Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hear! Hear!

Pontiac fortunate to have Paramore

Thursday, March 19, 2009 6:19 AM EDT
By The Oakland Press

Amid all of the dramatic changes that the Pontiac Board of Education has approved and has been overseeing recently, it took some administrative action that might not have gained a lot of notoriety.

However, it was clearly a wise and prudent move.

The board approved a new agreement with acting Superintendent Linda Paramore, as well as several other administrators.As superintendent, Paramore has been responsible for instituting and overseeing the many actions the board has authorized.

And Paramore deserves credit for doing a stellar job.She was named the district’s interim chief academic officer in June of 2007 and worked for a year to restructure schools to improve student achievement. She was named interim superintendent in July of 2008 to replace former interim Calvin Cupidore until a new permanent superintendent is hired.

Paramore is a retired curriculum administrator from the Southfield school district and came to Pontiac schools as a consultant through the Oakland Intermediate School District.Her credentials are impressive.

This is her 41st year in education. She worked for the Detroit Public School System for 27 years, serving first as a teacher and then working her way up to counselor, assistant principal, principal and finally to an assistant to the superintendent.

She then took her skills to the Southfield School District, where she worked for 10 years. She was principal of Levey Middle School during time the school was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school.While at Southfield, she became an associate superintendent for instruction.

It’s easy to see why Paramore has been so successful throughout her career and why she has done an excellent job in Pontiac.Any school district needs a strong administrator as well as a board of education that isn’t afraid to make critical decisions and follow through with them. But with the financial problems in Pontiac, the ability to take a disciplined course of action involves considerable courage from all concerned, particularly because of the pressure from many parents and employees who say they want change and an improved school system but often resist it when they are directly affected.

The board and administration are valiantly moving forward with plans to consolidate the district’s high schools and middle schools, as well as close some buildings because of the school’s declining enrollment and looming $12 million deficit.In addition to all of this work, the board is restarting an aggressive search for a new superintendent.

They will be following a tight timeline.Deadline for applications is set for April 6. The board will review applications and check backgrounds of candidates. Consultant Mike Wilmot and the district’s attorney will select the top five April 7.The first round of interviews will be between April 13 and April 27. Two finalists will be selected and a second round of interviews will be set for the week of May 4.

Trustee visits to the candidates’ school districts will be the week of May 11 and a decision will be made May 18.

One thing is clear, whomever gets the job will have huge shoes to fill in following Paramore. In a very short time, she and the board have accomplished more than was what achieved over the past 20 years by many previous boards and administrators.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Pontiac Promise!

Lawmaker seeks support for Promise Zone

Tuesday, March 17, 2009 5:47 AM EDT

Of The Oakland Press

PONTIAC — An opportunity for a partial or fully paid college education for students of the Pontiac school district is at hand.

Now, it’s up to the surrounding community to help them seize that opportunity.

State Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, told a community forum Monday at City Hall that all the kids who work hard and graduate will be eligible for part or all of their college education to be paid for through the Promise Zone program.

But it won’t be easy.

So, Melton has called upon businesses, educators and citizens to donate time and money to a cause that will benefit the entire Pontiac community.

“We need to tap into our faith-based community,” Melton said. We need to tap into our business community like The Palace of Auburn Hills.”

Melton said he believes the $750,000 to get the program started can be raised and that he has already been getting “generous donations,” but there is still much to be done.

The Michigan Promise Zone Act allows communities to create funding mechanisms to increase college education opportunities for graduates of Michigan’s K-12 school system by providing free college tuition to in-state schools.

Up to 10 Promise Zones will be authorized throughout the state in areas that have a combination of low rates of educational attainment and high rates of poverty and unemployment. Funds must be raised by the community for two years before a percentage of growth in state education tax dollars will be added to the pot to provide scholarships to Pontiac students.

Under the plan, the school board would create a Promise Zone Authority board and appoint nine of the 11 members. The other two would be appointed by the speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate majority. The authority would cover full tuition to any public school in Michigan and a capped amount to any more expensive private Michigan college.

“The business community will benefit because now you have a higher density of post secondary educated kids who they are able to hire,” said Melton. “People always ask me to bring jobs to our community. Well, who are they going to hire? Let’s make sure we are preparing our kids for the jobs in the new economy.”

The Promise Zone Authority board would set the criteria for the scholarships and would be responsible for raising money in the private sector to fund them. No school board members would be on the authority.

In the third year, after two years of fund raising, the state would authorize the district to keep a percentage of funds generated by property tax growth to put toward scholarships. Children in all the cities and townships in the district would benefit, not just those who live in Pontiac. And the fund would reap revenue from growth in property taxes from all the entities in the school district.

