Source: Sherman Publications

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Locals 'building bridges' here, across state
Not just complaining about education, they are learning and getting involved

by Don Rush

July 20, 2011

Members of the group CAPE have sat in on local and state school board meetings, talked with elected officials and are setting their sights on talking to Michigan governor, Rick Synder. From the left (front), Jeff Faber, Karen Appedorn, Melissa Miller and Denise Mitchell; (back) Amy Marcaccio Keyzer, Birgit McQuiston and Jane Snage. photo by D. Rush
Some folks just like to sit back, read the newspaper, listen the radio, watch TV or post snarky comments on social netwoking internet sites when it comes to how "things" are run in government.

Some, but when it comes to school financing not the growing group of folks from Lake Orion who are tired of infighting among members of this community and the state as a whole.

"Infighting will not solve problems," Karen Appledorn said last week, when she and six other members of the group Michigan Citizens Advocating for Public Education (MI-Cape) visited The Review office.

Members of the group are disturb how information from the state and individuals are bandied about; they are worried about how the state is trying to fix a very real problem, with a one-size-fits-all approach. ("What works in one community may not work in another. What needs to be done in Detroit, isn't the same as it is in Lake Orion," Appledorn said.

So they are doing something about it. They are getting organized, involved and meeting with not only local school-types, but also those from other districts and state policy makers.

Recently, some members went to a Michigan Board of Education meeting in Detroit.

"It was a real eye-opener," said Mi-Cape member and new Lake Orion Community School Board trustee. The meeting, she said, concerned the emergency financial manager from the state taking over the Detroit School District.

"The Detroit Board of Education was barred from the meeting. It just makes you wonder what is going on. It's suspicious."

The group has also had "good" meetings with state representative Marlow -- who has since helped steer them to different people in state government they should meet, what questions they should ask and what procedures to follow.

"We really are learning as we go," added another member and new school board trustee, Melissa Miller.

Locally, they want to see that Lake Orion Community Schools stays at the top of the education world. This can be difficult, they said, when numbers are taken out of context. For example, they said, prior to the district's recent bond election, some stated Lake Orion was spending more per student than was the case, and that class size was smaller than stated.

"They just took the total number of students and divided that into every dollar the district took in -- including grants that could only be spent, for example on special education.

"They also took the number of teachers and divided that into the total of number of students to come up with average class size. Well, they missed the point that some teachers have smaller classes, like music, P.E. (physical education) and other specialized classes. What they did does not reflect the truth," said member and teacher Jane Snage.

Their group is made of conservatives, moderates, parents, teachers, board members -- people who want to get involved and make a difference. Their mission statement, in part says, they seek "to help shape education policy in Michigan by engaging community members, educators, legislators, and business leaders in thoughtful and constructive dialogue. It is our desire to build bridges between all stakeholders in public education and find solutions that will improve and strengthen our schools . . . (and) the right to maintain local control over our community schools . . ."

MI-Cape has launched a Facebook page to open dialogue between the different groups of the community. The group evolved from another group formed in 2009, Lake Orion Community Schools Involved Citizens (LOCSIC). LOCSIC was formed when members of the community felt they concerns were not being "heard" by the board of education. That group, too, had an open forum on Facebook, but it degraded into infighting, "and teacher bashing" they said.