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Charter school board to be sworn in

March 06, 2013 - Oxford is getting a new school board this week.

But this one will be exclusively dedicated to giving troubled students a second chance to continue their education.

"I think these kids deserve a break," said Oxford resident Stephen (Mickey) Hiatt, an appointee to the Deerfield Academy School Board. "I just feel in my heart that there's not a bad kid out there."

Hiatt, along with the four other members who will make up the Deerfield Academy School Board, will be sworn in on Thursday, March 7 at the Crossroads for Youth campus (930 E. Drahner Rd.).

Other board appointees include Adrienne Cottingham, Mary Sutton, Amy Moore and Rev. Joyce M. Matthews.

The board will oversee the community's first charter public school, authorized by the Central Michigan University (CMU) Board of Trustees in December 2012.

Deerfield Academy will begin educating students this fall on the Crossroads campus, but it won't be a typical charter school that accepts all types of students.

It's going to be what's called a Strict Discipline Academy (SDA) and it will serve the type of unique student population that Crossroads already handles – troubled children and teenagers.

Created under state law in 1999, SDA's function like other charter schools in most regards, however, they only enroll students who've been expelled or are on long-term suspension from other schools and those who've been placed there by a court, county juvenile agency or the Department of Human Services.

"Kids from all over Oakland County will be coming out here. It's not just Oxford kids," said Hiatt, 68, who's the founder, owner and president of Quality Fastener and Supply Company, a 25-year-old local business located at 3100 Adventure Lane.

Hiatt, an Oxford resident since 1977, really likes the idea that Deerfield Academy will be offering a second chance to students who need it. He noted he's dealt with Crossroads kids before and used them as labor for various projects.

"They're great young men," he said. "I've met a lot of nice ones."

Hiatt also sees the new charter school as a way to help kids who he believes are being unfairly punished because the zero-tolerance policies that most school districts have adopted lead to overreactions. He referred to cases where the punishment outweighs the crime or no allowance is made for the mistakes that kids make.

"There's so many kids out there who've been caught up in this whole zero-tolerance thing," he said. "It's getting out of control. You can't do or say anything anymore. I think the rules or regulations are just overwhelming to kids today. You can't make a mistake."

Although he doesn't have a degree or background in education, Hiatt, a 1963 graduate of Lake Orion High School, believes he can bring the "common sense" of a businessman to the school board, which will be helpful when making decisions and dealing with financial matters.

"I think that's the reason they want me," he said. "Everybody else has (degrees). I've got a high school education and two years in the army."

But what Hiatt lacks in formal education, he more than makes up for with real-world, practical experience.

"I'm quite a fanatic about organizing things and I've got no problem making decisions," he said. "Decision-making is important, especially in our government today. Somebody's got to make a decision and everybody's passing the buck."

Hiatt is no stranger to serving his community. He's been a member of the Rotary Club of Oxford for about 15 years.

Rotary aids local youth with scholarships and its STRIVE program, which provides encouragement, motivation and mentorship to students facing academic difficulties.

As for the other Deefield board members, Cottingham is a homemaker and resident of Bruce Township, while Sutton is a retired social worker who resides in Huntington Woods.

Moore, of Oxford, is a therapist who works for Lapeer County Community Mental Health and Matthews, a resident of Farmington Hills, serves as associate rector at Christ Church Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills.

The Leader will be profiling the other board members in next week's issue following the swearing-in ceremony

Charter schools are independent public schools. As such, they are funded by tax dollars, however, their operations are not restricted by many of the laws and regulations that govern traditional public schools.

Charter schools are bound to the terms of a contract that spells out the institution's mission, its academic goals and how it will be held accountable.

There are 232 charter public schools in Michigan with more than 100,000 students in attendance.

Deerfield Academy will be completely independent from Crossroads for Youth's control. It will be its own entity governed by its school board.

Deerfield Academy's new school board will work hand-in hand with the Brighton-based CS Partners, an education service provider that specializes in comprehensive school management services including fiscal support, human resources, curriculum, compliance, board support, facilities, grants, marketing and more.

CS Partners provides full management services to 12 charter school and two day care centers in Michigan.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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