. I’ll do it if no one else available. I’m here to support education. Stability is needed. Don’t care who provides insurance. Different amounts for different benefits. Power to individual teachers. Bring revenue to schools. 290-400 students leave districts. Some willing to come back if we put controversy behind us. Replace students we lost. We do what more money from state but won’t happen soon. Bring students. We need change of board and image.

Doug Moore – I’m not privlidge to info. It IS board responsible to set amount of compensation. From there is negotiation. Board Concerned of total costs. Happy to offer compensation within framework to suit needs. Should be choice offered. Proposal for insurance pooling from state. Bipartisan.Where Lansing can help. What teachers see as their preference within that should be fine.

Jeannine Pratt – Board doesn’t want power over district. Same coverage under different carrier. Can’t say what I want due to unfair labor practice complaint. Board member can not be negotiatior due to full time jobs.

Ed Literski – establish budget. Not. How far apart are we? T side $600 per year? If taxpayers aren’t paying it, who cares. Other side $1000? Believe these are good faith negotiations. Do not believe this is bad faith on every side. Board member part of team. Everyone part of this. It’s the kids crisis.

Dan Fondriest - Everyone seen public comment. Internet blog sites. A lot of people complaining about teachers. 10 years ago. UAW Things changed. Some will come back. Some won’t. Must balance budget. Should be negotiatiable. Insistent that HEA wants MESSA, then we negotiate it. I wonder if board calls something win-win. All of board should be more involved in this. No contract, that’s awful we’re talking about this.

Phil Nichols – Teachers will help pay to keep health care. Schools are coming to say “this is numbers we produce. Take it or leave it. Both sides need to negotiate. If elected I will work to get contract, either with MESSA or program to save money and comparable in services to MESSA.

Q3: - Controversial issues – books, flag, etc. How has it been handled.

Bill Harvey – I observed change when I came back from Japan. I worked as consumer relation manager. Learned training. Complaints like cockroaches. Take them seriously. If you listen, you can learn. Greatest acclomplishments contributed by critics with opposing ideas. We discuss. “This can’t work.” I don’t have all answers, but I have open mind. If you come here with complaint, must be part of solution. Part of draw is great community we have. Once we go to board meeting, community disapeares. Education important, (Validictorian). Listen to what’s saying. Then we can improve schools.

Doug Moore – Other questions. Look at these decisions. Is quality better or worst? More costs to district? Opt out working? Unintended consequences? Good bad. Could handled better? Answer is how do we do this in future. Perception is problem. Critic more than happy to tell us that we are failure. Real and perceived problems. Future.

Jeannine Pratt – Handled as best as possible. Special interest group likes to stir pot. Diversity flag. Students put it up, not board or admin. Book issue. Special interest group against…has own beliefs…”appreciate that” but in long run, have committees in school. 82 teachers certified curriculum in education. What they do best. Addressed each issue. Many don’t believe board handled things appropriate. Not involved in day to day running of district. Things happen in individual schools, schools responsible. Info ends up in board room. We have been working on that.

Ed Literski – What’s best for the kids. Media is not best. They are here for controversy. When KKK rally came to Howell, that’s a shame. Community dragged down. Need board in business of educating children. Spending hour after hour defending this while we have no contract. Wasted time on special interest. “Isn’t that group that took education away from education.” Let them do their job.

Dan Fondriest – Issue got me fired up to get signatures. Not happy to see social engineering with LOVE group with other issues out there. Financial issues. School on line. Flex schedule, balance budget. MUST be done on time. We can’t be dragged down on social issues. Get votes right away. Keep papers out of issues.

Phil Nichols – Controversy. Good and bad. Makes you think and evaluate where stance is. Most give semi-bad look on schools. Me running for school board controversy so I have contributed a little bit (Referring to write in). Board job to make public school do best for public. All must be heard and find middle group. Make as many happy, not all will be. Too long for some decisions. Distraction. I won’t use time to use something that could be done in one meeting, that’s been done in four.

Q4: - Two part Q – Bond issue past, two HS opened this fall. Parker will be, Howell closed for renovation. 1. Admin thoughts. 2. Intention both open in fall of 08, how.

Bill Harvey – Tough Question. I’d hesitate to put blame on public as board’s responsibily. Reign super in. Needed new classroom space. Growth rate high, then changed. We should re-evaluate decidions due to changing environments. Where are we financially. What will we do with unsupervised students during day. Look at ALL of the situation, look at what we afford . When we have plan is right time to open Parker. No plan is jumping off cliff without measuring water at bottom.

Doug Moore – As bond goes, believe schools put in place for reason. Growth. Work towards plan to open both. Work on all part. Two parts. Revenue needed and costs. Revenue addressed by schools of choice. Costs – first looked at – do we need it? If we needed it, we should, work towards plan to open both. With facts on table. Idea how to get were we are today, and go where we need to go.

