December 25, 2013 - As 2013 comes to a close, Clarkston Community Schools are in good shape, said school board President Rosalie Lieblang.
Rosalie Lieblang is president of Clarkston Board of Education. (click for larger version)
"I think it's been a good year so far – we've been able to stay on track and keep a balanced budget," Lieblang said. "I appreciate all the support and assistance other board members provide."
The school board closed a $3.8 million budget deficit earlier this year by cutting $2.7 million through 31 teacher lay-offs and other reductions, and adding revenue.
"The hope is not to continue cutting – we need more than cuts. We're looking at more shared services to help balance the budget," she said. "We'll keep looking for creative revenue instead of making cuts."
Lieblang has been on the school board for almost five years.
"This is my first opportunity to be president," she said. "It's been a learning experience, helping to set the agenda. It's been helpful to work with the superintendent and the board."
The board's role is to provide an overall vision and direction for the district, she said.
"We try to rotate offices every year or so often so we serve in each role," she said. "That's a great experience for every member. It provides a great perspective."
The role of the board is to set operational goals for the year, working with administration to determine goals and best solutions, and implement those goals, she said.
"Last year as a board, we agreed we wanted to have a strategic plan," she said. "My contribution as president is to make sure we have time scheduled, and understand how to implement it so we can determine goals before we approve the budget – this is something that will be a great accomplishment once we vote on it."
This year's focus on creating a strategic plan will help increase student achievement, long-term budgeting, and technology upgrades.
"The focus of the strategic plan is on being one of top districts in Oakland County and the state," she said. "There are a million good ideas, but we can't do all of them. The strategic plan will help keep us focused, help the board and administration work together, and help sift through a plethora of good ideas that could be done, to focus on what can be done."
Switching Clarkston High School and Junior High scheduling from trimesters to semesters is one way to improve student performance, and long-term budget planning would allow the district to tackle more multi-year initiatives, she said.
As president, she intends to allow as much communication by school board members as possible.
"Individual board members can't speak on behalf of the board, but they are entitled to their individual opinions," she said. "It's reasonable to have positions, that's why they were elected."
Board members can also go into schools and talk to the press, she said.
"It's good for board members to be involved in the schools," she said. "My view is that as long as you indicate you're not speaking on behalf of the board, communicating with parents, PTA, and administration is fine."
Along with the strategic plan, she hopes to change the school budget process, she said.
"School improvement plans are due in spring and the budget is approved in June – we're trying to change that," she said. "One way would be to approve the strategic plan in December or January, then work on the budget, then school improvement plans – it would flip the cycle a bit."
This would allow the school board to analyze the budget before deciding on spending plans for the schools, she said.
Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.