New Farmington Schools trustees talk about challenges ahead

Farmington Public Schools voters elected three new trustees Tuesday who face a future that includes challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farmington Public Schools election 2020
From left: Cheryl Blau, Mable Fox, and and Claudia Heinrich. 

Farmington resident Cheryl Blau and Farmington Hills resident Mable Fox will each serve a six-year term, while Farmington Hills resident Claudia Heinrich will serve two years. Heinrich was the top vote-getter among a combined nine candidates for the three seats.

Learning the ropes, building relationships

“I was pleasantly surprised,” said Heinrich, who racked up 14,930 votes. “I tried not to stress about it.”

Heinrich said she stayed relaxed by relying on a tradition she started when she retired after 40 years of teaching: “The first day of school was really hard for me, so I would go golfing.”

To prepare for her board term, Heinrich will attend a Michigan Association of School Boards conference. Along with learning more about how to be a trustee, she plans to build relationships with her new colleagues. She said all board members reached out to congratulate her on Wednesday.

Heinrich said she has spoken with locals who are concerned about students struggling with remote learning. When a friend mentioned that many kids are failing, she wasn’t surprised.

“I know from my experience as a teacher there were things I could do with students in my classroom to help those students pass and be successful that they’re not going to do on their own,” Heinrich said. “There’s so much that’s going to need to be done to bring those students back… Getting students back into the classroom is just the first step.”

Thinking outside the box

Blau spent Election Day teaching, celebrated her son’s birthday after he cast his first vote in a presidential election, then fell asleep waiting for election results. She learned that she won at around 2 a.m., when friend Maria Taylor called with the news.

“I did not expect this, because there were so many qualified people with lots of different kinds of experience running,” she said. “My ideas tend to be a bit non-traditional, and I didn’t want to say what I thought would get me elected. I wanted to tell the truth about what I thought we need in our district and for our kids, and I thought I ran the risk of not being elected.”

Voters were not shy when it came to asking about her qualifications, something she found encouraging. “I was so impressed with the level of care and concern people had for our students, our teachers, and our district.”

Blau would like to see the board develop new ways to engage with the community to build trust, perhaps an informal gathering in place of one school board meeting a month. She knows that and other ideas she has for using privately owned space in the district to reduce class sizes might seem too “out of the box” for some.

“But that’s brainstorming,” she said. “Maybe it’s not that, but we could do this instead. You start thinking of other innovative ideas.”

Both Blau and Heinrich expressed their thanks to voters for the support they received. (Farmington Voice reached out to Mable Fox, but the call wasn’t returned in time to include her comments.)

Here’s how you voted

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