Sent: Friday, May 20, 2016 9:20:29 PM (UTC-05:00) Eastern Time (US & Canada)
To: School Board
Cc: Ruffner, Cat; email@example.com
Subject: Letter to the Board of Education - Vote No on Policy 5111 to Allow Enrollment of Non-Resident Children of Staff
May 20, 2016
Dear President Gafa and Trustees of the GPPSS Board Of Education,
Thank you for being so candid with the reporter from the Grosse Pointe News as reflected in the articles and letters appearing in the May 19, 2016 issue. We were concerned about the upcoming vote to change Policy 5111 and now implore you to Vote No on this item on May 23rd.
Please carefully consider these concerns and others being voiced by residents:
* On April 25, 2016, the BOE introduced a change to Policy 5111 to increase revenue by allowing enrollment of non-resident students – the children of non-resident staff of the Grosse Pointe Public School System (GPPSS); a policy that our community has opposed time and time again. On May 23rd the BOE will vote to approve this policy change. The BOE has introduced this change to our community just 29 days before they intend to vote. — This request comes from an employee survey? Where is the comparable community survey? Until the GP News article of May 19 it would appear the community had yet to be informed. In an email to the parents of the school district dated May 18, titled “GPPSS Weekly Update - Code of Conduct changes in effect August 1,” there was no mention of Policy 5111, yet there was an entire section dedicated to advertising the school districts summer programs. Why is the BOE rushing to vote on such a critical decision? Is this to factor revenue into the budget due June 30?
* Superintendent Gary Niehaus speaks of the survey by 575 of 1,000 employees wherein “the benefit for non-resident staff was one of 10 top priorities respondents asked the board to consider”. Is this the same survey Laura Mikesell, Union President, indicates was conducted last summer? Ms. Mikesell states, “the revenue generated from the additional per-pupil enrollment will help the district offset other, less desirable choices like increased class sizes, teacher layoffs or building closures” –– Is Ms. Mikesell authorized to speak on behalf of the School Board and the School District? Is there more behind the district’s desire to increase non-resident enrollment? Surely the BOE and district, as implied by Ms. Mikesell, are more resourceful and not suggesting that a No Vote on this policy change, which might represent a revenue increase of $250-500K to a district budget over $100M, will materially affect district wide class sizes, teacher layoffs and building closures?
* What do the BOE and district plan next? In a letter to the BOE from Dan Roeske, Policy Committee Chair and Jon Dean, Deputy Superintendent dated April 22, 2016, Roeske and Dean state: “Following the conversation at the BOE meeting on April 21, the committee crafted revisions to Policy 5111 that would allow staff members to enroll their students in [the] GPPSS. The committee did not support at this time a tuition enrollment program.” Is tuition enrollment the next step? Jon Dean states in the GP News article that “the program will help ensure GPPSS’s depth of programming”. Surely the revenue associated with 25-50 non-resident students will not ensure programming for the future for our 8,000 resident pupils (source: FTE Comparison Report, Spring 2016 General Collection). What is next once the door has been opened to non-resident enrollment? Tuition based non-resident enrollment? Where does it end … it may indeed leave us vulnerable to a future decision by Lansing to mandate Schools of Choice.
* Mikesell, Roeske, and Dean all purport in the GP News article that this decision is “not an opening to schools of choice” (Mikesell), “We vote every year and we vote unanimously that we will not do that.” (Roeske) and “The primary concerns I have heard from residents have been either the ‘slippery slope’ argument that (the policy leads) to schools of choice.” (Dean). –– Recall in 2011, our administration, BOE, parents, businesses and community stood together with other school districts across the State of Michigan in opposition to Governor Snyder’s Mandated Schools of Choice. The Governor wanted to provide open access without boundaries – “no longer should school districts be allowed to opt out from accepting out-of-district students, [per GPPSS “non-resident students”]. In the event more out-of-district students wish to enroll than space allows, the school should conduct a random lottery to determine acceptance.” –– Enrollment of non-resident students demonstrates available space and exposes our district to Mandated Schools of Choice. When the legislature decides Mandated Schools of Choice is the solution to fix broken schools, they will not ask our board to vote, they will decide, period. We will lose local control and watch our schools degrade, as class sizes increase, parental involvement declines, community support for millages and bonds wanes and we become like any other district … we will have lost our neighborhood schools. And all because of the short sighted decision to grant our non-resident staff a “perk”, like a health care benefit.
* The BOE and district are using the motto #ONEGP — Enrolling non-residents students will increase class size. Once the tipping point is reached, the non-resident child will then be transferred to another school? Is this how we treat children who become our own? How will parents feel when their child’s class size increases from 28 to 29, if 29 is the maximum? All of our classroom resources will be further divided. The BOE suggests there is no added cost, but there is and the cost will be measured by unintended consequences as students leave the district – parents are already taking their kids out of the district – is anyone asking why? The district continues to expend resources in an effort to verify residency with concern about non-resident students attending our schools. Parents are required to register and re-register their children … supplying “proof of residency.” How will the district control and maintain a program that they currently challenged to control and maintain? #ONEGP? The proposed changes to Policy 5111 are divisive to our community creating multiple levels of equity amongst students.
School districts across Michigan are struggling financially with perhaps the greatest failings here in Wayne County. If the State of Michigan again pursues Mandated Schools of Choice, we will have made GPPSS and our community vulnerable to future open access and thus loss of local control having already opened our doors to non-resident students. Are we prepared to have someone else determine the size of our classrooms and when our buildings are full? We will have lost control of our neighborhood schools.
Our community has always been very generous providing additional support to our schools: approving Hold Harmless Millages, Sinking Funds and Bond Proposals, and through volunteer fundraising by PTO’s, Boosters, the GPFPE and more. Will our residents’ support be affected by non-resident student enrollment? How will organizations and volunteers who work to raise well over $1,000,000 per year in GIFTS to our schools respond?
Offer the 35% of non-resident staff an incentive to move to Grosse Pointe – therein lies the true benefit – increased resident enrollment. Work hand-in-hand with our Chamber of Commerce and Board of Realtors to bring new families to Grosse Pointe. Don’t give enrollment, a precious and valued asset, away like its an employee benefit. The strength of our community is most definitely linked to the excellence of our schools.
Members of the Board of Education, please don’t be short sighted. Vote NO on these changes to Policy 5111, non-resident enrollment.
Cat Ruffner & Lisa Vreede
Concerned Parents and Community Members