Pontiac school district graduates, whether low-income or not, will be eligible for funds that make up the difference between what a student can obtain in scholarships and grants and the full tuition at a public Michigan college or university or a similar capped amount for a private college.


Call Melton’s office at (888) MELTON-4 or e-mail

Saturday, March 14, 2009


Obama Says Public Schools Must Improve

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 11, 2009; A01

President Obama sharply criticized the nation's public schools yesterday, calling for changes that would reward good teachers and replace bad ones, increase spending, and establish uniform academic achievement standards in American education.

In a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Obama called on teachers unions, state officials and parents to end the "relative decline of American education," which he said "is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy and unacceptable for our children." The speech, delivered in a venue meant to underscore the changing demographics of the nation's public education system and its long-term priorities, sought to bring a bipartisan approach to education reform by spreading blame across party lines for recent failures.

"For decades, Washington has been trapped in the same stale debates that have paralyzed progress and perpetuated our educational decline," Obama said. "Too many supporters of my party have resisted the idea of rewarding excellence in teaching with extra pay, even though it can make a difference in the classroom. Too many in the Republican Party have opposed new investments in early education, despite compelling evidence of its importance."

Obama's speech, his first as president devoted to education, struck a tone of urgency at a time when public education is slated to receive about $100 billion in new federal money under the recently passed economic stimulus package. The money may give Obama and his education secretary, Arne Duncan, more influence in reshaping a public education system traditionally guided by state governments and local school districts.

"The resources come with a bow tied around them that says 'Reform,' " Rahm Emanuel, Obama's chief of staff, said in a telephone interview. "Our basic premise is that the status quo and political constituencies can no longer determine how we proceed on public education reform in this country."

Although Obama proposed many of the ideas on the campaign trail, he used the speech to link those prescriptions to the future success of the ailing U.S. economy. He encouraged experimentation in the public school system, including proposals to extend the school day -- to bring the United States in line with some Asian countries whose students are scoring higher on tests -- and to eliminate limits on the number of charter schools.

"A number of these things are simply encouragements to the states on matters that the federal government has little authority over," said Jack Jennings, president of the nonpartisan Center on Education Policy. "But with this stimulus money comes the ability to talk more about these issues. And that is very powerful in itself."

The president signaled a willingness to take on influential Democratic constituencies, including teachers unions, which have been skeptical of merit-pay proposals. He said he intends to treat teachers "like the professionals they are while also holding them more accountable."

Good teachers will receive pay raises if students succeed, Obama said, and will "be asked to accept more responsibility for lifting up their schools." But, he said, states and school districts must be "taking steps to move bad teachers out of the classroom."

"If a teacher is given a chance but still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching," he said. "I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences."

Obama's support for ideas such as merit pay and toughened accountability for teachers is similar in tone to proposals placed on the table by D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in contract negotiations with the Washington Teachers' Union.

Rhee, a Democrat, said last year that voting for Obama was "a very hard decision" because of the party's traditional reluctance to take on influential teachers unions. A spokeswoman said last night that Rhee had no immediate comment on the president's speech.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union with more than 1 million members, said in a statement that "as with any public policy, the devil is in the details. And it is important that teachers' voices are heard as we implement the president's vision."

Obama's call for states to adopt uniform academic achievement standards is likely to anger conservatives, who generally favor giving local school districts the authority to design curriculum and grading criteria. To make his point, the president said: "Today's system of 50 different sets of benchmarks for academic success means fourth-grade readers in Mississippi are scoring nearly 70 points lower than students in Wyoming -- and getting the same grade."

To encourage classroom innovation, Obama said, he wants the District and the 26 states that now limit the number of permitted charter schools to lift those caps. Such schools, founded by parents, teachers and civic groups, receive public money but are allowed to experiment broadly with curriculum. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says 365,000 students are on waiting lists for charter schools.

Obama chose to deliver his remarks at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, senior administration officials said, to emphasize the growing proportion of Latinos entering the public school system. He said a quarter of kindergartners in public schools are Latino, adding that they "are less likely to be enrolled in early education programs than anyone else." He said the stimulus plan includes $5 billion to expand the Early Head Start and Head Start programs.

The president also noted that Latino students are "dropping out faster than just about anyone else," a national problem that cuts across ethnic lines. He noted that "just 2,000 high schools in cities like Detroit, Los Angeles and Philadelphia produce over 50 percent of America's dropouts."

