Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Bridgeport School Board Meeting November 9th, 2015

On the agenda:
- Citizen Participation begins at 00:42
- Agenda Adjustments/Ad Hoc Committee Discussion begins at 14:33
- Technology Committee Report begins at 18:11
- Professional Learning Center And Professional Development Update begins at 25:33
- Personnel Report begins at 40:41
- Consent Agenda: Payment Of Bills, Budget Report, Minutes begins at 44:26
-Policy Committee Report begins at 45:15
- Finance Committee Report - Further Discussion of Finance Committee Recommendations And The Ad Hoc Committee begins at 45:51
- Board And Superintendent Comments begin at 1:12:00
© 2015 Carla Citizen All Rights Reserved.

I missed the last school board meeting on October 26th and it sounds like it was a "unpleasant" meeting.  When I read about the meeting in the October 28th issue of the Birch Run/Bridgeport Herald I was so upset that I was going to write a blog post about it.  I was so angry though that I decided it would be best to wait before writing anything.  I had attended the Finance Committee on October 21st where they discussed the problems facing the school district.  They have the current deficit problems, the added financial loss of over $600,000.00 due to student enrollment losses, the changes that will be coming when the Michigan State Treasury Dept takes over the monitoring of the schools in deficit. It was a depressing meeting because of the problems they discussed, but at the same time I heard a lot of good discussion and saw that they wanted to work to find a way to deal with these issues and to do so in a timely manner.  They knew they had to at least show the state that they were working on a plan to handle the deficit.
If they can't show the state that they are, then what will the consequences be?  More state control?  An Emergency Manager placed in control of the district?  If this district can't show that they are capable of handling this situation and the state starts making the decisions, those decisions will most likely not be pleasant.
So after almost two hours, the Finance Committee came up with some recommendations to look at.  One was to start taking bids on the possible outsourcing of jobs in several areas.  They needed to put this out for bid now so they had the time to review all the facts and figures.  If it wasn't going to provide a significant savings, then they would not go with outsourcing.  Two other options they wanted to start looking at was possibly closing Thomas White and negotiating with the union over the five percent wage concession.  The recommendation from the committee was not to just do this, but to look at these options now, get all the facts and figures, and have the time to make a decision.
I was shocked when I read that the full board voted this down at the October 26th meeting.  I thought "these people can't even make a simple decision", there's no hope!
If anyone would like to hear the discussion at the Finance Committee Meeting, you can view it on youtube or here on the blog.  There was no microphones set up for the meeting so the audio is very hard to hear.  You can use headphones and turn the volume all the way up.  If there are any doubts about what was discussed at the meeting, take the time and make a little effort to listen to it.

There is also another issue in Lansing that may impact the problems Bridgeport is facing.  That is how the state will deal with the $700 Million Deficit that the failed Detroit Public School System is facing.  The plan proposed by Gov. Snyder involves taking $50 per student away from every other school district in the state for the next 10 years.  So to try and save a school district that is probably beyond saving, he wants to make every other district in the state suffer.  That would probably mean a loss of around $70,000 to $80,000 per year for Bridgeport.  Here is the original news article about his plan - http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2015/10/how_snyders_plan_to_fix_detroi.html
Thankfully it looks like there is not a lot of support in Lansing for this plan, and there is going to be fighting over this plan.  But I don't have much faith in Lansing.  Didn't the voters say No to Emergency Managers?  They're still doing it.  Didn't the voters say No to the Bridge to Canada?  He is building it anyways.  Didn't the voters say No to more taxes for the roads?  They did it anyways.  If Snyder wants this plan, he will probably get it, one way or another.

Now onto last nights school board meeting.

There were three speakers during the citizen participation segment.  Please take the time and watch them!  I was not surprised, but was disappointed, by some of the comments made by Sue Rutherford.  She talked about some of the options that the MEA has presented to the board and district in the past to help save money, a lot of money, but it sounds like those suggestions were just blown off by the board.  And so here we sit.  Hopefully this board and district will listen to them this time.
UPDATE:  I found some information since I originally wrote this blog post about part of the proposal presented by the union to the school district and I talk a little about it in the comment section below.

