To the Editor:
I attended last Wednesday's open community forum on the Harper Woods bond proposal which will be on the Sept. 28 ballot — not as a Harper Woods resident, but as a Harper Woods teacher concerned about my students, my program, my school and the community.
Since talk of a bond proposal began almost two years ago, I have had numerous friends approach me with questions and concerns, seeking an "inside" view from someone on staff.
From the discussion I heard at the forum, and the conversations I've had with individuals, I believe it is important to highlight three key issues and to dispel a long-standing rumor:
1. We have three buildings that are not handicap-accessible, and as public educational environments we need to be able to welcome and accommodate students with special needs. Without the passage of this bond, a very large portion of our operating budget — money for books, band equipment, classroom supplies, salaries, electricity bills — will have to be spent on installing elevators, upgrading bathrooms, water fountains, etc.
Before Proposal A, we may have been able to approach voters for a school millage to help tide us over but that option is a thing of the past and a bond is the way we can avoid pouring much of our operating budget into these important Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) renovations.
2. We have serious structural problems at our secondary building that go beyond mere maintenance. Yes, if tuck-pointing cracks in a few walls would take care of our problems, asking to fund the construction of new facilities would be inappropriate. But a tour of our building shows we need much more than a facelift. And without this bond, important improvements here at the secondary school and at Beacon and Tyrone Elementary schools have been and will continue to be yet another drain on our operating funds.
It is unfair to compare our buildings to historic structures at the University of Michigan without mentioning the millions of dollars alumni associations and endowment funds have poured into updating and maintaining those beautiful structures.
3. In our day-to-day work with students, our teachers face roadblocks due to room size and layout, as well as the flow and configuration of our buildings. For example, our classrooms were built long before anyone had even thought of using computers in education — we've squeezed them in where we can but have ended up more cramped than ever. And to say that our science facilities are outdated is putting it mildly. Again, seeing is believing, and a tour of our facilities can be arranged for those interested in visiting.
Finally, with regards to a long-standing rumor please know this: Harper Woods students are checked and double checked for proof of residency. Our administrators screen all potential enrollees in a fair and consistent procedure applied to each and every applicant to ensure that students who attend our classes are indeed residents of Harper Woods.
I have taught in this district for 18 years and I will be in my science classroom Wednesday, Sept. 29, enjoying my work with students no matter the outcome of this election. But between now and then, some colleagues and I will be available at the secondary school every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. to meet with concerned community members who have further questions or who wish to tour the building.
Harper Woods School District Teacher
September 08, 2004