Regarding higher education, Obama said he plans to expand several federal grant programs, including increasing the maximum amount of a Pell grant and allowing it to rise with inflation, and ending "wasteful student loan subsidies." The goal, he said, is to make college "affordable for 7 million more students."

"So, yes, we need more money. Yes, we need more reform. Yes, we need to hold ourselves accountable for every dollar we spend," Obama said. "But there is one more ingredient I want to talk about. The bottom line is that no government policies will make any difference unless we also hold ourselves more accountable as parents."

Bottom UP!

Ending the ‘Race to the Bottom’

Published: March 11, 2009

There was an impressive breadth of knowledge and a welcome dose of candor in President Obama’s first big speech on education, in which he served up an informed analysis of the educational system from top to bottom. What really mattered was that Mr. Obama did not wring his hands or speak in abstract about states that have failed to raise their educational standards. Instead, he made it clear that he was not afraid to embarrass the laggards — by naming them — and that he would use a $100 billion education stimulus fund to create the changes the country so desperately needs.

"Testing is not the answer, as the most disadvantaged children are then penalized... as their teachers spend the entire year teaching to the test. "

Susan Josephs, Bethel, Conn.

Mr. Obama signaled that he would take the case for reform directly to the voters, instead of limiting the discussion to mandarins, lobbyists and specialists huddled in Washington. Unlike his predecessor, who promised to leave no child behind but did not deliver, this president is clearly ready to use his political clout on education.

Mr. Obama spoke in terms that everyone could understand when he noted that only a third of 13- and 14-year-olds read as well as they should and that this country’s curriculum for eighth graders is two full years behind other top-performing nations. Part of the problem, he said, is that this nation’s schools have recently been engaged in “a race to the bottom” — most states have adopted abysmally low standards and weak tests so that students who are performing poorly in objective terms can look like high achievers come test time.

The nation has a patchwork of standards that vary widely from state to state and a system under which he said “fourth-grade readers in Mississippi are scoring nearly 70 points lower than students in Wyoming — and they’re getting the same grade.” In addition, Mr. Obama said, several states have standards so low that students could end up on par with the bottom 40 percent of students around the globe.

This is a recipe for economic disaster. Mr. Obama and Arne Duncan, the education secretary, have rightly made clear that states that draw money from the stimulus fund will have to create sorely needed data collection systems that show how students are performing over time. They will also need to raise standards and replace weak, fill-in-the-bubble tests with sophisticated examinations that better measure problem-solving and critical thinking.

Mr. Obama understands that standards and tests alone won’t solve this problem. He also called for incentive pay for teachers who work in shortage areas like math and science and merit pay for teachers who are shown to produce the largest achievement gains over time. At the same time, the president called for removing underperforming teachers from the classroom.

In an effort to broaden innovation, the president called for lifting state and city caps on charter schools. This could be a good thing, but only if the new charter schools are run by groups with a proven record of excellence. Once charter schools have opened, it becomes politically difficult to close them, even in cases where they are bad or worse than their traditional counterparts.

The stimulus package can jump-start the reforms that Mr. Obama laid out in his speech. But Congress will need to broaden and sustain those reforms in the upcoming reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. Only Congress can fully replace the race to the bottom with a race to the top.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BIG PICTURE! (Unfolding)


President Obama says the decline of education is "unacceptable for our children."

Obama wants to overhaul education system from 'cradle to career'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Obama began to flesh out the details of one of his signature campaign promises Tuesday, outlining his plan for a major overhaul of the country's education system "from the cradle up through a career."

President Obama says the decline of education is "unacceptable for our children."

"We have let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher quality fall short and other nations outpace us," Obama said in an address to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "The time for finger-pointing is over. The time for holding ourselves accountable is here."

"The relative decline of American education is untenable for our economy, unsustainable for our democracy and unacceptable for our children, and we cannot afford to let it continue," he said.

The president outlined a five-tier reform plan, starting with increased investments in early childhood initiatives.

Obama noted that the recently passed $787 billion stimulus plan includes an additional $5 billion for Head Start, a program to help low-income families.

He highlighted a proposal to offer 55,000 first-time parents "regular visits from trained nurses to help make sure their children are healthy and prepare them for school and life."

He also pledged to boost federal support in the form of "Early Learning Challenge" grants to states that develop plans to strengthen early education programs.

Second, Obama called for an end to "what has become a race to the bottom in our schools" through lower testing standards. Echoing former President Bush's call to end "the soft bigotry of low expectations," Obama said states needed to stop "low-balling expectations" for students.

"The solution to low test scores is not lower standards; it's tougher, clearer standards," he argued.

