Source: Sherman Publications

‘No’ on schools-of-choice in Clarkston

by Phil Custodio

June 12, 2013

Clarkston's taking a pass on schools of choice.

The Board of Education voted 4-2 against a limited open enrollment program proposed by administration to help close a $3.8 million budget deficit.

Voting "no" were Board Treasurer Rosalie Lieblang, and trustees Susan Boatman, Craig Hamilton, and Joan Patterson.

Board President Cheryl McGinnis and Vice President Elizabeth Egan voted “yes.” Treasurer Stephen Hyer was absent.

Patterson said she was concerned schools-of-choice students would increase class sizes, especially at Clarkston Elementary School.

"I'm on the borderline," Patterson said. "I don’t want to bring schools of choice into our schools and have one school bear the burden of it."

Students would be spread out in the district as much as possible, Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock responded.

"We'd look at where there are openings," Rock said.

Hamilton opposes the measure, saying it would lower property values if approved.

"Homes are worth more (because of the school district's reputation) – if you don’t have to buy a home to get into the school district, that value is lost," he said.

McGinnis said the limited open enrollment proposal would have helped the district through a tough spot.

"I still think it's the right choice," McGinnis said. Patterson said open enrollment could be considered later.

"The families on the border, those in Young Fives (preschool program), they'll come to the district if it's approved in July," she said. "By that time, we'll have a better understanding of the numbers in our other schools of choice programs, such as IB (International Baccalaureate) and CSMTech."

Clarkston's preschool program is also open to out-of-district students.

McGinnis said she didn't want to bring the proposal back if the board remains split.

"I'll have to think about it," she said.

Parents have until August to register their children for school, but administration expects a drop in enrollment.

"We've had fairly accurate projections – I still anticipate a loss of students," said Deputy Superintendent Shawn Ryan.

Limited open enrollment could address that, Rock said.

"It could be 10 kids, 20, or five, something to offset the loss of students," he said. "I ask the board to give it a try, even a limited program and see how it works for a year."

As presented, the program would have opened enrollment to up to 100 out-of-district students in Kindergarten-second grade. At this point, Shawn Ryan said far fewer would sign up.

"Lake Orion started early with an aggressive campaign – they have about 40," Ryan said. "Starting in mid June, I'd expect half of that or less."

About 7-8 students in the Early Five program could be counted on to participate if given the opportunity, he said.

Following the vote, Rock asked McGinnis to remove from the agenda a proposal to accept tuition students, who would also be out-of-district.

"There's no need to explore that now," he said.

McGinnis agreed and removed the item.