Jeannine Pratt – No blame here. On bond committee. District doesn’t say “We want to build a school” Plan is good plan. Flex schedule is forward thinking of this district. Not losing students, gained 1000 to Howell in 9 years. Have both open.. I’m optimistic. I hope it’s open. Board will work to educate the students in the district. Saved money by cutting renovation time.

Ed Literski – You are folks that decided and voted to it. Easy to say mistake. I don’t think it is mistake. We need them both open. It has to open. Less students than old school, then flex schedule. Challenge reopening 2nd school. Bond in 03. Economy doesn’t resemble It was then. I don’t what I’ll do about it as I don’t know revenues. Lansing cuts. That’s challenge. Resourceful board. Fiscally responsbilble.

Dan Fondriest – It’s a good thing and still a good thing (bond). Schools of choice – Parker is good magnate for it. 2008-2009 – both schools have to open. Can’t put plan together and say things change. Make it happen. Renovate HHS and open them both. No if’s and’s buts.

Phil Nichols – Unique perspective on this problem. I walk halls of Howell High. Congested. Opening up new school is good idea. Howell needs to be renovated as its older school. Athletes traditional. Both should open to minimalize stress. Both buildings used less. No point building and not using them.

Q5: - How do you assess performance of Breiner.

Bill Harvey – I’ve been manager. I’m manged ambition. Had to be responsible for direction they took. If they took wrong direction, I need to take responsible for that. If we look at school management. School board runs school. Super reports to board. I notice Breiner gives comments, sets agenda. It’s backwards. I can’t assess him. He’s not been given direction and guildlines. We need to give him guidelines to measure him so we know how he’s doing. We can take advantage of his vision, but curb autonomy.

Doug Moore – Most recent – inconsistency. One answer on different days. Must be improved. One school, one answer. What’s his job description from board. He’s leaving in next couple years. Has not asked for renewal of contract. What happens with this board is goals of NEXT super with goals and guidelines. Management.

Jeannine Pratt – Two jobs he’s interviewed for solicited by different school districts. Saginaw and Oakland ISD. Super isn’t easy job. I sit alongside him. He spends countless hours in this district. He can’t make everyone happy. District lost 5 admin positions, must be fulled. Breiner doing just as good as he possibly can do, not make everyone happy.

Ed Literski – I know Chuck. Not well. He’s creative intelligent man. Vision commended by all. Concerned with interview process as I see it ongoing. Involved in expansion which was his vision. He was helpful and instrumental. I’d like to see his. I am disappointed with interview elsewhere. Show must go on. Board committed, I’ll be committed. Wouldn’t matter who super is. Office here before and after. He’s been very good, but we’ll get through it.

Dan Fondriest – I wish I could say he’s root of all evils. He’s CEO. He needs to run day to day. Board needs to step up to plate too. Plenty of blame. Mentioned the state as well. Chuck is guy that needs to be guy to do it. Has contract. Prases MEAP, Flex schecule, Freshman. Chuck’s done this and that, but done a lot of good too.

Phil Nichols – Chuck Breiner has done his job. I’m not fan of fact that he’s looked for other jobs. He’s in charge of looking after schools. Why is he looking for job if he has Howell’s best interest. I’d like to see him be here and have chance to work for him. I think he’s done his job.

Q6 – HEA, MEA, LOVE, Right to Life, Taxpayers endorsement. Would you accept

Bill Harvey – I’ve been contacted by all groups. I have same position. Here’s my position. If you like my position, you can endorsement. I’ve not sought endorsements. I’ve been endorsed by taxpayers and right to life because they liked what I had to say. Coaching is where you look to individual. In board meeting, and someone talks to me, I treat person as individual , listen, make decision.

Fondriest – I run as indy, but may not vote that way due to social issues. I’ve been contacted by these PAC’s. I haven’t responded in most cases. I did meet with HEA. They are supporting me. Local organization. Taxpayers – political group. I did meet with Press/Argus. Not seeking endorsement but if it comes, fine. Board must be neutral, independent.

Nichols – I was contacted by two groups. Taxpayers by letter. Many questions did not help. Did not contact due to scheduling problem. Homework. Contacted by HEA. Track practice, but did talk to them. Love teachers. Not gotten endorsements. Nonpartisan, keep it that way.

Pratt – All new to me. Ran 4 years ago, no contact. Press/Argus did. Contacted, by taxpayers and HEA and did meet with them. Literski – joint campaign. We did. I did not received endorsement from HEA or Taxpayers Groups. Not at all contacted by LOVE Group. Contacted by RTL and did not return survey – does not belong in school issue.