At the same time, however, he urged states to develop standards "that don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble on a test but whether they possess 21st century skills like problem-solving and critical thinking, entrepreneurship and creativity."

To help promote this goal, Obama said he would push for funding in the No Child Left Behind law to be more effectively tied to results. The Education Department, he said, would "back up this commitment to higher standards with a fund to invest in innovation in our school districts."

Obama's third tier focused on teacher training and recruitment. He noted that federal dollars had been set aside in the stimulus plan to help prevent teacher layoffs. He also reiterated a promise to support merit pay, as well as extra pay for math and science teachers with the goal of ending a shortage in both of those subjects.

At the same time, however, the president warned that ineffective teachers should not be allowed to remain on the job.

"If a teacher is given a chance but still does not improve, there is no excuse for that person to continue teaching," he said. "I reject a system that rewards failure and protects a person from its consequences."

Teachers' unions have opposed merit-based pay, arguing that it is unfair because it leads to competition among teachers and because teachers face different challenges depending on where they are located.

Fourth, Obama called for the promotion of educational "innovation and excellence" by renewing his campaign pledge to support charter schools. He called on states to lift caps on the number of allowable charter schools.

He also urged a longer school calendar.

"I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas," Obama said. "But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

Obama's final reform initiative focused on higher education. Among other things, the president promised to boost college access by raising the maximum Pell Grant award to $5,550 a year and indexing it above inflation. He also promised to push for a $2,500 a year tuition tax credit for students from working families.

The American Federation of Teachers, a union with 1.4 million members, said Tuesday that it embraces Obama's goals to provide "all Americans with a comprehensive, competitive education that begins in early childhood and extends through their careers."

"We also fully support the president's call for shared responsibility for education -- among public officials, school administrators, parents, students and teachers," the group said in a statement.

"As with any public policy, the devil is in the details, and it is important that teachers' voices are heard as we implement the president's vision."

In promoting his program, the president called for an end to the "partisanship and petty bickering" that many observers believe has typically defined education policy debates in the past.

"We need to move beyond the worn fights of the 20th century if we are going to succeed in the 21st century," he said.

Obama also offered a rebuttal to critics who have accused him of diverting attention to issues such as education and energy at the expense of the deteriorating economy.

"I know there are some who believe we can only handle one challenge at a time," he said. But "we don't have the luxury of choosing between getting our economy moving now and rebuilding it over the long term."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Pontiac Promise

Please join


For a town hall meeting to discuss the
"Promise Zone"
and find out how you can get involved.

Monday, March 16
6 p.m.
Pontiac City Hall

(Council Chambers)
47450 Woodward Ave., Pontiac

"Promise Zone" legislation was recently enacted that gives
our community the opportunity to provide FREE college
education to ALL students that live and attend school in
the Pontiac School District.

"The Oakland Ministerial Fellowship, as a faith-based group,
support the Pontiac Promise Zone district."
- Bishop Robert Simmons of Living Word Ministries


VIDEO: Cradle-to-College Education

An organization targets children in a 24-block area of Harlem, assisting more than 7,400 children and 4,100 adults.

By Converge Staff
Geoffrey Canada is the man behind what The New York Times Magazine calls "one of the most ambitious social experiments of our time." He is the president and CEO of Harlem's Children Zone (HCZ), a project that targets children in Central Harlem and follows them from birth to college.

According to its Web site, HCZ operates pre-school programs, after-school programs and the Promise Academy high "to ensure that Harlem students are prepared to enter and excel in college."

WASHINGTON POST / Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Fixing Our Schools

Having uniform standards and rejecting old excuses would help, the new education secretary believes.

Thursday, March 5, 2009; A18

COUNT US as among those who worried that the economic stimulus plan's huge infusion of new money for education would produce only more of the same failed programs. So it was heartening to hear Education Secretary Arne Duncan describe an unacceptable status quo of broken schools in this country. Not only does he aim to use stimulus dollars to drive reform, but Mr. Duncan envisions this moment as the start of a historic opportunity to dramatically improve the education of children.

"Our job, my job is to fight for kids," Mr. Duncan told Post editors and reporters yesterday as he sketched his plans for the more than $100 billion in new stimulus spending and his ambitions for U.S. education. He made clear that school systems in search of the new federal dollars must be willing to pursue his agenda for change and that his reforms will be built around programs with proven records of success. Refreshingly blunt in describing a "crisis" in education, Mr. Duncan lambasted the system of 50 different states setting 50 different standards for student achievement. He is right to call it a "race to the bottom" in which neither parents nor students know where they stand in relation to the rest of the country, much less the world. Mr. Duncan is not prepared yet to require national standards, but he made clear that a single set of standards, aligned for college readiness and benchmarked to international standards, is where the country needs to be headed.

