February 20, 2014THE GROSSE POINTES — John Steininger is emotional when he talks about the technology bond election Feb. 25.
The Grosse Pointe Farms resident has lived his whole life in the Pointes, graduating from Grosse Pointe High School in 1968. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Wayne State University and is founder of Grosse Pointe Moving & Storage.
Steininger was elected to the board of education in November 2007 and served a term as president. He didn't run for re-election in 2011, so he could focus his efforts on his business.
He blames the school district's issues on the economy, which took a hit at the beginning of his term.
"It was a perfect storm of issues," Steininger said. "Costs were rising while house values were dropping. The pension fund commitments and the cuts in 20j funding all made it a perfect storm."
While the proposed bond won't be supported by Steininger, he doesn't blame the administration, especially Superintendent Tom Harwood, hired during Steininger's term on the board of education.
"There is a lot they need to look at," he said. "The administration is offering a solution, but we have some options here. I don't put the blame on Harwood."
What Steininger would like to see is a fight to restore the section 20j funding "and a good hard look at HR costs.
"We have to ask Gov. Rick Snyder and we haven't done that. There's a surplus in this state. Some of that should go back to education. See if we could get matching funds for technology. Our governor understands technology and he knows it's important to educate our children. What about a matching grant program?"
Steininger said the board and administrators have to live within their budget.
"Employees have gone through cuts, they really have," he said. "People move here and stay here because the schools are so good. But we can't ask people to forgo their own futures. Our schools have to operate within their revenue stream and come to the voters after all other options have been looked at. We can't tax people to death."
Relying on the community a little more is one way Steininger sees the opportunity to turn things around.
"We have some viable options based on the strength of our community," he said. "We have some movers and shakers here that have access to Gov. Snyder. We need to look at everything."
Steininger said the public debate has been healthy in working toward a solution.
"I think we all understand the need for technology upgrades," he said. "We can't shoot the messenger, we have to find a solution. The superintendent and board have said 'this is where we are.' Now we have to be responsible and work together."
Steininger grew emotional as he talked about how special the Pointes and its school district are to him.
"This is a great city and we have great schools," he said. "I think we have to go back to the drawing board. I'd be shocked if it passes."