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Future looks good to local leaders



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January 09, 2013 - At the start of a new year, Clarkston community leaders are busy preparing for the future.

For Dr. Rod Rock, Clarkston superintendent of schools, that means working on curriculum adjustments to meet students' needs and match Michigan Common Core and Smarter Balance standards, which replace the MEAP and MME in 2015.

"Toward further alignment, we will work on implementation of standards-based grading, project-based assessment, and an outstanding foundation in literacy," Rock said.

Supervisor Pat Kittle is feeling great about 2013.

"I think Independence is right on the cusp of something really big," Kittle said. "I'm confident the McLaren project will be happening with the many good things that will happen with thousands of new jobs and medical professionals coming into our community.  Housing starts, businesses flourishing, and infrastructure improvements like road expansion are all on our radar screen."

Goals for 2013 include to continue to investigate new ways to conduct business in Independence, from functional audits to collaborative benchmarking to rebidding contracts.

"We are going to get serious about putting a rock solid HR process in place in the township including job descriptions, goals and objectives, an ethics policy and an evaluation process," he said.

"We will also focus on communications with township residents with more newsletters, a more robust website, townhall meetings and a more active community television network."

They are also looking to get more citizen input in how the township is managed. They will assemble two new Citizen Advisory Boards focusing on water and sewer business model and how the township invests its short and long term cash.

"As I said, 2013 is looking like a break-out year for the township.  I'm just glad to be able to play a small part in it," Kittle said.

Clarkston Mayor Joseph T. Luginski said due diligence has put the city in a position to continue to have a balanced budget while not depleting the fund balance.

"We will continue to manage the finances of the city in this manner, Luginski said. "As we head into the New Year, I am very excited about our city's future. We have been able to keep our heads above water over the last few years, which have been trying for all of us.  We accomplished this by being fiscally responsible and running a tight ship."  

Going forward, city leaders need to continue to protect, preserve and progress, he said.

"We need to protect all of our historic buildings, both residential and commercial," he said. "By doing so we can preserve our city's small town, historic nature and feel. We owe it to those who came before us, to ourselves, and especially to our children and those who will proceed us."

Clarkston needs to progress as well, he said.

"Yes, I believe these two worlds can live together.  I would like to see a few more destination venues, shops and restaurants, in the city for both the citizens and visitors to enjoy," he said.

Home values have decreased over the last couple of years, but county projections show the market may have bottomed out, and values should stabilize and increase over the next few years, he said.

"We will continue to have our great events such as Concerts in the Park, Taste of Clarkston, Art in the Village, and the SCAMP Home Tour along with our several amazing Main Street parades," he said.

Clarkston is a gem in northern Oakland County and a wonderful place to live and raise a family, with beautiful historic homes and downtown, along with a fantastic local business community, he said.

"I am proud and honored to be both a resident and mayor of the City of the Village of Clarkston and wish all of the residents and business community in our city a safe, happy, healthy and prosperous 2013," he said.

Clarkston School Board President Cheryl McGinnis' goals include developing a balanced budget to meet the needs of the school community by providing the necessary resources to educate all children. 

"We want to make decisions by putting kids first," McGinnis said. "We want to continue to explore opportunities to develop additional revenue streams." 

They will also continue to look at Elementary Foreign Language and Middle College programs to attract students to the district and increase learning for all.

"As a board, we need to continue to improve our governance responsibilities," she said. "We need to work together to develop consensus and where necessary improve our bylaws and operating procedures so that everyone knows what is expected from all board members and how as individuals we should communicate and as a board."

The district must make strides forward to empower administration to implement initiatives that meet the needs of our students, she said.

"I remain optimistic that with the upcoming administration and board workshop, we can begin to develop consensus on those things that are best for our students and our community," she said.

"We must bring our budget in alignment with our revenues while continuing to provide the high caliber education known to Clarkston.  We must continue to provide improvements to our capital needs and technology infrastructure and finally we must continue to develop relationships with our community and keep them informed about the education of our community's children."

The school district is also working to update technology and improve buildings and other capital assets, Rock said.

"We will work to develop additional partnerships with the townships, community colleges, county, other districts, public sector, private sector, and not-for-profit sector," he said.

Interdependence is essential in excellent schools and communities, he said.

"We will continue to advocate for public schools, teachers, and knowledge-based reform. We are aware of the negative effects of pending legislation, and we will do all we can to inform and transform reform," he said.

"We will work to balance our budget, settle contracts, and to refinance bonds. Our employees are the heart of our organization, and we must assure that they know how much they are valued, even in difficult economic times."

This is a very exciting time for learning in Clarkston, he said.

"We have a very clear, knowledge-based vision, and it is incredible to see how it is affecting our students and educators. We can't wait for the community to better understand and embrace where we are headed and what it means for all of us," he said.

The district will also continue to work with safety officials to inspect and update school security plans and procedures, Rock said.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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