Equally exciting is his push for improved student assessments as well as sophisticated data systems to track the effectiveness of teachers and the education schools that produce them. Mr. Duncan, former head of Chicago's public schools, has firsthand knowledge of the challenges faced by schools and of what works. For example, he knows that students need more time in schools -- and that "talent matters," so schools have to reward excellence, put the best teachers where they are most needed and get rid of bad teachers. He realizes that it's important to reward everyone who is involved in helping a school succeed. But he's learned that there are bigger differences in teacher performance within schools than between schools.

We admire the fact that Mr. Duncan has absolutely no use for those who would use the social ills of poor children as an excuse for not educating them. "They are part of the problem," he said with disdain, arguing that education is the best way to end poverty. No doubt there will be opposition to his ideas from those traditionalists accustomed to the status quo. But Mr. Duncan made clear that his only interest is in what works.

Our President
Geoffrey Canada and Steven Colbert
Geoffrey Canada at Harvard University


Michigan schools set to win big in stimulus

Granholm, lawmakers still debating final choices; utilities, cities want help too


LANSING — Detroit Public Schools stands to reap $530 million — $355 million with no strings attached — from the federal stimulus package that will hand Michigan nearly $7 billion over two or three years.

That appears to make the district, which has an estimated $150-million deficit and finances so tangled the state recently appointed a manager to take the financial reins, the biggest Michigan winner in the stimulus sweepstakes.

In all, the state and local school districts could have at least $2.5 billion to spend as they see fit, based on an analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency.

How that money is doled out will test the political and fiscal convictions of the governor, state lawmakers, school officials and hundreds of communities and others with their hands out for a piece of the biggest federal giveaway.

Cities, townships, counties, schools, state government and electric utilities have given Gov. Jennifer Granholm their $50-billion wish list for stimulus money.

At most, there's two cents available for every dollar requested.

In addition, Michigan will get nearly $850 million for road and transportation projects to be decided by the state and regional agencies such as SEMCOG.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Granholm, said no decisions have been made about the discretionary stimulus money. She said Granholm insists it be used to create jobs, improve education and promote “the new energy economy.”

Boyd acknowledged heavy demands for the money, given the state's 11.6% unemployment rate and growing need for government assistance, adding, “We are approaching this in a very prudent fashion.”

Lawmakers' ideas

Two key lawmakers represent different views of how the state should spend its stimulus money.

Rep. George Cushingberry, D-Detroit, is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which oversees all state spending. Sen. Ron Jelinek, R-Three Oaks, chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Cushingberry said discretionary federal money should be used for public schools, expanded government-paid health care for uninsured people and an early retirement plan for state employees, although he offered no details.

In contrast, Jelinek said the money should be spent on projects that create jobs and save taxpayers money in the long run, such as roads, water lines and sewers, or repairs to schools.

“We want to jump-start the economy, put people to work or keep them at work,” Jelinek said. “Increasing someone's retirement doesn't do that.”

House freshman Rep. Bill Rogers, R-Brighton, suggests using $200 million from the stimulus money to cover the up-front costs of converting the pension program for teachers and other public school employees from a traditional, defined-benefit pension to a 401(k)-style savings plan.

Such a change would ignite a firestorm of opposition from teachers and their unions, which hold their traditional defined-benefit pension as untouchable.

Granholm wants to use $1 billion from Medicaid and education stimulus funds to help balance the state budget and to prevent cuts in state aid to public schools and universities.

That would leave $1.3 billion at the state's discretion to spend, and $1.2 billion for school districts and charter schools, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency — $2.5 billion total.

Help for low-income students

Schools also will get $888 million earmarked for special education and to help low-income students.

School districts with proportionately large numbers of low-income students will get more money.

The northern Michigan district Mio-Au Sable, with 770 students, is to receive $1.3 million because it has lots of students from low-income families. That's more than will go to the 3,000-student Riverview Community Schools in Wayne County.

For a complete list of what school districts are estimated to get, go to

Cushingberry advocates using stimulus money to reduce the gap between what the top-spending and the lowest-spending districts pay to educate each child.

He said money could be used to purchase technology to create virtual universities. He also said stimulus money should be used to provide more health insurance to laid-off workers and other uninsured people.

“As a Democratic leader, that's the most important issue to me, to make sure everybody that we can gets some kind of health coverage,” Cushingberry said.

Asked what happens to schools when the extra federal money runs out, Cushingberry said, “If this economy in Michigan doesn't turn around in the next year or two, there won't be anything we can do anyway.”