I will say that I am encouraged that it looks like most of these board members are serious about taking action and want to work with all the members of the district and will listen to their ideas.
The Finance Committee Recommendations were back on last nights agenda and this time the board voted to approve it.
There was a lot of good discussion by everyone at last nights meeting.  There was a presentation by Ms. Silvey that I hope everyone will listen to.  The closing board member and superintendent comments were Very Good and I hope you take the time to listen to them.
They have set a Special Board Meeting for Monday December 7th.  It will be a full board meeting/workshop where the board members, administration, and the various employees groups etc.  will present ideas and work together to do what is necessary for the benefit of the district and the future of the children.


  1. Although I don't live in Bridgeport anymore and I'm not a taxpayer in the community, I am an alumni and I follow what's going on. It makes me very sad to see the state that the school district is in. At this point, it doesn't seem like there's much to be done until a new board is put in place. These people have done nothing from what I can see but drag the district further down. People of Bridgeport, VOTE!! Get these fools out of office or Bridgeport will be another Buena Vista. Every parent in the district should be at these board meetings, at the polls on election day, and at the schools demanding better for their kids. Do any of these board members have a student in the district? It's disgusting, sad, and down right criminal what is happening!

  2. Shantele,
    this is part 1 of my response:

    I agree that parents should be at the meetings but sadly I see very few residents at the school board meetings or the township meetings. I also agree that voters need to get to the polls and make "informed" choices at the ballot box. Sometimes it is frustrating because it seems like in this community voter apathy is high and voter/resident participation is low.
    Anyone that reads my blog will most likely have the conclusion that I hate the school board, but that is not entirely accurate. There is one, maybe two, members that I definitely think should be removed from this board. And there are several board members that I would stand behind any day.. I get frustrated at times with things that go on with this school board. BUT, right now I am seeing some very encouraging progress, especially with the plans to work with all the employee groups etc on the deficit problem. They had a bump in the road a couple of weeks ago but that is looking like it was a major miscommunication problem or misunderstanding. It was frustrating but I would not be willing to oust them all over it. The board definitely needs to work on better communication; between themselves and with the public.

  3. part 2:

    I was a little upset with some information that was shared by the MEA rep at the last meeting and I will admit that I was maybe too quick to blame the school board for turning down their proposals. I stumbled upon some information in a news article from 2011 that talks about the proposals that were presented by the union to the school board. I wish there was more information in this article and I will be looking for more to try and be fair and balanced. As for the 10% that they union offered to pay towards their health care when at that time their contract did not call for them to pay any of the costs, that at first sounds like it would have been a win-win for the school. My first thought was why would the board turn that down? They must be a bunch of morons, right? It was not that simple.... The union offered to pay 10% and that would be tied into a 3 year contract... But the state was going to be putting in new mandates the following year, and it was going to most likely include that the union members would be paying 20% for their health care plans. Which I guess is exactly what did happen, the state mandated the 20%. I don't have all the facts yet but I will work on getting them. So for the first year, it would have been a savings of 10% for the Bridgeport Schools... But for the next two years of the 3 year contract, it would have actually been a LOSS of 10% for the Bridgeport School District.... So I think that if I had been a board member looking at that, I most likely would have voted no also.
    I don't know the details about the rest of the proposal that included a proposed savings of about $700,000, but I am going to work on finding it if I can. One of the things mentioned in this 2011 article that made me think was that a former board member, Marvin Morris, voted no on the unions proposal. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Morris but everyone that I have talked to says that he was an exceptional man. If Mr. Morris voted no on this, then I think he must have had a good reason and I want to understand why he voted no. Unfortunately in this article, none of the board members or staff would comment on the reason for the no vote.

    The school district is facing some very hard decisions. As an employer you want to be fair and respectful to your employees, but in reality, your #1 obligation is not to your employees, but to the students. Your main job is to keep the school district open and functioning. Yes your employees are an integral part of keeping a functioning school district, but if it has to come down to outsourcing 20 jobs or losing all the jobs because the state steps in and closes down the entire district, which would you choose? I would choose to outsource 20 jobs to save the district. That sounds heartless, but it is reality. Probably every public school district in Michigan is facing problems similar to Bridgeport. I can't put all the blame on Bridgeport for their current situation, public school education is in trouble all across this country.
    I am praying that with the school board, administration, the employee groups all working together, they can come up with a plan that will be the least painful to the employees but most importantly will keep this school district open.