Nine Farmington Public Schools Board of Education candidates answered four rounds of questions during a September 24 online forum hosted by the district’s PTA Council.
The event was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. District residents had the opportunity to submit questions before the meeting. We’ve recapped one response from each candidate and encourage you to watch the full video.
Cheryl Blau – How will you engage the community to improve public schools in our district?
“I’ve already been asking at the Farmers Market if we could set up a booth. I’ve asked them to enquire with the city if we could be a presence at the market each week, so that the community has another vehicle with which to share their concerns with us. I don’t think that public comment is the best way in which to make ourselves available to the community… Maybe one of our meetings each month would be a standard board meeting and one would be more of a town hall.”
Mable Fox – How would you ensure a respectful and safe culture for every student?
Steven Goldberg – The district recently released criteria for returning to face-to-face instruction. Do you think the criteria is too strict, too lenient, or just right?
“I would say that the criteria presented are not sufficient to actually make a decision upon. Having … watched the last board meeting, I didn’t think a full enough picture was presented. I think we also, while there were good statistics provided, they really weren’t the basis for making a decision, in my opinion. I think there are a lot of other things that come into play, such as do we have the logistics, do we have the capacity, other things that I think really play into the decision that weren’t presented… In fact, I know all school districts aren’t making their decisions the same way.”
Janet Ravitz Meir – How do you feel about our current approach to remote learning? What, if anything, would you change?
“I feel the current arrangement is sometimes quite a strain on the parents, because they have maybe three children and maybe both parents work full-time, so it’s hard to have that attention the child needs, especially the younger children need a lot of attention. They wander, their minds wander. That’s why I think we need to get back in person as fast as we can, because there are a lot of problems right now with the virtual learning… It’s okay, but we certainly need to get the kids back to in person school.”
Richard Mukamal – Do you see yourself primarily as a representative of the community or as a representative of the school system?
“I see myself, really, as an intermediary. In terms of the day to day work that we do in committee and at the board, I see myself as a representative of the community. When we are in opportunities where there’s a dialogue with the public, I see myself as trying my best to explain the district’s position on issues… for example, explaining the teachers’ perspective to the public.”
Frank Raines III – How should district-wide academic achievement and other data be communicated?
“I think it is a positive thing that the school board and the community work hand in glove and create an atmosphere where it’s not only during the period of parents coming to teacher conferences, but it’s also during a time when the students and parents meet with the board to have an idea of what’s really taking place outside of what the students may not have shared with their parents.”
Kevin Hammer – Do you believe that systemic racism impacts our district?
System racism would be policies and procedures that are in place or practices that would cause widespread racism. I don’t know. I don’t think that’s the case in Farmington Hills. Now, there may be instances of people’s biases coming out, there’s the term implicit bias… I think it’s safe to say all of our consciences have implicit bias, and sometimes it makes us act out in negative ways, no doubt that occurs from time to time. But as far as systemic racism, that would be hard to believe that we have systems and procedures in place that would allow for that to happen.
Claudia Heinrich – Is there a particular issues that motivates you to serve?
“Right now, I think the biggest issue is school safety and COVID and finding a way to bring students back to school or finding a way to educate students in a challenging time… I’m a retired teacher, and I was telling my daughter, I would be all over trying to figure out ways to bring lessons and engage students and do whatever needed during these times to bring them back into the classroom, and until we can do that, to keep them engaged and provide the best learning opportunities for them.”
Donald Walker – What are your thoughts about schools within our district offering different specialized programs, for example, IB (International Baccalaureate) program, STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Arts, Math) Academy, or Leader in Me?
“I think that’s a fantastic approach, because our kids are not cut from cookie-cutter type devices. And I think parents would like to have choices about where they can place their children so that they can be highly engaged. It’s almost like a CTE (Career and Technical Education) kind of a model where I get to go to a program and learn what I want to learn in addition to learning the core curriculums necessary for me to be a highly educated individual. So I’m all for AP, IB, STEM, any of those resources that further engage students both mentally and emotionally, and then we’re able to cross-curricular train them with their English and their math and social studies for a more well-rounded student who has better application of all of those studies when they graduate from high school.”