Possible trouble ahead

Jelinek said he favors more state budget cuts, not fewer, to prevent chronic budget problems in the future.

He said the potential state deficit — pegged in January at more than $1.5 billion in 2010 — is likely to grow larger as the economy continues to falter.

Gary Olson, director of the Senate Fiscal Agency, said although Michigan will receive large amounts of federal money, it could be eaten up by ordinary demands for state spending. The state spends nearly $22 billion between its general and school aid funds.

The stimulus money for schools is a blessing and a concern, said Donald Wotruba, deputy director of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

The money will help avoid some layoffs, he said. But it could give a false impression that schools are flush.

“The public will be shocked because some people will still be laid off,” he said. “That will be hard to explain.”

Contact CHRIS CHRISTOFF at 517-372-8660 or

Friday, March 06, 2009


Grants to pay for early childhood education

Monday, March 2, 2009 6:04 AM EST

PONTIAC – The Pontiac Early Academy for Childhood Education has been allocated $1.8 million to prepare children for success in kindergarten and the future.The 2008-2009 Great Start Readiness Program will fund up to 540 children at $3,400 a day for a total of $1.836 million. The grants allow the district to offer the program without charging tuition to the parents.

Breaking it down, the state funds will cover the $1,305,600 million cost of the combination of part-day, all-day/ alternative day, Head Start blend or Home-based preschool education for 384 eligible 4-year-old children at the PEACE preschool academy at Frost School on the city’s south side.

It will also cover the $435,200 cost of full-day preschool education for 64 eligible 4-year-old children.Next school year, Acting Superintendent Linda Paramore plans to open some full-day preschool classes at Whitmer Human Resource Center because the free fullday preschool program at Frost is so popular, there isn’t enough room to meet the demand at Frost School.

The funds were made available by the state Legislature because of the importance of improving school readiness for 4-year-old children who may have extraordinary need of special assistance, according to the resolution.

The Pontiac Board of Education voted this week to approve the resolution accepting the funds and documenting how they will be spent.The board also recently approved the purchase and installation of the Waterford computer-based literacy program at the preschool academy. Studies have shown children make great gains with the program, district officials said.

The PEACE academy, which serves preschool children district wide, was opened in Frost School in September with Principal Deborah Broderick at the helm. It was cleaned and painted and spiffed up after being closed for a few years because of declining enrollment, said Mardella Alexander, acting chief of academics.

The school district hopes to eventually to add day care to finish out the day for children in the half-day preschool.All of the children are 4 years old. They come by school bus or with parents. Each class has a maximum of 16 children with one teacher and one assistant. Children with autism are included in the regular classroom.

Southeastern High School: Mr. Victor Williams (Video)

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Massive layoffs expected in Pontiac school district

Thursday, March 5, 2009 5:23 AM EST

All teachers and administrators in the Pontiac school district may be laid off in preparation for restructuring in the fall.

In fact, every employee in a school district union may receive a layoff notice effective June 30 if the action is approved by the Pontiac Board of Education Monday. Notices could arrive as early as Tuesday.

The news leaked out from union leadership earlier than Acting Superintendent Linda Paramore had planned.

She expected the news would reach the public on Monday, after staff was informed and the recommendation went to the board.

Paramore called all union presidents together Monday.

“In our effort to keep the line of communication open with all employees in the district, I felt it was important to talk to the union presidents about process and procedures for their labor groups,” Paramore said.

In an interview Tuesday, she said she has plans to hold staff meetings to ensure that all employees are informed.Administrators see the action as necessary because half of the district’s buildings will be closed by fall, curriculum is being changed and the high school is being redesigned to incorporate four academies.

The 7,200 students are now in district buildings that have a capacity for 20,000, and will be in nine schools that house about 10,000 students.

Merging of students and buildings and the redesign of how the high school is operated means top officials may well put different people as principals at the schools that remain open, and teachers and other employees will be reassigned according to their seniority, certification and qualifications for the jobs that remain.

It is not unusual for districts to notify a limited numbers of teachers they will be laid off the next school year if administrators plan to make staff cuts. Then they call back those they will need. But laying off all employees is unheard of in this area, said Irma Collins, president of the Pontiac Education Association.

“We are very upset about this; this is a nightmare. They’ve never done anything like this. They say they want to do this so they can place them wherever they want them to go. It is in our contract they can be placed, that you don’t get a chance to choose where you want to go.

“I am meeting with the (PEA) executive board and they will decide then what direction they will take,” Collins said.

