School Board Candidates Talk Budgets, Unity
Candidates for Huron Valley Schools board of education, from Milford, White Lake and Highland, spoke at the League of Women Voters Oakland Area forum.
Three candidates - Jerry Aubry of Milford, Lisa Blackwell of White Lake and Eric Wallis of Highland - spoke. Beth Lewis of Highland was unable to attend; the moderator read her opening and closing statements.
The candidates addressed the biggest financial challenges facing the district.
"Getting the millage to pass and to figure out what to do with those two buildings that are vacant," was Aubry's response.
The operating millage renewal proposal will authorize and renew for 10 years the rate of 18 mills (or $18 on each $1,000 of taxable valuation) on property in the Huron Valley School District, according to the LWV. The purpose of the millage is to provide operating funds, and the estimate of the revenue the district will receive if the millage is approved is about $9,166,000.
"I think the biggest challenge we face every year is uncertainty with our budget," Blackwell said.
She said she prefers to remain optimistic and hopes the millage will pass.
"We've been making cuts for years. We've trimmed all the fat. Any cuts are going to hurt us," she said.
Wallis said whatever gets cut can't impact the success of the students.
"I would move in favor of finding other sources of funding," he said and gave the example of private grant funding.
In addition to funding, all three candidates said divisions within the district have been a problem.
"Besides the budget, I'd have to say I know we've had an issue with communities," Blackwell said. She said although everyone says there are five communities in the district, it isn't always a unified group.
"Maybe saying the district is divided is a little too strong, but we're certainly not united," Wallis said.
Aubry agreed and said that communication should be the number one goal.
"It's a Huron Valley community, not me vs. them," he said.
The candidates also discussed teacher evaluations.
"To evaluate teachers and base their pay on the students is tough," Aubry said.
Blackwell said it is unfair to evaluate solely on test scores, because teachers work with all kinds of students.
The candidates were then asked whether they favored four-year requirements for math and foreign language classes. All of the candidates agreed that was not a good idea, because not all students are at the same level.
The candidates also discussed technology and its future in classrooms.
"I firmly believe that it's not only about buying the technology ... it's incorporating the curriculum and teaching the technology," Blackwell said.
Wallis said any new technology in schools needs to be planned.
"The right technology can streamline the education process. It can enhance the education process," he said. "But technology for the sake of technology doesn't help."
Two Open Trustee Positions
Voters will select two candidates for the Huron Valley Schools board of education trustee positions on the Nov. 6 election ballot.
The Huron Valley Education Association (HVEA) has endorsed candidates Aubry and Blackwell. Jim Pearson, of Highland and a retired teacher from Milford High School, said he participated in the HVEA screening process of the candidates.
"I think what we saw here are three fine candidates," he said. "The Huron Valley community is fortunate to have such fine people step forward."