Moore – I’m running to represent everyone. Interviewed by all. Taxpayers gave endorsement. Some think that since I won’t trash certain group, I belong to that group. Not true. If member can’t have civil discussion with someone disagree, shouldn’t be on board. Funding? I’m it.

Literski – Interviewed. Taxpayers stopped listening over Parker. Right to Life did contract. Agreed with Pratt on that. Love did not contact me. HEA – we interviewed with them. They will be endorsing me.

Closing remarks
Literski – should be exciting times. New school. Program.With Channel 6 here for that story. How public schools manage to come up with innovative creative. Asked about love, books, diversity, and Ku Klux Klan. Not about school system surviving economy. That’s why I’m here. Get teachers in contract. And school open. No agenda. Many say open minded. I too AM open minded. Need Howell on positive map, not negative map,

Moore – Indy outside voice to board. Financial district. Make sure ask questions. Focus on what we can control and not worry about cannot control. Schools work for parents and taxpayers. Employees should be proud to work there. Think about their ideas will be supported. No one has monopoly on good ideas. Engineering experience and leadership experiences. Know what’s needed for global economy.

Pratt – district involved staff, community with budget setting. I encourage you all to be part of that. Not attending and are public meetings. Encourage each of you to be part of it. I listen to people because I care. In end, this is pivotal election for HPS. Need focus of individuals without personal agendas and those who want best for our district.

Nichols – I’m student now. Create better learning environment. I bring new perspective to board. I know what works and what doesn’t since I’ve been there in hallways. I’m running since well rounded group of people representing is good. Well rounded group of people have ideas and compromise for what’s best for community.

Fondriest – Running as independent. Of the people, for the people, by the people. Outside of political orgs and be grass roots. Board of trustees that oversee finances of school. Admin and super are CEO and management staff. Board must be decisive. Priorities. Settling contract, budget, Parker, open HS, School of Choice and market, develop long term plans. Growth will come back. May 8 vote – two open seats. Two more LOVE would have censored freedom of speech.

Harvey – I’m an optimist and visionary and see a lot of good in school. I work with kids as coach and with boy scouts. These are good kids with much potential. Financial issues. Need to be addressed. Then we have three more years. Want to work WITH teachers and parents to bring Howell to the good headlings – high achievement. I want to model proper behavior to kids by showing respect to members of community. Starts at top, and I’m winning to do that.


keithr said...

A disclaimer: I don't live in the Howell district and attended only as an impartial observer.

My impressions:

Bill Harvey – A real lion. Powerful speaker. Deep convictions. Believes we must take a proactive approach to solving district's problems, not just sit back and react. Roasted Breiner so hard I was waiting for the smoke detectors to go off. Believes that the school board needs to be open to listen to everyone, even political opponents. Has good credentials in the areas of management and departmental budgeting and has also been a leader in many different capacities.

Doug Moore – Doug and Bill are campaigning as a team. Doug also stresses a proactive approach and listening to everyone. Doug brings an amazing amount of experience with finanaces, management, and leadership to the race. Overall I thought Doug gave the most detailed and carefully thought out answers. He has obviously been spending a lot of time thinking about how to improve the district. He was quiet and laid back in his speaking style. He has the potential to be a calming and thoughtful influence on the board.

Jeannine Pratt – Mostly ran on her incumbancy. Did not talk about any new ideas. Her approach: I believe I've done a good job. Reelect me and you know what you will be getting. She seemed very comfortable up at the microphone. My big complaint with her is that she does not seem to have any ideas for the future or on how to make the board less controversial. My overall impression was neither positive nor negative. Vote for her if you want status quo on the board. Don't if you want change. In my final ranking I downgraded her only because I think the board needs fresh blood and new ideas.

Ed Literski – I did not know anything about Ed going in. He made a very negative impression on me. Seemed very antagonistic. I would not vote for him if only because he seems like he would make the board even more controversial. Also, I thought a lot of his answers were vague and evasive.

Dan Fondriest – Another candidate I knew nothing about going in. Seemed very comfortable up at the microphone and was very likeable most of the time. He seems to have a good head on his shoulders. The negatives: He did not talk enough about how his background will help him in the job or put forward fresh ideas for improvement. The big red flag came when he talked about being an independent but then admitted to deliberately ignoring certain groups who wished to interview him even while giving full access to the teachers union. This admission really hurt his credibility and dragged him down quite a few notches in my personal ranking.

Phil Nichols – Lot of guts. Very nice guy. Given how hard he is working to get people to take him seriously, I thought he should have spent more time preparing for the debate as he did not seem to have much knowledge about the issues. His chances for winning are not good but I really admire him for his determination.

In terms of who I would vote for if I lived in Howell it would be:

1 and 2: Bill and Doug.
3: Dan
4: Jeannine.
5: Ed
6: Phil (Not because of his age, but because he did not give voters a clear reason to vote for him)

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