Collins argues that the administration doesn’t need to lay off everyone; they could limit the layoffs to 100 to 160 of the district’s nearly 500 teachers, which she said was the original plan and which would be adequate.

In response, Paramore said, “We are trying to be more efficient and effective and eliminate some of the obstacles and areas we might overlook if we don’t almost lay everyone off.

“I want people to know we are taking a resolution to the board in our effort to serve the district in a more efficient matter by re-evaluating assignments of staff because of declining enrollment,” Paramore said.

Leaders want to make sure, for example, that when teachers are called back their qualifications will match up with the classes and age level they will be teaching.

“If the board approves it on Monday night, then next week we will be hand-delivering letters to each employee. We aren’t saying they will be laid off that day. All staff will be employed until June 30.

“It is our hope to have the entire recall process complete by April 30,” Paramore said, the same time she is hoping to notify parents what schools their children will be attending and notify staff where they will be working.

“We are redesigning all of this all at once. We are having to look at all curricular offerings at schools. We know we have to re-educate a number of staff. We also have to adhere to deadlines in everybody’s contracts. As we are inviting staff to come Thursday and Friday, we are saying we want you to know what we are doing and we will have more meetings for questions and answers,” Paramore said.

But Collins is against the move.

“These people (interim administrators) are all retirees from Detroit. They have antique ideas. They said they laid off the whole Detroit district once. Did they make Detroit better? Detroit is in worse shape than Pontiac,” Collins said.

In an action Jan. 26, trustees approved a restructuring plan that was presented by a committee of community residents, stakeholders and administrators and modified slightly by the board.

The two high schools — the 1,000-student Pontiac Northern and 900-student Pontiac Central — will be merged in a yet-to-be named high school in the Northern building. Central will be closed. Northern has a capacity of more than 3,000 students.

The three seventh and eighth-grade middle schools — Jefferson, Lincoln and Madison — will be merged at Madison, which officials say has more than enough room for the young teens and is located near Northern.

Jefferson and the attached Whittier Elementary will become a 1,500-student elementary school and Lincoln will be closed. The sixth grade was moved back to elementary schools this school year to help increase student achievement and will continue there. Alcott, Herrington, Owen, Rogers, Whitman elementaries and Kennedy School, a center for special education, will remain open. Owen Elementary is in a wing of Kennedy.

The district’s preschool academy will remain at Frost with some additional full-day classes at Whitmer Human Resource Center. A decision about where the alternative high school program will be held has not been announced.

Closing besides Central and Lincoln will be Crofoot, Longfellow, LeBaron, Franklin and Emerson and Bethune.

Contact staff writer Diana Dillaber Murray at (248) 745-4638 or

YAPO CLC Board Meeting 3-4-2009

Take this Job and.........

Superintendent candidates withdraw

Wednesday, March 4, 2009 9:03 AM EST

PONTIAC – Both finalists for the top job of Pontiac school superintendent have dropped out of the running, putting the school board back at the beginning of their search for a leader to take the district through restructuring.

T.C. Wallace Jr., superintendent of the Lansing School District, and Brian Ali, special assistant to the superintendent of Matteson Consolidated Schools 162 in Illinois, notified school board President Damon Dorkins of their decision shortly before a trio of trustees was set to visit their school districts this week.

Trustees decided at a hastily called board meeting Tuesday that they will begin the search again rather than look at some of the other candidates who applied for the position.

But this time, the board will take part in the search as well as the consulting firm that has provided candidates for the last two searches, Dorkins said. A total of 15 applicants were submitted to the board by Mike Wilmot, CEO of the Michigan Leadership Institute. The board selected five candidates to interview and picked Wallace and Ali as their finalists.

This is the second time a search for a new superintendent was aborted. A search last year ended when one of two finalists dropped out in the second interview stage and the board decided to start the process again.

This comes at crucial time for the Pontiac school district, which is in the midst of major restructuring. Wallace and Ali were in Pontiac last week for question and answer sessions with the community and second interviews with the board. A few employees and community members made it known they didn’t want Wallace because he had previously worked with former Superintendent Mildred Mason, whom he would be replacing. Mason resigned amid controversy two years ago.

Since then, there have been two interim superintendents, Calvin Cupidore and Linda Paramore, a retired administrator recommended by Oakland Schools who is in the position now.

When Ali was here last week, he was told by one community activist, Fran Fowlkes, that the community would be tough on him if he got the job, but he should move ahead and do what he thought right for the district.

Irma Collins, president of the teachers union, was quoted in a story as saying she opposed the hiring of Wallace and was not yet convinced Ali was the right candidate.

