Farmington Voice is profiling the four candidates running on November 6 for two open Farmington Public Schools Board of Education seats: Pam Green, Jeff Grynaviski, Mark Przeslawski, and Zach Rich.
When Jeff Grynaviski and his wife, Nicole, moved their growing family to Michigan in 2011, they chose Farmington Hills largely because of Farmington Public Schools’ sterling reputation.
Seven years later, he’s running for one of two seats on the district’s Board of Trustees because he’s worried about that reputation. The first glimmer of concern appeared when the district cut media specialists, a decision that affected his daughter, who has dyslexia.
“There was no reading support after they cut the librarians,” Grynaviski said.
As an associate professor at Wayne State University, with many other teachers in his family, Grynaviski was also disturbed by protracted contract negotiations, which he said are not good for staff morale.
“As a teacher, and the son of a teacher, that didn’t sit well with me,” he said.
Grynaviski would also like to look at boosting the number of guidance counselors in the district. He cited a ratio of 250:1 as “best practice,” and said the district’s is closer to 400:1. “After Parkland (the February 2018 school shooting in Florida), this is what we should be doing to take care of our kids.”
But his biggest concern is what he calls the “achievement gap,” the academic performance of Farmington Public Schools compared with other districts. The district performs fairly well, but not to the level it did seven years ago, he said, and “performs really well for people who look like me.”
Increasing the number of seats in state-funded preschool programs would help, he said, as would creating more awareness for those programs. Grynaviski would like to see “state of the school” reports for each building to ensure equitable staffing and resources.
“I think that would go a long way toward assuring minority groups that they’re being treated fairly,” he said.
With Superintendent George Heitsch close to retirement, Grynaviski said, he would look for a new leader who has experience with declining enrollments, with managing hurt feelings when there are layoffs or schools close, and most importantly, someone who has had experience with contract negotiations.
The district’s financial picture “looks okay,” after making some tough decisions, Grynaviski said. He noted that a wave of retirements could boost the budget, but he’s also concerned that it’ll be difficult to replace those teachers. Part of the problem is a state-wide shortage. He noted that enrollments have dropped at Wayne State’s School of Education.
But there’s also a Farmington-specific issue.
“We can’t hire teachers at the bottom of the pay scale, because it’s too low, and right now, teacher morale is pretty low,” he said. “The salary has to be high enough to get teachers through the door.”
Grynaviski said that with children at kindergarten, middle school, and high school ages, his family will spend at least another dozen years in the district. He has been an active volunteer as chair of the Proud Dads Club at Hillside Elementary, a PTA member, and in the classroom.
“I think that families with a strong personal stake in the district’s success over the intermediate- and longer-term should be well-represented on the board,” he said.