I know that several of my fellow board members and I are deeply concerned about the erroneous, misleading and irresponsible comments circulating about certain recent occurrences the members of the Allen Park Board of Education have had to deal with.
Please understand that what follows comes from us personally and should not reflect the specific views of any other individual member of the board other than the mentioned concern we share as a group regarding the misinformation/rumors being spread about the Allen Park School District and its board members on social media.
We do not believe it is any surprise to anyone who has been following these recent events that the Allen Park School District as a whole has experienced a very rough, frustrating and disappointing 1 1/2 years. The loss of the very talented, innovative, student oriented and longtime high school administrator, Janet Wasko, on up to the loss of Margaret Marten, a highly regarded Board of Education member.
Several members of central office staff, middle school staff as well as threats aimed at and toward the district, its staff and students on to unfortunate financial issues, violations of ethical conduct and highly disappointing actions of individuals in the district we trusted to perform the duties for which they were hired. The school board is being accused of not knowing about these issues and allegedly should have, according to the rumors. We are accused of not being truthful and transparent with the district staff and the Allen Park community as a whole.
In most of the 16 years that Guy DesJardins has been a member of the Allen Park Board of Education, as well as an elected board member of the Wayne County Association of School Boards (which serves all 33 of the school districts in Wayne County), and in most of Paul Klenczar’s eight years as a member of the Allen Park Board of Education, we have always felt blessed that we in the Allen Park Public Schools have had central office administrators, building administrators and staff that we could trust to do their jobs in an ethical and honest way.
It’s been suggested for several years by Plante Moran, the company that performs the district audits, that additional staff should be added to the central office in order to provide more checks and balances of financial matters.
Because we don’t believe as a group we ever felt district staff were in any way unable to perform the duties for which they were hired in an honest and ethical manner, the district was able to realize a substantial savings in personnel costs which includes not only salaries, but benefits as well. A cost which consumes 89 to 90 percent of the school district budget.
It should be noted here that we believe our teachers to be well trained and able educators. Because we hold them in this high regard, they were the highest paid teaching staff in the Downriver area and the fifth highest paid in the state. Our highest paid teacher working 200 days per year including their coaching stipend makes over $99,000 per year based on the 2016 – 2017 transparency reports.
Because of some recent and necessary personnel changes, the district administration and Board of Education has had to reassess its previous goals and strategies to reflect a more rigorous approach to bringing the district’s finances back in line toward a more positive fund balance.
The district’s ability to provide any additional compensation before we have reached a state mandated goal as far as the district’s fund balance is concerned is being dealt with by central office administration, as well as by the Board of Education. It is an ongoing process and has been highlighted by the central office administration from the superintendent on down in an effort to provide informational transparency regarding the status of the district.
Keep in mind that throughout nearly two decades, the Allen Park School District has managed to maintain a positive fund balance. Furthermore, the Allen Park School District has not downsized its teaching staff or its district personnel in the last decade unlike some its neighboring districts who have had to close schools, lay off teachers and eliminate classes to stay afloat in these challenging financial times for public schools in Michigan
Yes, the district is in a positive fund balance. However, the amount does not reach the level mandated by the state. That information is available to anyone who is seeking to determine the true status of the district and not the rumors and misinformation being portrayed on social media.
As a group, we would urge you to attend a school board meeting if you have questions rather than reading about, listening to or spreading unsubstantiated rumors about which you may not know or have obtained all of the facts about concerning a specific issue. Any issue that concerns our schools and our students is of foremost importance to all of us. It’s about the kids, after all. When we were sworn in as board members, we took an oath to preserve, uphold and carry out the by-laws of this district. We do not take this responsibility lightly. First and foremost, our mission is to do what is in the best interests of each and every child in the Allen Park School District. We are reminded of that every time we make a decision that affects this district.
We need everyone’s cooperation in order to maintain the positive reputation our district currently enjoys. Spreading unsubstantiated, misleading and erroneous social media opinions undermines that reputation and will have a negative effect on our school system going forward if this practice is not abandoned immediately.
If you have questions about whatever issue concerns you, we would recommend that you contact the district administration or one of us. We will certainly provide an answer or direct you to the person who can if it does not conflict with anything that has been discussed in a closed session of the board done in compliance with the Michigan Open Meetings Act, FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), the Federal Right to Privacy Act or the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Our goal is and always has been to be as truthful, forthright and transparent as we can be with the school district staff and the Allen Park community.
Since everything we do revolves around minor children and their parents or guardians, their right to privacy as it pertains to certain aspects of any issue are protected under these various acts which, if divulged, without the written consent of the child’s parents, or a district employee, if it involved one of them, could create a liability situation for the district and the person or persons who violate that privacy guarantee.
I’m certain if it was your child who was at the center of some controversy, you would expect to be able to make the choice whether to have a discussion in a public forum or in a private setting in a closed session. And, you would expect to have the choice as to what, if anything, about the issue is shared outside of any private discussion about the controversy.
Information from some of these closed session discussions appears to be the nexus of several of the misleading, erroneous and irresponsible comments being circulated social media. Because the specifics of some issues are unknown, the comments made are speculative and often times simply the negative opinion of the person making the social media post. A post with no factual information to back up that opinion but it is made public nonetheless.
We all appreciate your continued positive support of the Allen Park Public Schools. We would ask that you stop to think about what you read, what you form an opinion of and certainly what you post, if you don’t know or don’t have all of the facts to substantiate the opinion that you are forming and subsequently posting.
Guy DesJardins and Paul Klenczar are members of the Allen Park Board of Education.