On Tuesday, the board first met in closed session over the objection of The Oakland Press, which argued that meetings involving a superintendent search are to be held in public.

Dorkins said the meeting had to be closed because the board did not want to discuss the two candidates or the others whose resumes had already been submitted in a public forum.

Board attorney George Pitchford said all parts of the process would be held in public session.

After about 11 2/ hours in closed session, the board came back and Dorkins reported, “T.C. Wallace withdrew from the process as of Friday at 8 p.m. He did not give a reason and I still don’t have a reason why.

“As of Monday, I received a phone call from Dr. Ali at 9 a.m. stating he was withdrawing.

“He said he prayed about it and talked to his family and stated this is not the direction he wanted to go,” Dorkins said.

“Today after discussing the candidates and search process we have determined we will move forward with another search, using the Michigan Leadership Institute and simultaneously the board will be conducting a search and getting information from potential candidates.

“The board is taking a more hands on approach than previously. We will use all of our resources to bear on the search,” he said, saying the board would reach out to leaders and members of several state and federal education associations in an effort to recruit good candidates.

The search subcommittee will meet today, then report to the full board at a study session at noon Friday. The board will also make a report to the community regarding the search at Monday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting.

Contact staff writer Diana Dillaber Murray at (248) 745-4638 or

Monday, March 02, 2009


Promise Zone plan for Pontiac draws praise

Wednesday, February 25, 2009 5:22 PM EST

Of The Oakland Press

PONTIAC – The resolution to create a Promise Zone and scholarships for all Pontiac graduates hadn’t even been approved by the Pontiac school board before donations of money and time came flowing in at a public hearing.

In a meeting filled with excitement, determination, accolades and even tears over the prospect of guaranteeing every Pontiac district child a college education, Leon Jukowski said his family of longtime Pontiac business owners would pledge $10,000 toward the effort.

The public hearing on the Promise Zone resolution brought out so many supporters that they filled the board room to standing-room-only and brought many accolades to state Rep. Tim Melton, D-Auburn Hills, who sponsored and fought for passage of the Promise Zone legislation for two years.

Melton expects the Promise Zone guarantee not only to help children but to bring more residents and businesses to communities in the Pontiac district — like it has in Kalamazoo — to take advantage of the opportunity. “This is for the kids. This is life changing ... it is also community changing,” Melton said. “When I look at the combination of high schools in the fall, it is possible that first graduating class could be the first to be guaranteed a college education,” he said, to applause.

Pastor after pastor, several mothers with children in the school district, an Auburn Hills councilman, longtime Pontiac school supporters and representatives of neighborhood organizations were among the many who advocated approval of a resolution to make the school district a Promise Zone before the Pontiac Board of Education approved it.

Funds must be raised by the community for two years before a percentage of growth in state education tax dollars will be added to the pot to provide scholarships to Pontiac students.

Continuing fundraising may also be necessary, depending on how many tax dollars are available.

The original projection of need for the campaign last year was $750,000, “which would pay tuition for all kids that graduated high school that would go to college for year one and year two,” Melton said.

“But it is a rough number until the authority board is established and the criteria is in place.”

The amount of federal Pell Grant money available will also impact the amount needed and “there are a lot of other moving factors. I don’t believe the money is going to be an issue from the interest I’ve seen,” Melton said.

Several supporters noted they have little to donate but would give their time trying to raise the funds.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the resolution, with Vice President Gill Garrett absent.

Now, the state Department of Treasury has 30 days to certify that the school district meets requirement of poverty higher than the state average and allow the process to begin.

Melton wants Pontiac schools to be the first Promise Zone, since it is students in the district who first motivated him to introduce the legislation. Only 10 Promise Zones can be created around the state.

The Pontiac Promise Zone will be similar to the one created by a private group in Kalamazoo four years ago.

Since then, Kalamazoo has attracted 1,600 new students, increased the number of students going to college by 30 percent and has had a 5 percent increase in property values, Melton said.

Pontiac school district graduates, whether low income or not, will be eligible for funds that make up the difference between what a student can obtain in scholarships and grants and the full tuition at a public Michigan college or university or a similar capped amount for a private college.

A yet-to-be created Pontiac Promise Zone Authority will set the other criteria for eligibility and plan and implement a fundraising campaign and a sustainability plan. Two authority members will be appointed by legislative officials and nine by the Pontiac school board.

Renee Redmond, who is part of the Title 1 parents group at Emerson Elementary School, where her son David, 7, is a student, said, “I am so excited and so proud. I know we’ll be able to raise the money,” she said, offering the group’s help.

Contact staff writer Diana Dillaber Murray at (248) 745-4638 or